You’ve probably seen the commercials. Thirty-something woman is surprised her friend drives a Buick. Super-cute actor Max Greenfield and his super-cuter French bulldog extol the luxury of heated seats.
Buick’s mission to attract a younger demographic means it brought out the big guns with the redesigned 2017 Buick LaCrosse.
The LaCrosse is Buick’s full-size sedan, slotting in above the midsize Regal and the compact Verano. It’s offered in base, Preferred, Essence and Premium trims. Front-wheel drive is standard, but there is an all-wheel drive option in the Premium trim for an extra $3,000. New this year is an optional sport suspension package, a quieter ride and a 300-pound weight loss.
But it’s not just better driving dynamics that will attract a younger buyer. This is the internet/technology/Instagram generation we’re talking about. I wanted to see if the Buick had the tech goods, so I decided to spend my time in the LaCrosse only using its voice controls on the IntelliLink infotainment system.
IntelliLink’s simple interface, 8-inch touchscreen, 4G LTE wireless hotspot and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto made me a fan. But while most manufacturers have got voice recognition down, the Buick and I seemed to be speaking a different language.
First test: Navigation
The IntelliLink system allows for point of interest search, so you can just say “Target” or “Starbucks” and the nav system brings up a list of the nearest locations. I tried it with my gym.
When I said “24 Hour Fitness,” it asked me if I said “finesse.” A second try resulted in “mixed nuts.” (I can’t make this up, people.) I tried just saying, “24 Hour” and it came up with one location in San Francisco, about 12 miles away, instead of the location less than a mile from me. That’s a partial success?
Second test: M.E. phone home
When it came time to make a phone call, the system took much longer than expected to load my contacts, then insisted they weren’t loaded at all. Saying, “Call Mom Home” resulted in an innocent sounding, “I don’t recognize that command,” but the subtext, if a robot voice can have a subtext, was a very Kubrick-esque, “I’m sorry Emme. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” I tried again and the system asked me, “What kind of destination is Mom Home?” It’s like the IntelliLink robot lady was choosing to be daft. What’s so hard about “Call Mom Home?”
Fortunately, all this was made null and void once I plugged my phone in and started using Apple CarPlay. Siri immediately called my mom when I asked and directed me to my local gym. IntelliLink could take a few lessons from Siri.
Tuning to a satellite radio station was pretty easy, as long as I didn’t follow the system’s voice prompts. While it asked for a station number or name, it refused to recognize Sirius station names like First Wave or Classic Rewind. It would only respond to a command using the station number.
It’s 2017 and voice recognition has been around for years. Buick should be able to get this right — or at least, mostly right — on its largest luxury sedan.
Give it up for the goods
The base LaCrosse comes with a back-up camera, and that’s about it for driver assistance. Optioning in the Driver Confidence Package 1, available on the mid Essence trim, adds alerts of the Rear Cross-Traffic and Side Blind Zone with Lane Change variety. You have to step up to the top-of-the-line Premium trim to get features like Front Automatic Braking, which hits the brakes if the car senses an impending collision, and Full Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control.