Buick For 2017

Buick For 2017

Buick For 2017

By Benjamin Young,

It’s an impressive feat when a person gets to age 100 and becomes a centenarian. More impressive still is reaching supercentenarian status by reaching 110 and beyond. Well, that’s a milestone Buick has achieved, turning the big 1-1-3 this year. Now, the established brand is making a go at reinventing itself in order to appeal to a younger demographic, and is making a big push as of late, launching two completely redesigned vehicles, the 2017 LaCrosse and Envision.

Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick-GMC sales, says they are focusing on three key areas to draw different buyers, while at the same time staying true to core customers: sculptural beauty, epitomized by the Avista sport coupe concept debuted at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show; QuietTuning technology that employs specialty materials and engineering to prevent unwanted sounds entering the cabin; and spirited, efficient performance, manifested via new engines and transmissions.

The first example we had the opportunity to try out first-hand was the third-generation LaCrosse during the Buick Portfolio media drive held in Napa Valley. Quite obviously taking styling cues from the full-size Avenir concept unveiled two years ago, there is the large curvy grille surrounding a winged emblem resurrecting the signature red, silver and blue tri-colour shield insignia.

Buick For 2017The mid-size sedan gives off serious presence, being lower, longer and wider than the previous version. However, through the use of additional high-strength steel and lighter sound deadening, the car weighs 136 kilograms less than before. The rear end in particular looks great, with two-piece taillights and a sculpted trunk lid that flares out at the top mimicking a lip spoiler.

Also getting an opportunity to test a few other products in the lineup, I discovered the LaCrosse to be the quietest of the bunch. Even though Buick has repeatedly said all models feature the same level of noise cancellation, this doesn’t seem to be the case in real-world conditions. This is likely due to the different engine configurations, some providing smoother, and therefore quieter, power delivery than others, for instance the flagship’s 310-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 mated to an eight speed automatic gearbox. Front-wheel and all-wheel drive is available.

There’s more to the vehicle than just a new body and internals — part of attracting the millennial set is technology, and Aldred pointed out a few innovations.

“[The LaCrosse] really will be our technology leader offering a number of firsts. Things like pedestrian detection — so when somebody is walking by the side of the road, it actually signals on the instrument panel, it gives a little symbol showing a pedestrian there in case you miss them,” says Aldred.

“To maximize fuel economy it can deactivate [two of] the six cylinders when you don’t need them, so it’ll often run on four cylinders maximizing fuel economy. And great convenience features like cap-less fuelling, something until it’s there, you don’t realize you need it. But once you’ve had it you never want to be without it, especially on a cold day.”

Although the Envision was on hand at the Portfolio drive as well, it wouldn’t be until a recent event in Priddis, Alberta were we provided proper seat time in the compact luxury crossover. Built in China, the first-ever Envision was released last year, and has quickly become Buick’s fastest-selling vehicle, contributing to the one million-plus overall units sold globally in 2016.

“The Envision is in the biggest segment in the industry now so we, any manufacturer, has got to be in this segment. We were thrilled to be in this segment in May of this year, obviously we’ve expanded the model lineup for ‘17 model year, offering the 2.5-litre engine to complement the 2.0-litre turbo,” says Aldred.

Buick For 2017The 2.5 acts as an entry level grade for the CUV, but packs in a fair share of standard equipment including heated seats, IntelliLink infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen and backup camera, electric liftgate, and all-wheel drive. The naturally-aspirated motor produces a respectable 197 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque and achieves the better fuel economy of the pair rated at 11.1 L/100 km in the city and 8.4 on the highway.

Instead, my driving partner and I spent our time behind the wheel of the slightly less efficient, faster turbocharged variant. The wide open country roads an hour outside of Calgary allowed us to stretch the 2.0-litre’s legs, and we got to a gallop pretty quickly thanks to an extra 55 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque, coming on at a low 2,000 rpm, over the base. Both mills are four-bangers, so don’t expect the exact same level of auditory refinement as the six cylinder in the aforementioned LaCrosse.

A relatively small footprint and proprietary “HiPer Strut” front suspension setup yield better handling and ride quality than one might expect from what is still considered a utility vehicle. Steering feel is firm and predictable, whether on paved roads or otherwise. One exceptionally enjoyable section of our route involved bombing down a stretch of loose gravel that transitioned into essentially a shallow stream.

Prices for the 2017 Buick LaCrosse starts at $33,083 (FWD), and $39,995 for the 2017 Buick Envision in the Preferred trim.

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