The 2010 Buick LaCrosse isn't your Grandfather's Buick. Defying conventional wisdom, this Buick sedan sports slick styling, a classy interior and hardware that'll make even the most jaded buyer take a look.

This 2010 Buick LaCrosse thumbs its nose at Buick stereotypes with handsome styling and an options list a mile long. Over the last several decades, the idea of a Buick with flip-up DVD players in the rear passenger compartment would have elicited a question on whether a DVD box set of Matlock was included in the purchase price. As the second car in the Buick revolution, and the first Buick Sedan with all-wheel-drive, it has a lot to prove.

GM is positioning the LaCrosse in the "near luxury" segment. Those are cars like the Lexus ES350, Toyota Avalon, and Chrysler 300 Limited, a tough crowd to say the least. Well, except maybe the last one. But, with the average historical age for Buick customers in their 70's, Enclave buyers in their 50's with intenders in their 40's; the brand's strategy of presenting boomers with the tech they're used to in a mid-luxe environment with an affordable price may actually have a shot of working.

The LaCrosse embraces technology in ways its predecessor doesn't. The car wears every tech buzzword; Bluetooth, GPS, ambient lighting, an eight inch touch screen, heads up displays borrowed from the Corvette, timeshift radio, road-following headlights, pop-up DVD players, power rear sunshade, USB inputs, blind spot warning sensors, and a back up camera. Something of a quantum leap from the LaCrosse's current incarnation as a staid fogey-mobile.

That kind of tech is available on practically everything these days, so what sets the LaCrosse apart? Well, it's the way the systems are packaged into a platform that wears it like a comfortable coat that defines the LaCrosse. When we took our first look at the car in GM's design dome at the Warren Technical Center, the fully-loaded interior managed to feel light and airy, largely due to the sweeping curved surfaces and a huge two-piece moonroof overhead.

Airy it may be, but it targets class leading levels of fit and finish as well as noise isolation as some of its most important benchmarks. The Buick team calls it "library quiet" but we'll have to judge that for ourselves when we get a road test. We can say the materials, surface finishes, knobs and buttons are first rate, while gaps, squeaks and rattles are nowhere to be found on the hand-built version of the car we saw. It also carries over what will be Buick design elements going forward; French stitched seams, smoked chrome trim, and contrasting wood trim. Actually, we should say simulated wood trim, though it's the best fake wood trim we've ever seen, it fooled us.

The exterior of the LaCrosse strikes an unfamiliar pose for Buick; solid, crafted, actually stylish. Shockingly so. The shape reminds us of the first generation Giugiaro-penned Lexus GS300, and that's a compliment. It also retains the signature Buick waterfall grille, but the fender portholes become hood portholes, which, actually works pretty well. The side showcases what Buick is terming the "sweep spear body side," which in non-designer terms means the body line that runs from the headlights to the tail, with the kick-up in front of the rear wheels. The tail end gets all-LED lights and a trunk mounted on a yoke hinge that makes the space more useful.

On the hardware front it delivers as well. Motivation comes from one of two direct injection V6 engines. The base level is a 3.0-liter mill that makes 255 HP and 211 lb-ft torque, the optional engine is a 3.6-liter DI V6 with 280 HP and 261 lb-ft of torque. Both get hooked to a six-speed auto transmission (paddle shift option on the 3.6) but you get to choose front or all-wheel-drive. Now, as far as that all wheel drive system goes, it's something that'll make your standard Buick driver's toupee spin. It comes with an electronic limited slip differential, and a distribution system able to transfer up to 85% power to the rear wheels. That's not the only trick up the LaCrosse's sleeve. The dampers are a new system for GM, think of them as the light version of GM's magnetorheological dampers. They utilize a standard damping fluid but vary the diameter of the damping orifice in the shock, that means without using highly complex controls and extremely expensive fluids, the LaCrosse can vary the spring and damping rate at each wheel independently. If you can manage to have all four wheels on a different road surface, the LaCrosse will adjust all of them to maximize ride or comfort, depending on driving mode. Yeah. Whoa.

There are things we can't get on board about with the new LaCrosse — primarily, the odd, Aquafresh ambient lighting color — and — well, we actually can't come up with anything else at the moment. But aside from that, the car is quite a piece of work. Which makes us wonder, with an expected price range of $26,000 to $35,000, does the Buick risk infringing on Cadillac sales? Perhaps, but Buick's marketing team feels its customers are the kind of folks buying into the near luxury market but not looking to advertise it. More of a subtle luxury without the luxo-brand badge pricing, luxury without excess, if you will. We're not entirely sure we buy that, but those are their words, not ours.
For the first time in a long time, we're actually interested in seeing what a Buick will do on the track. There's something wrong here, someone take our collective temperatures.

* Sculpted styling defines Buick's modern global design

* Luxurious interior crafted of premium materials with cool blue ambient lighting

* Intelligent personal technologies enhance the driving experience

* Responsive performance via efficient direct injection dual overhead cam engines paired with six-speed automatic transmissions

DETROIT – Redesigned from the ground up, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan makes its world debut at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 12. The LaCrosse offers all-wheel-drive, a suite of advanced intelligent personal technologies and safety features, and a choice of two fuel-saving V-6 engines.

"The new LaCrosse was created with great attention to detail, craftsmanship and advanced technology," said Susan Docherty, Buick-Pontiac-GMC vice president. "It builds on the success of Enclave as the next step in Buick's transformation. And, as with Enclave, our goal is to attract a whole new buyer to our dealerships for LaCrosse."

Sculpted design

Buick's long heritage of leading designs, such as the Y-Job Concept, the Roadmaster and the Riviera, helped define American automobile design through the years, according to Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design. Today, Buick design is a product of a global team and resources. Creative collaboration between designers in the United States and China, in partnership with the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) as well as chassis and body engineers in Europe resulted in the first General Motors vehicle to be created on three continents.

"The new LaCrosse is intended to represent modern elegance," said Welburn. "Throughout the design, you experience a balance of contrasts. Both the interior and exterior have been designed with harmony in mind. The exterior balances taut, sculpted lines with sensuous accents and surfaces. Inside, smoked chrome accents, warm wood, first-class leather and materials combine with cool blue ambient lighting to create an inviting environment."

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The exterior design is faithful to the Buick Invicta show car introduced at the 2008 Beijing Auto Show.

"It is instantly recognizable as a Buick, with its signature ‘sweep spear' body-side styling, portholes inside the character line on the hood, and waterfall grille," added Welburn.

Luxurious interior experience

Inside, the two-tone interior is defined by a flowing, uninterrupted design theme that wraps around the instrument and door panels. Attention to detail is evident throughout the interior, including the analog instrument cluster, chrome offset by dark wood accents, and the contrasting thread and French stitching on the instrument panel.

Buick's signature QuietTuning – an engineering process to reduce, block and absorb interior noise – provides a distraction-free passenger environment.

An unexpected, inviting touch is the cool blue ambient lighting throughout the cabin from the center console, instrument panel and door panels.

Intelligent personal technologies

The contemporary atmosphere of the cabin includes the digital connectivity and personal technology offered in the new LaCrosse. That includes features such as in-dash navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, an auxiliary audio input and a USB port. For rear-seat passengers, a power rear-window sunshade and a DVD entertainment system, with two display screens integrated into the seatbacks, is available.

LaCrosse's intelligent technologies also work to deliver a 360-degree field of vision behind the steering wheel, for a greater feeling of comfort, security, and safety. It starts with the available heads-up display in the windshield, allowing the driver to monitor speed without taking his or her eyes off the road. At night, the available adaptive lighting package can direct the high-intensity discharge headlight beams up to 15 degrees for enhanced illumination of the road and its curves.

LaCrosse offers Side Blind Zone alert that notifies the driver if a vehicle in adjacent lanes is traveling in the driver's blind spot. The LaCrosse is also available with a rear-view camera, with the display integrated into the navigation-system screen.

The technology available on LaCrosse enhances a suite of standard safety features that is designed to meet the criteria for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 20 Star Safety Rating. Highlights include front-, side-, and roof-mounted head-curtain air bags, StabiliTrak stability- and traction-control system. The safety and security of OnStar is also included for the first year of ownership.

Responsive performance

LaCrosse's stiff body structure serves as the foundation for precise suspension tuning, safety and a quiet ride. Buyers can choose from a family of efficient, direct-injection six-cylinder engines and a fuel-conserving six-speed automatic transmission with tap-up/tap-down control.

The direct injection engines in the LaCrosse create more power with less fuel and reduce vehicle emissions through greater combustion control – particularly cold-start emissions that are reduced by up to 25-percent.

The 2010 LaCrosse will be offered in three models - CX, CXL and CXS:

* CX – equipped with a new 3.0L direct injection V-6, premium cloth seats and 17-inch wheels. The 3.0L engine generates an estimated of 255 horsepower (190 kW) and 211 lb.-ft. torque (286 Nm) and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

* CXL – also equipped with the new 3.0L direct injection V6, adds leather-appointed heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps, outside rearview mirror with LED turn indicators and puddle lamps, and 18-inch wheels. Intelligent AWD is available.

* CXS – equipped with a 3.6L direct injection V-6; real-time active-dampening suspension; perforated, leather-appointed, heated and cooled seats, and chrome-plated 18-inch wheels (19-inch optional). The 3.6L engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, generates an estimated 280 horsepower (209 kW) and 261 lb.-ft. of torque (354 Nm).

LaCrosse production will begin this summer at the Fairfax Assembly facility in Kansas City, Kan.