When my mother bought a Buick in the '80s, she rationalized the purchase as a car that said, "I've made it."
The fact that my mom now drives a Honda Accord speaks to the problems Buick has had in recent decades re-establishing itself as the maker of luxury vehicles that are as reliable as they are beautiful -- the sorts of cars hardworking, salt-of-the-earth Americans buy as rewards for jobs well done.
The LaCrosse was Buick's first step on its long road of image restoration back in 2009, when the full-size sedan was introduced to showcase the company's more elegant design aesthetic.
Now Buick is back with an updated version of the LaCrosse that ratchets up the comforts and technology.
Available in August, the $33,135-plus 2014 LaCrosse is based on the same platform as the newly overhauled Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac's sport-luxury sedan, the XTS. It keeps the doors, roof and windows from the outgoing model but retools the front and back ends.
The larger waterfall grille is underscored with windswept LED running lights and sporty ventilation holes on the hood, while the back end is outfitted with a barely there built-in spoiler and chrome tips on its trapezoidal exhaust.
The real joys of this exceptionally roomy car are only apparent once a driver flings open its solid doors and slides into a welcoming plush seat. From the wood-trimmed dash to the micro-suede roof liner, it is a thoroughly tactile and sensory experience.
There are two versions of the LaCrosse powered with two different engines: a satisfying direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 that returned an underwhelming 20 miles per gallon, combined, in my daylong test of the car at a Buick driving event in late June; and a mild hybrid e-assist version that pairs a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with a small electric motor and lithium-ion batteries to yield a more impressive EPA-estimated 25 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway.
What most impressed me about the LaCrosse was its refinement. It's one thing to make a car comfortable with interior appointments. It's another thing to let drivers truly enjoy those comforts by ensuring the interior remains quiet and unfettered by rough roads.
Safety systems alert drivers either audibly -- with beeps -- or through a safety alert seat that works something like a tap on the shoulder, only in this case, it's a buzz of the butt. Veer too much to the right, and the seat vibrates on the right. Veer to the left, and it vibrates on the left.
With its LaCrosse, Buick offers a well-priced luxury car that might just win back my mother.
2014 BUICK LACROSSE
Base price: $33,135
Price as tested: $46,370
Engine: Direct-injected, 3.6-Liter, V-6, DOHC
Power: 304 horsepower at 6,800 rpm
Torque: 264 pound-feet at 5,300 rpm
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Overall length: 197 inches
EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Bottom line: Well-priced luxury