• Avenir treatment for Buick’s flagship sedan
  • V6 engine produces 310 horsepower
  • 9-speed transmission standard
  • Priced at $45,795

 

The roads outside Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey have near-apocalyptic imperfections. Between the crater-size potholes, rough asphalt, poor lane markings and traffic congestion that can feel like a battle royal, driving just 10 miles east to Jersey City felt like automotive purgatory. This was my first impression after landing from a cross-country flight and getting behind the wheel of a loaned car.

Thankfully, however, that loaned car was the new 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir. And that’s where my second impression quickly formed: If you must contend with roads such as these, this new Buick is about as capable as they come for turning adverse commuting conditions into a plush, hushed ride at a price won’t make you cry uncle.

Buick’s “highest expression of luxury”

The LaCrosse is Buick’s flagship sedan, a full-size mover with a refined feel and acres of interior space. It was all-new for 2017, updated with fresh technology, a new sense of style, and a starting price just over $30,000. On the heels of that revamped model comes the topline LaCrosse Avenir. Buick has compared its new Avenir line to that of GMC’s Denali, calling it the “highest expression of luxury” yet for General Motors’ premium brand. Buick rolled out Avenir variants starting with the Enclave crossover SUV and LaCrosse sedan, and recently announced another in the 2019 Regal Avenir.

The LaCrosse is already a substantial sedan, but Avenir further distinguishes itself as the top-bill model with features like a 3-dimensional grille with chrome wings spreading from the Buick badge, exclusive 19-inch wheels and interior details like Chestnut interior color scheme, embroidered headrests and scripted sill plates. In addition to these Avenir-exclusive accoutrements, this topline LaCrosse sedan comes packed with features that are optional on other trims. They include the uplevel 310-horsepower V6 engine, navigation system, Bose premium audio, panoramic sunroof and power-operated rear sunshade as part of the LaCrosse Avenir’s $45,795 base price.

The LaCrosse Avenir can be further spruced up, as was this test model, with options like a Dynamic Drive Package with continuously variable suspension damping, a sport mode, and 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Our tester was also equipped with the optional Driver Confidence Package 2 that bundles adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and a parking assist feature. For those seeking better traction in inclement weather, the LaCrosse also stands out for its optional all-wheel drive – a trait that gives it an advantage over potential rivals like the Lexus ES and Kia Cadenza.

Highway master

The LaCrosse Avenir was a fine companion in the city, but I got a real sense of its place and purpose in the following days when I drove hundreds of miles to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York and back. On the highway, Buick’s big, plush sedan comes into its own. It was made to eat up highway miles, and that’s exactly what it did over the hours and hours of driving.

One of the best attributes is the LaCrosse Avenir’s ride quality. It’s like commuting on a cloud. The same suspension system that quelled New Jersey’s notorious potholes made for smooth sailing on Interstate 87 and beyond. And unlike Buicks of yore, this new one isn’t “floaty.” It’s just comfortable and solid. There is a sport mode that firms up suspension and shifts the throttle mapping, but engaging it seemed to defeat this car’s purpose. If you want a dynamic canyon carver, go elsewhere.

Kudos also must be given to the standard V6. With 310 horsepower, it always had enough gusto, even for higher-speed passing. The 9-speed transmission worked well and was notably more refined than other 9-speed automatics we’ve tested.

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Experience matters

Beyond an able powertrain, library-quiet cabin and comfortable ride, the LaCrosse stood out in other ways. Amenities small and large made the miles fly by. Among them are a massaging driver’s seat. Yes, you read that right: Just like a 6-figure Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the LaCrosse can caress your back. The system isn’t nearly as sophisticated as that of the S-Class or offer the Mercedes’ multiple programs, but it’s nice to have nonetheless. To engage, just press the button on the left side of the driver’s seat.

Also commendable are the head-up driver display that shows all the information you want and can still be viewed when wearing polarized sunglasses, and the adaptive cruise control system. For the most part, the adaptive cruise worked well, smoothly pacing the vehicle ahead and varying the Buick’s velocity as needed to hold it as one of three driver-selectable distances. The only time the system didn’t work was on the return trip. It was pouring rain, and the heavy doses of water overwhelmed the system’s sensors.

Gripes were few, but among them are the gear selector. It’s rather awkward to use, especially for something as basic as getting the car into reverse. To do so requires an up and to the left movement. A traditional gear lever would be far more sensible. It would also be nice to have further control of the climate ventilation direction other than just body and feet – and to be able to adjust even those functions without having to dig into the touchscreen system.

All told, I put over 500 miles on the LaCrosse Avenir over a few days and was no worse for the wear. In fact, even after retracing my steps back to pothole-riddled Newark – this time in a severe storm – I felt more relaxed than was probably warranted, and likely less stressed than the combatants – err, drivers – next to me.

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