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Detroit show: Buick fronts up with LaCrosse

Front first: The Buick LaCrosse drives through the front wheels instead of Holden's rear-drive Zeta platform.

German platform favoured for luxury American sedan

12 Jan 2009

GENERAL Motors has steered away from its global rear-drive platform with the new-generation Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan unveiled this week at the North American International Auto Show.

While GM global product development vice-chairman Bob Lutz had wanted to use the Australian-developed rear-drive Zeta platform in several large vehicles in the US other than the Camaro sports coupe, the 2010 production model LaCrosse shown in Motown sends the power through its front wheels.

Also to be offered with all-wheel drive, the all-new LaCrosse is based on GM’s new global mid-sized front-drive architecture engineered in Germany.

133 center imageIt is still unclear whether the larger Buick Lucerne, which is due for replacement soon, will use Holden Statesman/Caprice platform or whether it will remain front-drive.

While GM decided against using the VE Commodore base for the LaCrosse, there is an Australian link with former Holden designer Justin Thompson leading the design of the new prestige sedan.

The shape was previewed at the Beijing motor show last April via the Invicta concept car. GM has retained most of the concept car’s design features for the production model, which is quite bold for Buick.

The new LaCrosse is considered a key weapon as GM battles to draw younger buyers top the Buick brand. According to JD Power & Associates, the average age of Buick owners is 63 years compared to 47 years across the rest of the US auto industry.

The 33-year-old Mr Thompson said he designed a car that he himself would like to drive. “We wanted people like us to be able to go, ‘That’s a cool car. I've got to look at that,’” he told the Detroit Free Press in the US this week.

Mr Thompson also said the fact that the new LaCrosse was a crucial vehicle made it even more enjoyable to work on. “It’s an opportunity to make your mark on a brand that’s re-emerging from a design point of view.” There is plenty of leather and woodgrain inside, but the LaCrosse also introduces new features such as a USB port, Bluetooth, an optional rear passenger DVD player with two screens and a heads-up display system that projects relevant information including speed on to the bottom of the windscreen.

Buick has also introduced a blind-spot warning system that warns of vehicles in adjacent lanes, as well as swivelling headlights and a rear-view parking camera.

The all-new LaCrosse will offer two different V6 engines, both with direct injection technology which is already used in the Cadillac CTS and expected to be introduced on Holden’s Commodore in Australia within the next few years.

Base LaCrosse models use a 3.0-litre V6 with 190kW of power and 286Nm of torque, while a range-topping CXS version runs a 3.6-litre V6 generating 209kW and 354Nm. All LaCrosse models will be fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Production of the new model will begin in the middle of this year at GM’s Fairfax plant in Kansas.

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