Why the LaCrosse facelift is sorely needed

The reskinned 2014 LaCrosse, which hits showrooms this summer, will address many of the vehicle's shortcomings.

Buick is showing a refreshed LaCrosse sedan this week at the New York auto show. And it's not a moment too soon.

The LaCrosse has been the workhorse of Buick's recovery. The sedan, launched just weeks after General Motors' mid-2009 bankruptcy, was deemed by many as the most important debut in decades for Buick, which was fighting for relevancy after almost being eliminated during GM's retrenchment.

The current generation LaCrosse, with a sleeker and more refined look than predecessor Buick sedans, has been a success by any measure. It is Buick's flagship and was its top-selling nameplate last year. Along with the Enclave large crossover, it has helped Buick forge a budding reputation for stylish designs and quiet, comfortable interiors.

But four years is a long time to go between facelifts. And the LaCrosse has become stale.

LaCrosse vs. Impala

To see just how stale, wait a few weeks and size it up against a 2014 Chevrolet Impala, which shares the same underpinnings and hits showrooms soon.

Technically, the LaCrosse is above its corporate cousin on the premium scale. But the redesigned Impala has a show-stopping exterior design and is jammed with technology that the current LaCrosse lacks.

And, at the risk of making Buick's marketing folks wince, its cabin might even be quieter than that of the LaCrosse.

The reskinned 2014 LaCrosse, which hits showrooms this summer, will address many of its shortcomings. Most of the improvements come inside, with a more refined look, a revised and decluttered center stack and a more intuitive infotainment unit.

The exterior changes are modest. They include sleeker headlights and wing-shaped LED daytime running lights. Beyond that, the LaCrosse's exterior design will soldier on until its next full-blown redesign, which I don't expect until 2015.

'Pretty amazing'

But Buick will make a statement when the next-gen LaCrosse finally lands, GM design chief Ed Welburn told me last month.

"You do an absolute killer Impala and some people say, 'Well, gee, it looks as good or even better than the LaCrosse," Welburn said.

"Well, that means we just push the LaCrosse further," he said. "The next-generation LaCrosse is a pretty amazing car."

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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