2012 Buick Lacrosse V6 Premium III Trim Rental Review, Avis/Hertz/National

Notable standard features on Avis/Hertz/National’s 2012 Buick Lacrosse V6 Premium III

  • 3.6L 6-cyl engine (303-hp, 264 ft-lb), 6-speed automatic transmission; 0-60 mph ~ low 6 seconds
  • 17/27 (city/hwy) mpg fuel economy
  • Regular gas
  • 13.3 cubic feet trunk volume
  • HiPer front struts to minimize torque steer
  • Power windows, auto dimming side mirrors, locks, rear sunshade, keyless entry
  • Leather wrapped tilt & telescoping steering wheel with audio & cruise controls
  • 8-way power memory driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar, 8-way passenger’s seat, both leather, heated, ventilated
  • Dual zone automatic HVAC
  • 8″ color LED touchscreen with rearview backup camera, steering prediction, ultrasonic sensors
  • 11 speaker 384-watt 5.1 Harman Kardon audio with AM/FM/CD/MP3/(3 months free Sirius subscription)
  • Inputs: USB, Aux, iPod, Bluetooth
  • 3-prong 120V outlet
  • 60/40 split fold-down rear seats

PROS:

- Harman Kardon audio system sounds fantastic
- Spacious, comfortable and luxurious interior
- Tomb like silenced interior
- Excellent ride comfort, capable suspension

CONS:

- Poor visibility, thick A, B, and C pillars
- Smaller than average trunk space
- Lower mounted door handle difficult to grip
- Kept hitting my knee on some protruding dashboard panels

CONCLUSION: Might just be my favorite PCAR to date, and it’s not even a PXAR!  Luxurious comfortable driving.

I rented this 2012 Buick Lacrosse with 2100 miles on the odometer from National and it still had a pleasant smell of new leather emanating from within.  I’ve also been offered similarly optioned Lacrosses at Hertz.  This particular Lacrosse was loaded to the gills with additional features, thanks to its Premium III trim line.  Since 2012 Lacrosse trims now include 4-cylinder models with eAssist, the easiest way to determine whether you have a higher level V6 powered Lacrosse is to a) check the windows for E85 Flex Fuel stickers which are direct evidence of V6 power, and b) open the doors and check the mounted speakers for “Harman Kardon” badging.  I’ve even seen top-of-the-line Lacrosse Touring trim models at National, but they are rare (and are generally distinguishable externally by their unique hubcap designs).

I first rented the redesigned Buick Lacrosse in CXL trim a few years ago and was not very impressed- most likely because of the base audio system, lack of multimedia display, and dark drab interior color selection.  On this particular Premium III model, the two tone tan/brown combination interior looks exceptionally luxurious and airy.

For 2012, Buick has made a number of improvements to the Lacrosse.  Most notably, all trim lines receive an 8″ LED touchscreen with IntelliLink, the latter enabling smartphone connections to the multimedia interface via Bluetooth and allowing for Pandora/Stitcher internet radio listening.  The 6-cylinder, a slightly lesser version of the one featured in the Cadillac CTS family, has its horsepower boosted by 23 to 303 (from 280), and its torque boosted by 5 to 264 ft-lb (from 259).  Also standard for 2012 are dual zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Bluetooth/USB connectivity.

2012 also adds a mild-hybrid version of the Lacrosse as the standard base level trim; Buick dubs this as eAssist.  The eAssist package combines a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cyl engine (182-hp/172 ft-lb) with a small electric motor (15 hp/79 lb-ft), aero improvements, active grille shutters, and low rolling resistance tires to yield a fuel economy of 25/37.  0-60 is a more leisurely 8.7 seconds and the already small trunk space decreases to a touch over 10 cubic feet, nearly on par with that of the Ford Mustang Coupe.  National carries a substantial number of eAssist equipped Lacrosses; looks like I’ll have to save those for another rental.

My particular Lacrosse did not include any other features, and had an MSRP of $36,160 as rented.  Regrettably, all Lacrosses feature faux hood vents, which have absolutely zero functional value and questionable aesthetic purpose.  In a mix of city and highway driving, I averaged about 23 mpg.

The Lacrosse has a very distinctive, albeit bulbous, exterior and fortunately this translates into a cabin with generous interior passenger space for all.  The majority of the exterior and interior were designed by a Chinese GM team because the Buick brand is immensely popular in China.  My only question is, why didn’t they design Buicks earlier?!

The second generation Lacrosse is light years ahead of the first generation Lacrosse, and is remarkably handsome with its dual asymmetric exhaust piping integrated into the rear fascia.  The new Lacrosse has even helped lower the average age of the Buick consumer; in fact, yours truly would have no problems purchasing a Lacrosse for personal use.  Yet its exterior design is still sufficiently conservative to appeal to its loyal, older base of customers.  While renting this vehicle, I was approached by a sextegenarian who inquired as to how I liked driving it.

The exterior design also comes at the cost of decreased rear passenger headroom, trunk space, and more significantly, poor visibility.  The A-pillars are particularly thick, and can mask a compact car or even small child.  While the B- and C- pillars are also similarly thick, their effects can be lessened by proper adjustment of the sideview mirrors.  While the decklid and beltlines are high, the supplied rearview camera and ultrasonic sensors help mitigate the decreased rear visibility. Trunk space is surprisingly small, but extends deeply.  However,  rear seats fold down easily and they help expand the otherwise small trunk volume.

The Lacrosse drives particularly well.  Hitherto driving it, I imagined it would have a soggy suspension and drive like a land yacht.  Yes, it soaks up bumps well, but the suspension is surprisingly taut and well composed, even during cornering.  The 6-cylinder provides plenty of throaty power on demand, and acceleration/high speed lane changing is not an issue.  The cabin is whisper quiet at even highway speeds, and the extra NVH lamination on the panels and windows is manifestly evident when you open the driver’s door.  Buick has aptly named its dampening efforts “Quiet Tuning”.  The brake pedal is on the softer side, and would benefit from a stiffer feel.  Thanks to the HiPer struts, torque steer is minimal.  It doesn’t pretend to be a sports car, but it’s sufficiently sporty when asked.  It’s certainly not your grandfather’s Buick.

The interior is gorgeous, and the particular tan/brown color combination works excellently here.  Although Buick is known for using plastic wood or “plood” (real wood on the steering wheel though), the material quality is excellent and rich-looking.  The dashboard has a giant swath of soft touch vinyl and the driver’s gauges are covered by the same.  Any part that looks like it might be soft is so.  I thought the Lacrosse’s interior better looking and feeling than that of the CTS, a vehicle costing at least $10K more.  Although the seats could use more side bolstering, they are exceptionally comfortably with over-cushioned, buttery soft leather.

The LED touchscreen is crisp and high resolution; it responds quickly to user inputs and is easy to use even while driving.  Although the center stack has an abundance of buttons, they’re logically arrayed and easily acclimated to.

The driver’s gauges are slightly peculiar, though highly legible, with an odd choice of oversized font.  A color LCD driver’s information display is sandwiched between the two driver’s gauges.  I’m not sure I like the odd choice of aquamarine blue for much of the color palette in the gauges and displays.  It seems mismatched and comparatively inferior to the rest of the cabin.  I also have two additional complaints about the interior; the door handles are mounted low on the doors, making them difficult to strongly grip.  Secondly, the lower dashboard protrudes toward the driver and I painfully hit my knee on it on several occasions.

Deserving special mention is the upgraded 11-speaker, 384 watt 5.1 Harman Kardon audio system.  Bass is crisp and tight, yet also sufficiently powerful to vibrate the door panels with minimal distortion.  Tonal balance is also very good and the overall system sounds very well balanced.  I think the HK setup sounds better than the 12-speaker, 390 watt 5.1 Sony system (a little too boomy, bass tends to distort) that Ford uses on its top-of-the-line Limited/Titanium models, but not as good as the 10 speaker, 300 watt 5.1 Bose system that Cadillac uses on its upper trim vehicles.  The audio system also indexed songs from my USB stick very quickly.  The HK audio is an aural surprise for any car renter.

In conclusion, the 2012 Buick Lacrosse V6 Premium III is an exceptionally comfortable rental car for short or long trips.  I would gladly rent it over a more expensive Cadillac CTS.  Small trunk space and poor visibility are two downsides to keep in mind, however.

For more information on the 2012 Buick Lacrosse, please visit the manufacturer’s website here:

http://www.buick.com/lacrosse-luxury-sedan.html

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