Highlight - The all-new 2017 LaCrosse is a treat to drive, and Android Auto is included to sweeten the cake.
General Motors has been really supportive of Android Auto in its early days. Particularly with its Chevrolet brand, but now they are beginning to bring the Android Auto functionality to more and more cars on their other brands, including Buick, Cadillac and GMC (at least in North America). On the Buick side of things, the 2017 LaCrosse is the first vehicle to feature Android Auto, and it's a great start for Buick in a great vehicle.
We spent about a week with the 2017 LaCrosse, driving it around, using Android Auto and all of its other features including OnStar. It left us with some pretty great first impressions, but how did it perform throughout the review period, and is it worth the money, versus just using the new Android Auto app on your Android smartphone? Let's find out.
We had the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, Premium trim level in Dark Forest Green. The inside was the Light Neutral color with Dark Brown accents. It sports a 3.6L V-6 engine, with an eight-speed automatic transmission, 310 horsepower and 282 torque. The total price for the model that GM loaned us was $46,845. That price included the Driver Confidence Package #2 which is priced at $1,690, the Sights and Sounds Package priced at $1,145, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels priced at $1,625 and the dark forest green metallic paint at $395. Not the cheapest full-sized sedan out there, but this is the Premium trim level with all the bells and whistles, the LaCrosse actually starts at $32,990. And Android Auto is included in all trim levels, it's not an extra fee either. Something that has been common with GM's vehicles.
You may have seen some of Buick's latest commercials, where they have people surprised that what they are driving or looking at is actually a Buick. The car company has always had somewhat luxury vehicles, what they would call a mid-luxe, being right below Cadillac. However in the past few years, Buick has been working to redesign their cars making them more modern, spacious and lighter.
The LaCrosse is a somewhat new vehicle in the world these days, having debuted in 2004. Buick actually created the LaCrosse as a mid-sized sedan to replace the LeSabre which was a really popular vehicle for the company. The LaCrosse wasn't a popular vehicle when it was launched in 2004, but now a little over a decade later, it is a pretty popular car. That is largely due to it being slightly luxurious but without the luxury price tag, even though the LaCrosse does start at about $32,990.
Buick has followed the trend in one area with the LaCrosse, and that is making the car bigger yet lighter. Many cars that have come out in the past 6-12 months have all touted that they are lighter. The LaCrosse is about 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor. That may not seem like a big deal, but with the car being lighter, it means that you'll get better fuel efficiency out of the car. It also means that it'll take less time to come to a complete stop, although losing only 300 pounds, you likely wouldn't notice a difference there. The LaCrosse is also longer than its predecessor, allowing for even more space in the cabin.
As far as the outside of the LaCrosse goes, it doesn't look like a LeSabre or even a Century, but it does have a distinctive Buick look. The grille is mostly flat on the front, and in an oval shape. Which actually looks quite nice. I'm one who really likes the way a grille looks on a vehicle (I particularly liked the grille on the Audi Q7). It's a bit subtle here, but looks great. Of course you have the headlights on either side, which are LED lights. That is also quite common on newer vehicles. These LED lights are plenty bright, I was actually a bit surprised. They seemed to be brighter than most of the other cars headlights that we've reviewed in the past 18 months. Definitely a nice feature, especially if you live out in the suburbs where there aren't street lights everywhere.
The trunk of the LaCrosse is nice and large, and we mean large. Definitely big enough for most trips to Ikea. Now there's no button on the back of the car to pop open the trunk, so you'll need to double tap the button on the keyfob, or press the button beside the driver seat. Not that big of a deal, but it would be nice to be able to wave your foot under the car to open the trunk, like most mini-vans do these days.
Inside the LaCrosse was a mixture of a budget car and a luxury car, more on the luxury side of things. It wasn't as luxurious as say something from BMW, Mercedes, Lexus or even it's brother Cadillac. But it has just enough to make you appreciate the vehicle. Buick offers the 2017 LaCrosse with essentially two different colors. There's a Light Neutral theme and then a more dark brown or chocolate colored theme. Ours was the Light Neutral colored theme. Both are in leather only. It has dark brown accents, which makes the cabin feel really nice inside. There's plenty of space up front, in fact I had to move the seat up a bit so that I could drive more comfortably. It's always nice to have more than enough room in the cabin, especially when you're going on a long drive.
The center console of the front cabin was a bit higher than I expected. But after driving the car for quite some time, it made sense. It's about the height that your arm would be resting. So it makes it easier to work with the infotainment system, changing the temperature in the car and even grabbing your drink from the cupholder. Speaking of which, the cupholder is hidden under a door next to the gear shift that is covered in wood. It looks really nice, and it is out of the way. So that when you aren't using it, you won't even know there's a cupholder there. I typically sat my phone down on it, since it was plugged in for Android Auto anyways. Between the two seats, there is a section with two USB ports. These two ports are there to charge your smartphone, but they are also the ports being used to power Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, of course depending on the device you are using.
I didn't spend a whole lot of time in the backseat, considering I was the only one able to drive the LaCrosse and it's tough to be in the backseat and doing that. But there did appear to be quite a bit of space back there too. Definitely enough for three people, and even a car seat, for those looking for a car for starting a family.
The infotainment system in the LaCrosse was very similar to the Chevrolet Malibu's offering. And that should be no surprise seeing as they are both General Motors brands. The UI was slightly different but very similar. On the first screen, you'll see a number of options including radio, internet radio, climate control and then one for "Projection" which turns into Android Auto or Apple CarPlay when a compatible phone is plugged in.
The Maps that Buick uses aren't as good as its competitors, but it is right on par with what Google Maps offers on Android Auto. I often would drive with navigation open (without a destination set) just to see how good the maps were, and one of the features I really liked was the fact that it would alert me to construction ahead. However, while this was helpful, it was not all that accurate. On I-75, there's currently construction and it has narrow lanes, but anytime I would get near I-75 (often times going under it), the car would pop up and tell me about the construction. Now it probably doesn't know that I wasn't getting on the entrance ramp to the freeway there, but there is room for improvement.
Climate Control on the LaCrosse is pretty simple. You do have the interface on the touchscreen there, but it is also available below the screen. So you don't need to jump out of maps to turn up the heat or the air conditioning. Which is pretty convenient. You can choose to sync both the driver and passenger side, or have them operate independently. There is also heated seats, which have three settings. High, medium, and low. Seeing as we drove the LaCrosse in mid-November in Michigan, it was definitely nice to have the heated seats available. On top of that, the heated steering wheel was a nice touch too. A feature we haven't seen on every car we've reviewed, only the Audi Q7, which is a luxury SUV.
Infotainment options here are pretty slick, not only do you have the "old school" AM/FM radio, but you also have Sirius XM satellite radio, so you can listen to just about any station you want. But the Buick LaCrosse also has 4G LTE built in, thanks to the partnership between AT&T and OnStar. Now to be honest, we did not use this feature all that much during our time with the car. And that's due to the fact that AT&T isn't the strongest network in this area. But we did try it out, and it's super simple to use. You can change the SSID and password, we didn't since this was not our car. It's simple to connect and use while you're in the car. You do get a trial of around 3 months or 3GB, depending on which comes first. So you're able to check it out and see how well you like it. OnStar does have plans starting as low as $5/month, or if you're an AT&T customer, you can add it to your existing account and data plan.
When it came to Android Auto, there really weren't many surprises here. It ran just like it has on other vehicles we've reviewed, but it was nice to have it front-and-center. Some other cars, like Volkswagen's models (we drove the Golf-R), has it hidden. Forcing you to jump through a few menus to open up Android Auto. With the LaCrosse it was right there, on the main home screen. Just tap the Android Auto icon and you're good to go.
GPS in Android Auto seemed to be about the same as GPS in the maps outside of Android Auto. This is a good thing, since they both use the car's GPS signal. There have been a few models that had issues between the two. Everything ran nice and smooth. It was also nice to have Android Auto automatically start up when plugging in your smartphone, especially if it was already paired with IntelliLink, Buick's infotainment system.
Google has made some nice changes to Android Auto over the past few months, and they were definitely noticeable here. Like with other models, there are steering wheel controls. The ones I used the most often were the previous and next buttons for music, as well as the volume control. And of course the voice command button. As usual, pressing it jumps you back into IntelliLink for voice commands. To use it in Android Auto, you need to actually press and hold until Google recognizes it, then you can give the command. Voice commands in Android Auto do still need a bit of work, but they are getting there.
The Android Auto experience was really nice. Everything was fast and smooth, and of course it helps that auto makers don't have the ability to customize Android Auto like OEMs can with regular Android. If you're looking for an American-made vehicle with Android Auto, the LaCrosse should definitely be on your list.
Driving the Buick LaCrosse
Now driving this 2017 Buick LaCrosse was definitely a treat. The LaCrosse handled beautifully, even on the pothole-ridden Michigan streets. It is a pretty wide car, at about 73.5-inches wide (of course this comes from someone who drives a small Chevy hatchback), but it's not too large. It took a bit of getting used too. The LaCrosse has one feature that I have not yet seen on other vehicles we've driven. And that is a heads up display.
The heads up display (HUD) is perhaps my favorite feature of this car, even more than it having Android Auto. The heads up display appears on the left side of the steering wheel and shows you all sorts of information on the windshield. By default, it'll show you the speed you're going. It can also show you what is playing in the car - this even works with Spotify playing in Android Auto, which actually surprised me. Finally, it can show you the direction in which you're heading. For instance, the picture below shows that we aren't actually moving, and that we are pointed northeast.
When it comes to safety, you do get the rear-vision camera, which is becoming popular with just about every car on the road these days, even the less expensive ones. The camera on the back of the car actually sits above the license plate, and works really well at night. Some other vehicles struggle in total darkness, but the LaCrosse's camera worked just fine. Buick also has the Rear Cross-Traffic Alert available here. So when you are pulling out of a parking spot and there's a car coming, it'll beep to let you know. Now if the car is really nearby, like behind you, it'll automatically slam on the brakes. Buick also has the Side Blind Zone Alert included, showing you when there is a vehicle in your blind spot.
Something else that the LaCrosse has that I haven't seen on any other vehicle before is the Following Distance Indicator. You can set the car to follow the car in front of you with a lot of space, medium space, or very little space. I left it at medium, and whenever I would get to close to the car in front of me, the heads up display would flash and beep telling me to slow down and such. Definitely a great feature to keep from people getting into accidents.
The safety features are definitely nice to have on any car. Especially when you have a teen driver. Like the latest Chevy Malibu, Buick also has its own Teen Driver feature, which allows parents to keep an eye on their child, from afar. Having a teenage son or daughter driving is a scary thing for parents, for a few reasons. One is that they are growing up, but perhaps the scarier thing is the fact that they could get into an accident, and raise your insurance rates. Combined with all of the safety features available on the LaCrosse and Teen Driver, that won't be a worry. Parents are able to set controls on the car, for instance, keeping it below 70 MPH (the highest speed limit on most freeways in the country), and also review their driving habits. It's a nice feature that parents love and teens hate.
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse is one of the few vehicles that had its final assembly in the Motor City. And it's perhaps one of the best vehicles in the 2017 model year to come out of the Motor City. The 2017 Buick LaCrosse isn't "your grandfather's Buick" and the company is hoping that will bring people on over to their line of vehicles. It's perhaps one of the best mid-luxe cars out there, especially in its price range. Now it's tough to recommend people to buy it because of Android Auto alone. But it is easy to recommend it for a slew of other reasons. The number of safety features it has, the size of the LaCrosse, the look and feel of the car, not to mention the price.