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All-new LaCrosse is elegant, fun to drive

Since it first arrived for the 2005 model year, the Buick LaCrosse sedan has provided buyers with a pleasing alternative that bridges the gap between basic and ultra-luxurious.

While LaCrosse has continued to evolve and maintain its relevance in the Buick lineup, it was due for an update.

For 2017, an all-new third-generation Buick LaCrosse debuts with attractive exterior and interior styling, a new engine that is more fuel efficient, additional technology, an improved level of refinement, reduced curb weight and enhanced driving dynamics.

The new LaCrosse features beautiful styling influenced by the Buick Avenir concept car. Up front is a winged waterfall grille featuring the return of a three-color tri-shield emblem.

LaCrosse’s elegant cabin is well insulated and employs acoustic- and vibration-absorbing materials and active noise cancellation to provide a tranquil environment even at highway speeds.

The cabin provides plenty of leg room for six-footers in the front and rear seats, but LaCrosse’s sloping roof line leaves little head room for taller rear-seat occupants. The cargo area is also on the smallish side (15 cubic feet) when compared to others in this segment.

On the plus side, LaCrosse’s base trim ($32,065) is quite luxurious and includes a V-6 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, front and rear LED lighting, leatherette seating surfaces, IntelliLink with frameless 8-inch color touch screen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot integration, keyless opening and starting, remote starting, rear-view camera, rear park assist, teen driver features and much more.

The 2017 Buick LaCrosse is offered in four trim levels: base ($32,065), Preferred ($36,990), Essence ($39,590) and Premium ($41,990). The upper two trim levels feature HID headlamps, side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, perforated leather upholstery and memory settings for two drivers.

All LaCrosse models feature a new 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 features automatic stop-start and active fuel management, allowing the V-6 to operate as a four-cylinder in many conditions.

LaCrosse runs on regular unleaded fuel, and front-wheel-drive models deliver 21/31 mpg city/highway. All-wheel drive is available, but only on the top-of-the-line Premium trim.

Changing gears in LaCrosse requires the use of a joystick-like gear shifter that I do not like. Park is easily selected by depressing a button. Drive is selected by depressing a button while moving the joystick rearward — pretty intuitive. But selecting Reverse is not intuitive. It requires pushing a button while moving the joystick forward and to the left. I struggled with that for a while before it became habit.

Other than that, LaCrosse is fun to drive and much more agile than previous generations. The suspension delivers a smooth, confident ride without feeling too cushy like some luxury sedans do.

The V-6 is powerful and responsive, and the eight-speed automatic transmission offers an impressive level of refinement. Those shopping for a luxurious sedan should consider the LaCrosse.