Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

October 13, 2013

Cargazing: LaCrosse upgrades for '14

Buick has come a long was from its days of making “grandma cars,” as my wife calls them.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the new LaCrosse. This full-size sedan is in the same class as the floating, boat-like Buicks that tempted many grandmothers of yore, but it looks, feels and drives nothing like them.

To me, the LaCrosse feels like a cross — or crosse, if you will — between a Toyota and a Cadillac.

It exudes the quiet, unassuming but incredibly well-built confidence of a Toyota Avalon, for example. You get the sense that it’s designed to last, with tight-fitting switchgear and a carved-from-granite thud when you close the doors.

It’s also available with the same bells and whistles you expect from its flashier cousins at Cadillac. My test car came with a heads-up display that projects digital data onto the windshield and radar-based adaptive cruise control that adjusts your speed with traffic.

My favorite feature, though, is something General Motors calls the Safety Alert Seat. That’s a fancy way of saying “a seat that vibrates when you’re about to do something stupid.”

Radar sensors and video cameras keep an eye on what’s happening around the car, and they’ll make the driver’s seat buzz on the left or right side depending on where your attention needs to be directed. If you’re backing out of a parking spot and the LaCrosse senses another car approaching from the left, for example, the left side of the seat will buzz.

It offers some other smart safety features, too, including the ability to sense fast-approaching cars in the next lane that are up to 230 feet behind you, Lane Departure Warning that alerts you when you wander across the stripes in the road, and automatic emergency braking if it senses you’re going to crash.

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