2008 Buick LaCrosse Performance

$3,825 - $5,199

2008 Buick LaCrosse Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Buick LaCrosse was new.


Performance: 7.0

According to automotive writers, neither the base LaCrosse nor the brand new Super trim can be categorized as thrill-seeking machines, but both will offer a pleasant drive. "The Super doesn't linger at the light or need a running start to make it up inclines," the Chicago Tribune says. However, the same reviewer notes this isn't the car for the race track, "unless you just want to get there."

The 2008 LaCrosse has three engine choices, and according to reviewers, three different driving experiences. The 3.8-liter V6 engine offered in the CX and CXL trim facilitates "Buick's traditional soft feel," writes MSN. "The European-style CXS provides the other experience; it has a modern dual overhead camshaft V6 with more punch and sharper handling." Lastly, the Super's V8 engine provides more excitement. However, the Orlando Sentinel finds a snag: "Never one to look gift horsepower in the mouth, I applaud the addition of the 300-horse V-8, an excellent engine which works just as well in a Buick as it does in a Chevrolet pickup truck, even if the horses are saddled with a four-speed automatic transmission instead of a more up-to-date six-speed."

Acceleration and Power

The Buick LaCrosse's base engine is a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 200 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. Most reviewers put this engine's shortcoming in perspective. Consumer Guide states, "The 3.8-liter engine provides brisk takeoffs but lacks passing power," but Kelley Blue Book points out, "As the 2008 Buick LaCrosse is not intended to be a sports car, most drivers will find the base engine more than adequate for daily commutes."

Kelley Blue Book goes on to say the mid-level 3.6-liter engine with 240 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque "is a much better fit. It has terrific low-end power reserves, is smooth, quiet and responsive and is altogether an example of what a modern engine should be." In addition, very little is sacrificed in terms of fuel economy. According to the EPA, the base engine should achieve 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 on highways. The mid-level V6 rates at 17 mpg in the city and 25 on highways.

The LaCrosse Super's engine is more powerful and fun. The Chicago Tribune says the 5.3-liter V8 engine with 300 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque "delivers a jolt of energy leaving the light or pulling out to pass, a vast improvement over LaCrosse's standard V-6 pair for those who live by the theory that you never have too much horsepower." The EPA rates the Super's V8 engine at 16 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway.

All three engines work with a four-speed automatic transmission. Reviewers are generally impressed with its performance, but wish for at least one additional gear. The Family Car reports, "a fifth gear, common in the competition these days, was definitely missed." Edmunds says, "All models are front-wheel drive and make do with an antiquated four-speed automatic transmission -- a liability in a class where rivals offer modern five- and six-speed automatics, as well as continuously variable units."

Handling and Braking

Many reviews recognize the LaCrosse's comfortable, smooth ride as characteristic of a Buick, but are divided as to whether the ride is too smooth and detached. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman finds "too much play in the wheel and a squishy feel on corners that reminds you of your parents' car." Similarly, Edmunds writes, "The body rolls excessively and the steering feels numb."

New Car Test Drive takes the opposite view. "The chassis is nicely tuned and balanced," they say. "This is no mushmobile." In the same camp, Kelley Blue Book notes, "The LaCrosse feels confident at all speeds, and though it won't appeal to driving enthusiasts, the every-day driver will find the car's precise steering and firm suspension quite satisfying."

Other reviews are split down the middle. BusinessWeek says the LaCrosse "understeers a lot if you start treating it like a sport sedan, but in steady-state cruise mode it is one of the most solid-feeling and comfortable/quiet cars in its class." The Detroit News "liked the LaCrosse Super's ride on the highway, it was comfortable and reassuring, but it wasn't super. Its 198-inch body rolled through the bumps quietly, but the ride felt soft and squishy." They add that in urban driving, "the car's body rolled heavily in turns and swayed back and forth when accelerating quickly or braking hard."

Most say the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes perform admirably under normal conditions. The Family Car reports, "The four-wheel disc brakes offer plenty of stopping power and give a nicely modulated response to the driver's pedal pressure." Autobytel praises the "impressive stopping power under dry conditions," but notes a "marked decrease in performance when the brakes are wet."

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