Back when I was a kid, a vibrating car seat meant you had a tire out of balance, a misfiring engine, or a warped brake rotor.
Now GM has taken seat technology to a new level with a vibrating Safety Alert Seat in vehicles such as today’s test car, a 2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD sedan. The LaCrosse is very much a player in the near-luxury category, where it competes against the likes of the Acura TL, Chrysler 300, Kia Cadenza, Lexus ES 350 and 300 hybrid, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon.
The seat works with many of the LaCrosse’s standard and optional safety systems, including the Lane Change Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, and Automatic Collision Preparation. Stray out of your lane without signaling or close too fast on the car in front and the seat gives you a seat-of-the-pants warning.
These advanced technologies are key selling points for the 2014 LaCrosse in this mid-cycle freshening up.
Powertrains remain the same. Engines are either the 2.4-liter four-cylinder with eAssist hybrid technology or the 3.6-liter V-6. Each is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is only available with the V-6.
All LaCrosses get a new front fascia, with a sculpted hood and more prominent rendition of Buick’s waterfall grille. Wing-shaped LED running lamps accentuate the optional Bi-Xenon HID articulating headlamps.
In back, the LaCrosse receives a revamped fascia and deck lid with an integrated spoiler, wraparound LED tail lamps, and a horizontal chrome trim piece that ties it all together.
The LaCrosse comes in four trim levels: Base, Leather, Premium I, and Premium II.
Our test car was a loaded Premium I with an MSRP of $40,810 (including $925 destination charge).
There were some significant options, including Driver Confidence Package No. 1 ($2,125) and No. 2 ($1,745).
Package No.1 adds Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Departure Warning, HID headlamps, Head-Up display, and fog lamps.
Package No. 2 adds Adaptive Cruise Control and Automatic Collision Preparation.
Other options were a sunroof with second-row skylight ($1,195) and upgraded audio with navigation ($795). Carbon black metallic added another $495 for a bottom line price of $47,165.
That price and technology combination isn’t for everyone, but it results in a comfortable cruiser of a sedan that you could envision serving as a limo. And it could, except that GM has Cadillac entrenched in that market.
Rear visibility isn’t the best in this car, but the technology packages and rear view camera take the angst out of backing either into or out of tight parking spaces. You quickly find yourself trusting the on-screen image. Fold-down rear headrests greatly improve the view in the rearview mirror.
Inside, the interior has been upgraded with styling tweaks, nice leather, accent lighting, attractive electro-luminescent gauges, and a simplified center stack.
While the LaCrosse has limo-like interior space and rear legroom, the driver’s position is cockpit-like, surrounding you with the console, curved instrument panel, and door design. Some will find it cozy; others (like me) will find it a bit confining.
Taller passengers also will learn to duck when entering the LaCrosse, lest they bump their heads on the curved roofline.
The other place where space is limited is in the trunk, which is plenty big for most of us but those who tend to travel heavily laden might find it on the small side, especially in eAssist models where the battery pack takes away even more space.
The eight-inch touch screen (and other controls) recognize smartphone-inspired swipe movements of your fingers. Some worked well; others were harder to master.
However, the Buick Intellilink’s voice recognition did something most other systems haven’t managed: It understood and implemented my voice commands, dialing the correct person and phone (work, mobile, or home) numbers.
EPA numbers peg our test V-6 LaCrosse at 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 on the highway, and 20 overall. The onboard computer said we were averaging 24.6 mpg, which was hard to believe since we spent the week commuting to Boston. Alas, doing the numbers when filling the tank, gave us a 21.2 mpg figure, still impressive considering the rush hour traffic we encountered trying to get from Brighton to the North Shore.
On the road, the LaCrosse handled like a large sedan. It tracked straight and the steering had a nice feel. There was expected body lean on hard corners.
We enjoyed the adaptive cruise control and found the V-6 powertrain a nice mate for the LaCrosse.
And about that vibrating seat? We had all the alerts turned on and it did a great job of warning (with both vibration and a red sign in the head-up display) when the line of traffic in front was coming to a halt, even when you couldn’t see around the pickup truck or SUV in front of you.