Saturday, December 24, 2016

LaCrosse LaCrappe

As my Christmas gift to my adoring readers, I have finally decided to write the unbiased review of the Buick LaCrosse which I have owned for 13 months. It is neither hot nor cold and does not earn any awards - good or bad.

These kinds of honest reviews will become illegal when TPIP trade agreements are implemented. Saying anything which might imperil a multi-billion dollar business from sucking in any more dollars is considered a crime punishable by fines or jail under this pending legislation. I am the last of a dying breed of truth tellers.

Part of the motivation for writing includes a sour interaction I had with Carl Black Buick in Roswell, GA, where I purchased the vehicle, when my 2016 LaCrosse would not start. The trunk would not open. A cryptic message which quickly disappeared from the dashboard told me to put the starter in the transmission tray wherever that was.

I thought I might get help from the dealer's service department but the joke was on me. The person who answered the phone couldn't wait until I was finished relaying the problem before he told me that the service department was closed. I hope the snots do not sell any cars today because customers are closed for the day.

The car has good points and bad points, and in several ways is inferior to the 1998 Regal GS I had for many years. Visibility is very poor in the LaCrosse because the rear window slants so heavily and the hood is so low it is impossible to tell how close one is to an object in front. So it is always a guessing game if I will hit a vehicle in front of me when trying to park the car. The Regal had beautiful visibility because its designers were more concerned about safety than "looking cool."

One nice feature is the rear cameras which help me immensely when backing up, without which it would be impossible to judge distances between the car and one behind. Lord knows how many mailboxes that camera has saved from ruin.

The driver seatbelts are poorly placed - not nearly as well done as the 98 Regal. They are placed low, making it difficult to reach for extension when buckling.

The engine is rated at a little over 300 hp which is adequate but isn't going to win a whole lot of street races, although I have beaten Ford F-150s on a few occasions. I do not feel confident taking on Lexus, Audi, Mercedes, or other cars, although with a little research there might be a couple of them which are beatable. Acceleration is decent but 0-60 should be under 5 seconds - which it is not, and I would pay for it if it were available.

The seats are not nearly as comfortable or generous as the 98 Regal, so if you are of the large persuasion you should look for something else. I tried getting into a 2016 Regal but felt like a sardine in a small can. It is definitely not a vehicle for large Marge - or large Tony. So I was left no choice but LaCrosse, and yes I am on a diet.

The driver's seat is heated which is a bonus, and they do adjust electronically, but the range of motion seems limited compared to the 98 Regal, and the controls are not as intuitive. Don't ask about rear seating comfort as I have never ridden in the back. The seats look kind of low - I wouldn't want to go on a long trip as a passenger but 24-packs of bottled water seem to do ok.

The sound system seems adequate. I suspect that with some tinkering I could adjust the balance for better acoustics but I don't have the time, and make do with what I have. Don't bring up the subject of CDs or DVDs with the sales or service people - they will laugh at you for hanging on to such antiques.

LaCrosse's "infotainment" monitor is at times a joke. It is not always intuitive to use, and the touch responsiveness is awful. I have to click an icon several times to get a response. And it took many weeks to figure out how to cause the radio favorites selector to retract from 3 rows of presets down to 1. On the other hand, the monitor seems to be as large as Lexus monitors and offers acceptable graphical resolution.

For those who want the preset buttons to return to 1 row - drag the top edge with your finger.

The radio controls are definitely retrograde compared to the 1998 Regal GS. Buick took away the radio scanner button which was hugely valuable given all of the crap on the radio. I am now limited to scanning presets which even with Sirius radio still provides a giant wasteland of crap - even of my own choosing.

The OnStar navigation system is one of the very positive aspects of the LaCrosse but requires a subscription. I would much rather call someone to send me an address rather than have to type it into their poorly responsive monitor. The agents are usually polite although there was one or 2 occasions where I had to speak to a rude idiot and I can't remember his name or I would give it.

One other very positive aspect of the LaCrosse is the blue tooth integration with smart phones. Don't mention to the sales or service people that you have a non-smart phone unless you want to be sneered at. Even more expensive prestigious cars - if they are a couple of years old or more - do not have this feature. I see people all the time in Mercedes holding a phone in one hand and a steering wheel in another. I will never go back to a car which does not have phone integration supporting hands-free dialing and talking.

Although I said that the LaCrosse does not earn any awards, I realized while writing this review that it deserves the Crap Award for its heating and air conditioning system. It was so bad that I had to take it to the dealership for service whereupon after some research "Nick" said that all of the LaCrosses are this way.

The problem is that you can turn on the heater but you can't turn it off. Can you image not being able to turn off the effing heater in the summer? After much fiddling, I accidentally discovered that if I press the Auto button on the passenger climate control, I can turn off the heater, but it puts the fan on high which then has to be turned down. This makes the LaCrosse a Turd on Wheels. Who ever heard of not being able to turn off the heater??????? This alone will keep me from ever buying another Buick. I will now have to check any car I consider buying to make sure that I can turn off both the heater and air conditioner.

The LaCrosse has a radar which sort of works. Most of the time cars passing on the interstate are flagged with a warning signal as they pass on either side of the car, but I have discovered that the radar is not fool proof. Never rely on it - ever. Always visually check - and Buick didn't make it easy with its limited visibility layout. On the other hand, the rear radar has saved me from some fateful maneuvers.

I don't really know how well the LaCrosse compares to competition, all of which may have their own idiosyncrasies and design failures which levels out the playing field. But in my mind there is absolutely no reason not to be able to turn off the heater. This alone is reason enough to not buy the car.

One last item concerning comfort and handling - the LaCrosse takes corners reasonably well and the driver is reasonably insulated from the road. I am not one of these Car and Driver snobs who wants to feel every crack in the pavement or every pebble - there are some things which are best left to the suspension and I have no urge to "feel" the road.

To make this car buyable, the heater and air conditioner need to be turned on and off with the exact same buttons, and the exceedingly horrible preset scanner needs to work. Many times I press forward but am taken backward because the controls fail if the dashboard is refreshing.

Finally, to make the car truly worthy of consideration, it needs more engine power at least as an option.

Now for the final finally. I have taken the car for service 3-4 times in the last 13 months 3 of which were factory recalls, and one of which was a failure in the airbags. After about 1 month, a sensor on the airbag required replacement. Fortunately the visits did not cost me anything except time.

Copyright 2016 Tony Bonn