2011 Corvette ZR1 – A fire breathing dragon of speed


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2011 Corvette ZR1 – A fire breathing dragon of speed

Apparently a 505-horsepower Z06 was just not enough for the Corvette team. No, they needed something outrageous. They needed something with a  supercharger for massive power, race ready ceramic brakes,  tons of carbon fiber, a name-plate with some history, and a six-figure price tag.  They call it the ZR1; we call it a fire breathing dragon of speed.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Corvette ZR1

Supercharged 6.2L V8 (LS9) / 638 hp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb.- ft. of torque at 3800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual

EPA Fuel Economy: 14mpg city / 16mpg combined / 20mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 17.8mpg

Base MSRP: $109,800
As tested MSRP: $124,345

Standard Equipment: carbon-fiber hood/fenders/roof/floor panels , carbon fiber splitters/rockers,  aluminum frame, 6-piston front/4-piston rear ceramic Brembo brakes, keyless start, 19″ front / 20″ rear wheels, dry-sump oil system, magnetic ride control, heads-up display, OnStar, XM Radio

Equipped Options:
3ZR Premium Equipment Package [$10,000] – Includes: Leather wrapped interior, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system w/navigation, heated seats, USB and AUX port for audio
Chrome Aluminum Wheels [$2,000]
Pedal Covers [$295]

Required Fees:
Gas Guzzler Tax [$1,300]
Delivery Charge [$950]

Check out our full gallery of photos shot during this review

A $124,000 Chevrolet?

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

A Chevrolet that costs over $100k? Sure it’s a Corvette, but are they serious?  Turns out, yes they are.

I had my first ride in a C6 ZR1 just over two years ago.  Ron Fellows from Corvette racing was my driver and nearly relocated my stomach in a quick 5 minute drive down Woodward Avenue. Back then I knew the ZR1 was something special, but only recently when I had a chance to drive one over a long weekend did I begin to understand what the ZR1 was truly capable of.

The ZR1 is a challenge, a statement, and a piece of art wrapped up into one glorious machine.  It’s everything you’d expect from a Corvette, mixed with the upset child of a wood-chipper and nuclear power plant.  Driven lightly the ZR1 is as calm and civilized as any Corvette, but deep inside it carries the power to shame exotic cars from around the world.

Supercar performance

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

As with any car sporting a house sized price, the engine is an important part of the package.  With the ZR1, on-lookers are not left to guess what engine lies under its carbon fiber hood. A unique clear window on the top of the hood allows the plenum of the LS9’s supercharger to be visible.

The story of the LS9, however, is not how good it looks, but how much power it produces. With 638-horsepower and 604 lb ft of torque, the LS9 bestows the C6 ZR1 as the fastest and most powerful Corvette ever sold to the public. The LS9 is based off the Corvette’s standard LS3 engine, not the 7.0L LS7 engine from the Z06. Enabling that hefty output from 6.2 liters is a four-lobe Eaton Twin-Vortices Series intercooled supercharger.  The LS9 also features titanium intake vales, titanium connecting rods, and a high performance pressurized dry sump oil system.

A high-tech hydroformed aluminum frame lifted directly from the C6.R race car saves the ZR1 138 lbs of weight over a traditional steel Corvette frame.   The car runs the scales at an impressive 3,352lbs, allowing for a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 5.2 lbs per horsepower.  This high-power and low-weight combination drives the Corvette ZR1 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and will complete a quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 135mph. Top speed is a blistering 205mph.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

The ZR1 can stop just as fast as it can accelerate thanks to a race ready cross-drilled carbon-ceramic brake system. A testament to how serious Team Corvette was about performance, the rear brake rotors were lifted straight out of the front brakes of the Enzo Ferrari. The ZR1’s front brake rotors are very similar to the Ferrari FXX’s front rotors and only differ in size.  Besides weighing half as much as a comparable steel brake rotor, ceramic rotors can withstand temperatures as hot as 1,800 degrees without warping.  A 6-piston front / 4-piston rear Brembo brake system has been spec’d to complement the ceramic rotors.  The ZR1 can stop from 60mph in only 96-feet; a current production car record.

While the brakes do feel fantastic, they do take some getting used to.  Far touchier than a “normal” car, the ZR1 can slow down considerably from just a light brush of the brake pedal.

Corvette civility remains

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

You’d expect the ZR1 to be uncomfortable, harsh, and loud, right?  Well, not so. In fact the ZR1 is nearly as quiet and unassuming as it’s base counterpart. Part of this is is due to the electronically actuated exhaust baffle, similar to what you’d find on other current sixth-generation Corvettes.

Under idle and most acceleration circumstances, the ZR1 diverts exhaust gas through a sound reducing chamber. At wide open throttle, twin butterfly valves automatically open, allowing for straight-through exhaust and a monster sound.

On the road we found the ZR1 to handle just like you’d expect out of a car with this sort of resume. Standard magnetic select ride control allows for two ride modes (tour/sport) and is fully integrated with the traction control and stability control system to further enhance performance driving.   You can select one of a handful of stability/traction control programs to compensate for wet or dry track conditions.  Chevy has even provided a launch control system to aid in full power starts at the drag-strip.  All this technology ensures almost telepathic response from any input on the road or track.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

On the street you’ll never even come close to exploring the potential of the ZR1.  Fortunately, GM has made sure you can come as close as you dare without risking your life. Last year we drove a 610-horsepower Dodge Viper and found the massive V-10 was always on the verge of biting back. Without traction control the Viper had to be handled with care. Even with 28 more horsepower, not so with the ZR1. Staying composed in every situation is one of the ZR1’s strong points.

The entire car allows you to get close to chaos but seamlessly prevents you from going over the edge.  No harsh reactions, no overly aggressive throttle changes, and never the feeling that the car has more control than you.  This is one of the best stability systems we’ve ever tested.

Even with the safety net, it takes some time behind the wheel before you feel safe letting things rip. This is 638-horsepower we’re talking about here and rumors peg the output at around 700-horsepower in near freezing temperatures. Despite massive 335/20 rear wheels, the ZR1 is a very effective smoke machine if you’re not careful. But rest assured, once those wheels lock up you’re in for the ride of your life.

Official performance numbers for the ZR1 confirm it’s maximum cornering acceleration at 1.11G.  That means the ZR1 has so much lateral grip, it can corner at a force greater than that of the gravity holding it to the road.  This statistic was not shocking to us after the ZR1 chewed up and spit out every road we threw at it.  Even the most intense section of switchback pavement we use to evaluate cars was a yawner in the ZR1.

Unassuming yet recognizable

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

One thing we noticed most during our short stint with the ZR1 was that it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as you’d think. Even with it’s sky-high price and Viper beating horsepower, the ZR1 gets barely more attention than any other Corvette. Only dedicated car nuts who know what a ZR1 is were even bothered to come and take a look.

Less attention; isn’t that a bad thing? Not so much.  In a Corvette that can out-accelerate 99.9% of every car on the road, standing out as bluntly as a Viper or Lotus Exige would be a curse.  We came to appreciate the down-low nature of the ZR1 when our arrest-me-red tester failed to draw even a second glance from passing law enforcement.

Should someone familiar with the ZR1 walk by, prepare for a conversation. On a handful of occasions pumping gas we were berated with questions.  Thankfully there’s a lot to talk about.

For example; that shiny wet clear coat that covers the carbon fiber roof costs nearly $2,000 a gallon and uses a UV protectant that costs $60,000 a gallon.  Also interesting is that the ZR1’s engine puts out over 100 horsepower per liter.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

For all you get with the ZR1 in the performance arena, it’s a surprise that you give up little creature comforts from the base model. The one substantial option on our tester was a $10,000 3ZR package which added some-what out of date looking navigation system, heated seats, a premium Bose sound system, bluetooth, memory seat, and a telescoping steering wheel.  We could do without the navigation system but really enjoyed iPod integration and the killer sound system. Unfortunately, you lose the USB port with any other radio option.

Some buff-books rag on the ZR1’s interior and while we’d like to say they are right, we hope customers buying a ZR1 realize it is not a luxury car.  The factory racing technology applied in the ZR1 is alone worth the vehicle’s price.  We think it’s amazing that you can buy a car that does 0-60 in 3.3 seconds all while heating your rump and listening to satellite radio. With that that said, things could be nicer. While the leather wrapped dash is a great touch, we think that you should get more for this much money.

Yes, $124k is an astronomical price for a car that most of us cannot and will not ever be able to afford. If you’re one of the lucky few who can, the ZR1 opens up a new world of possibilities.  Why buy an expensive exotic car when a Corvette ZR1 costs less, performs better, accelerates faster, and can still be serviced at your local Chevy dealer.


A race-ready car disguised as a daily driver delivers supercar performance at a 50% off price point.


  • Spectacular engine pulls in any gear
  • Extremely stable & predictable under all circumstances
  • Very quiet and civilized- could pass as a daily driver
  • Shifter is firm yet precise feeling
  • An exhaust note that will give you shivers of joy


  • Seats are not very supportive or comfortable
  • Cheap feeling/looking steering wheel and interior
  • Fake carbon fiber interior trim looks cheap when compared to the real bits on the outside
  • Navigation system visually looks out of date compared to other GM nav systems
  • “Butterfly” valve on exhaust system keeps the car far too quiet (thankfully pulling a fuse can fix that)

Check out our full gallery of photos shot during this review

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Road Test Photo Gallery

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Supercharged 6.2L V8 (LS9)
638 hp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb.- ft. of torque at 3800 rpm

As tested MSRP: $124,345

Standard Equipment: Carbon Fiber Hood/Fenders/Roof/Floor panels , Carbon Fiber splitters/rockers,  aluminum frame, 6-piston front/4-piston rear ceramic Brembo brakes, keyless start, 19″ front / 20″ rear wheels, dry-sump oil system, magnetic ride control, heads-up display, OnStar, XM Radio
Equipped Options:
3ZR Premium Equipment Package [$10,000] Leather wrapped interior, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system w/navigation, heated seats, USB and AUX port for audio
Chrome Aluminum Wheels [$2,000]
Pedal Covers [$295]

Read our entire take on this car in our article: 2011 Corvette ZR1 – A fire breathing dragon of speed

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive photo gallery

Although we’re under embargo for our driving impressions of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, we are allowed to share with you all the photos we took on our drive of the new compact competitor yesterday.

Our full first drive review will be posted at 12:01am, Saturday, July 31st, 2010.

First Drive: 2011 Buick Regal delivers smooth style & solid European handling

Last week I had the chance to sample the completely new 2011 Buick Regal on the roads and highways of Southern California.  We’ve been foaming at the mouth at a chance to get behind the wheel of the Regal ever since it was introduced in LA last year. Could the car that was almost a Saturn really deliver as a Buick? Lets find out.

One walk around the Regal and it’s immediately recognize as a Buick, which is a very good thing. Despite being more stylistically reserved than its big brother, the LaCrosse, the Regal looks youthful, classy, and elegant. There are very few hard creases in the bodywork, lending to a fluid in-motion look even while sitting still. It’s impressive considering only minor styling changes were made to convert the Regal from its originally intended form as a Saturn Aura.

2011 Buick Regal

The Regal will be avaliable with two engine options; a base four-cylinder and more powerful turbo-charged four cylinder. Both use direct injection.  The base four produces 182-horsepower while the turbocharged four (avaliable later this year) increases output to 220-horsepower.  Both engines will be mated to a 6-speed automatic and the turbo will have a 6-speed manual as an option.

Buick claims the Regal’s main competitors are the Volvo S60 and Acura TSX. I’ve yet to drive either the Volvo or Acura, so I can’t give direct comparisons. However, in a pure stats game, the Regal is left underpowered compared to the upscale engines in both the S60 (300hp) and TSX(280hp). Only the TSX offers a base four cylinder, of which the Regal bests by 10hp (172hp vs 182hp).

Where Buick really turns on the heat is in price. The Regal starts at a relatively cheap $26,995 for the base four and $29,495 for the turbo.  Acura starts their base TSX at $29,310, while an optional V6 starts at $34,850. Volvo offers a turbo-6, which starts the S60 at $37,700.  As you can see, the Regal holds a substantial price advantage over both rivals.

2011 Buick Regal

The Regal, which is sold as an Opel Insignia in Europe, has a noticably European weighted chassis tuning. In short, the days of Buicks driving like a boat are officially over.   The turbo model also has the added benefit of an adaptive suspension and steering system.  Called IDCS (Interactive Drive Control System), the car changes steering angle and suspension damping both automatically and with the aid of three driver selectable modes. Buick describes it like this:

“IDCS allows the driver to choose between three different operating modes that change the suspension settings, throttle response, shift pattern and steering sensitivity through the variable effort steering system. The three modes deliver three types of experiences:

Normal – balanced and optimized for all driving situations

Tour – optimized for comfort and relaxed driving on long journeys

Sport – optimized for road holding; enthusiast driving .”

It works largely as advertised. Switching between modes yields a noticeable change in the driving dynamics of the car. It’s really impressive. In fact, the Regal is downright fun in Sport on winding roads. However, push the car and the steering gets noticably foggy and hard to place. It’s not horrendous and 99% of owners will never notice, but you’d never catch an Audi doing the same thing.  Base engine models come with an also competent, although stiffer, suspension and steering feel. Both suspensions were extremely well poised on the highway.

The base engine, while not anemic on paper, is embarrassingly slow on the road. I understand it’s the “fuel economy” option, however even in that area it falls short. The I4 is rated at 20mpg city, 30mpg highway. The more powerful turbo I4 only falls slightly behind at 18mpg city and 29mpg highway. The turbo is an overall spectacular engine.  It pulls hard from lower RPMs thanks to a twin-scroll turbo and delivers usable power in the middle range.   Although I didn’t get a chance to drive the turbo with the six-speed manual, I’d sense it would be the combo to go with.

2011 Buick Regal

Inside, the Regal continues to impress. The car extends GM’s recent streak of high quality and high fit & finish interiors. Three console finishes are avaliable; piano black, satin metallic, and Kibo-patterned wood (pictured above).  The multimedia infotainment system has a usb/iPhone port, an aux port, supports streaming bluetooth stereo, and bluetooth hands-free phone use. It’s controlled by an iDrive like knob mounted on the middle console. After a few minutes using the system, it’s extremely easy to change settings and navigate menus on the road and without looking down.  I do hold two complaints; that the chrome ring around the gear-shift often reflected the sun in my eyes and the mass of brown buttons in the center stack looked overly mono-tone and hard to distinguish at quick glance.

It’s exciting to think that the redesigned 2010 Chevrolet Malibu will be a closely related version of the same platform. I’m personally looking forward to the just announced Regal GS that is due later this year. It will feature an even sportier suspension tuning and a more powerful engine.  I can’t wait to sample the Regal in depth more in the future. It’s an intriguing and compelling offering that will continue to drive the Buick Renaissance forward.


  • Outstanding fit & finish
  • Supportive seats- comfortable for hours on end
  • Rock solid and unflappable on the highway


  • Base engine is anemic, underpowered and provides little additional fuel mileage
  • Rear seats lack headroom, even for average folk
  • Adaptive suspension and steering felt ambiguous when pushed too hard (GM says they are still refining software settings)

2011 Buick Regal

First Drive Conclusion

Forget the base engine and go with the turbo. It’s an entry level premium car that can hang with more established European rivals in a more affordable wrapper.  If you really want a true sports sedan, better wait for the high-performance GS model slated for later this year.

Video Walkaround

2011 Buick Regal Photo Gallery

Required Disclosure: The lodging,  transportation, and access to vehicles required to write this article were provided, free of charge, to the author by General Motors. AutoInsane.com routinely accepts such offers from automakers to expand our coverage, however no special treatment, bias, or special consideration is given in return.

Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

It’s the car that proves General Motors is making a huge mistake closing the Pontiac brand. We’re behind the wheel of the turbocharged 260-horsepower Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP.

Don’t forget to check out our Road Test Photo Gallery of the Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP
Engine: 260-horsepower 2.0L Turbocharged Four-Cylinder EcoTec
Base MSRP: $30,375
As driven MSRP: $34,020
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Equipped Options: Premium Package [Leather seats, leather steering wheel, bluetooth, steering wheel controls], 5-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, high performance audio system, USB port for audio system

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP


The most agile and balanced vehicle to ever come out of General Motors (in our opinion).  Paired with exotic looks and an engine that’s packed with neck-whipping power; we didn’t want to give it back.


  • Just as nimble at low speeds and more stable on the highway than a Mazda MX-5
  • Unique coupe styling draws the attention of all that pass-by
  • Drives with balance not usually found outside of a Porsche
  • The turbo 2.0L 260-horsepower engine is tuner ready


  • You can take the top off but you can’t take it with you (unless you get the optional soft-top)
  • The 5-speed automatic acts as a serious detriment to an engine that excels with a manual
  • Interior plastics are not up to par considering the price tag

Driving Dynamics & Performance

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

You’ve most likely seen a Pontiac Solstice or three going the other way on the road during the past few years. They’re small, stylish, and fun  cars. They’ve also been exclusively a convertible- until now.  Starting and ending with the 2009 model year, GM is building out a small handful of hard-top coupe Solstices.  Even fewer of those will be GXP editions, but luckly we got our hands on one.

Powered by a turbocharged 2.0L EcoTec four-cylinder engine producing 260-horsepower, the Solstice Coupe GXP is a wonderful example of a lot of muscle stuffed in a small package.  Having first tried out this engine a few years back on a convertible Solstice GXP, the most surprising aspect of the turbocharged EcoTec is how little it feels like a four-cylinder.  Turbo lag isn’t gone completely but the abundance of low end torque gives the impression of a small displacement V6. The throttle response is linear and doesn’t have the usual top end punch you would expect from a turbo engine.

Designed first as a drop-top, the convertible Solstice always felt solid and free of cowl shake. Sporting additional bracing and structure the coupe drives rock solid even with the targa top removed.  Sure, the car is a little bigger and slightly heavier feeling than a Mazda MX-5 but the extra grunt and stability more than make up for the loss of toss-ability at slow speed. On the highway the Solstice is more akin to driving a downsized Corvette, tracking straight and making easy work of even the most aggressive lane changes.

Where the Solstice Coupe GXP really shines is on country back roads. Twists and turns are so easily carved you just may forget you’ve passed through a set of curves at all.

Undoubtedly the Solstice Coupe GXP has a predisposition for speed. So well balanced – it’s easy to chug along well over the speed limit and be none the wiser without a look down at the speedometer. However, for those looking for an even bigger rush- GM Performance Parts sells a fully factory backed stage 2 upgrade kit- “boosting” the engine’s output to 290-horsepower.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

We knew we loved the fast back styling the minute we laid eyes on it. What we didn’t expect was how much others would love it. Anytime we drove into town the stares from fellow drivers and people on the sidewalks just wouldn’t quit. Maybe it’s the hint of Lotus Elise in the front end or perhaps the Viper-like rear canopy. It could also just be that no-one had ever seen a Solstice Coupe before.  Either way the attention was measurable.

Side by side with it’s convertible counterpart, the Coupe has a much more exotic look about it.  The relatively large 18-inch polished aluminum wheels fit the body with a concept car like look.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

GM hasn’t forgotten about the other small touches that make a car pleasurable to drive.  The optional Monsoon stereo system our Coupe GXP came equipped with had the also optional USB interface. We found no troubles plugging in an iPod, however audio quality from a USB thumb-disk was clipped and filled with sound artifacts. The system recognizes MP3 CD-Rs, has an aux port, and features XM Radio.  Overall sound quality from the “high performance” system was indeed very good.

A typical GM driver information center can be found in the gauge cluster and displays a volume of information. Odometers, trip-odometers, coolant temperature, stopwatch, tire-pressures and other standard fare readouts that didn’t make it into a dedicated needle gauge are all there. We particularly liked the boost readout (as seen above).

Comfort & Ergonomics

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

As you could probably guess- comfort and ergonomics are not the Solstice’s strong suits. Our standard complaints, knee and shoulder room, storage space, and seating position are all par for the course in this segment. It’s not to say you couldn’t make a daily driver out of the Coupe GXP but you wouldn’t see us doing it.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the whole car is one of it’s best attributes- the targa top. Just like with a Corvette, the whole center roof section is removable for open air motoring. Driving around with the top off on a cool evening was the most enjoyable part of our whole week with the GXP. The unfortunate omission of a space to store the top in-vehicle also made it the most frustrating. Any chance of rain meant we had to leave the top in place, lest we be caught in a downpour with our only protection sitting in the garage. Pontiac makes a temporary cloth top for those exact situations but our tester didn’t have it.

In coupe form we would have expected a modest rear storage improvement over the convertible but we were wrong. Only the rear glass raises for access to the small storage floor. However with all this said- the Solstice Coupe GXP is meant to be driven and not taken for a trip so it would be petty to hold these small inconveniences against the car.

Final thoughts

Our time behind the wheel of the Solstice Coupe GXP was heartbreaking in so many ways.  Heartbreaking because it would most likely be the last new Pontiac we’d ever drive. Heartbreaking because we loved it so much and because we had to give it back. Heartbreaking because we knew so few people would be able to drive a car that embodies the essence of the Pontiac brand like no other car before it.

Good-bye Pontiac- at least the best was saved for last.

Check out our Solstice Coupe GXP photo gallery

2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP Photo Gallery

First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Buick hit a home-run when they introduced the Enclave in 2008 begging the question, “What’s next?”  The 2010 LaCrosse is the answer. Can GM revive the Buick brand with the same success as they did with Cadillac?  We drive the totally new LaCrosse and find out.

Don’t Miss: Our full First Drive Photo Gallery of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse

First Drive Verdict

European imports beware, Buick is back and the LaCrosse is a worthy competitor  A slew of technology packed in a youthful and stylish package will give Lexus and other luxury rivals a run for their money- if buyers take the time to notice.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Not the Buick you’d expect

Lets be blunt for a moment.  The outgoing LaCrosse was, for a lack of kinder words, boring.  So ambiguous, dull, and utterly devoid of passion it’s surprising Buick didn’t include a pacemaker so owners could maintain a pulse whist behind the wheel of it.  It’s remarkable then to ponder how for 2010 LaCrosse nameplate made its way onto a vehicle that can make your heart skip a beat, no external medical devices needed.

To compare and contrast the “old” LaCrosse with the 2010 LaCrosse in any other words would be futile. While many previous-gen LaCrosse owners already have pacemakers, the 2010 model is one all by itself.  A quick walk around the outside and it’s apparent Buick’s updated style is completely at home on a sedan. Crisp lines and smooth curves; all accentuated just a tad more than you’d expect and with a flair that doesn’t show itself in still photos.  You’ve got to move around the LaCrosse to get the whole story because like many of the other recent cars to come out of GM design the more you look, the more you see.

Things get even better inside.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

For as stylish as the exterior on the LaCrosse is,  the interior goes ten steps further. Open and spacious, you’d never get the feeling you’re behind the wheel of a mid-size sedan.  From the hours we spent behind the wheel we’d even say it feels more open than the new full-size Ford Taurus.  The dash has been pushed down and away from the driver leaving the center stack and controls within easy reach.

Riding on GM’s updated mid-size platform (the same that will underpin the future redesigned Saab 9-5), rear passenger room is even more impressive and for good reason. GM will sell nearly twice as many of the new LaCrosse in China, where the Buick brand has serious clout. Out east Buick expects 40% of LaCrosse buyers will choose not to drive, but to be driven around in.  For that reason the 2010 LaCrosse’s platform has been stretched for more rear leg-room.  Here in the states we won’t get fancy chauffeur oriented options like rear audio and ventilation controls, but we do get to keep the extra space.  A dual rear mounted DVD entertainment system will also be avaliable.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Technology for Gen-Y

To further place weight behind the idea that this car represents a whole new Buick, GM is including it’s most up-to-date technology in the 2010 LaCrosse.  This means a larger updated navigation/multimedia screen and system, full USB connectivity, Harman-Kardon audio, heads-up display, magnetic ride control, and heated/cooled seats. On up-level CXS models Buick has included an extremely slick fully animated color driver-information-center in the gauge cluster. The new interface is one of the best in the entire industry, perhaps besting even BMW and Audi.

The cool stuff doesn’t stop there. Should you choose the navigation and multimedia system you’ll also get an option we’ve never seen on any other car in the industry. The ability to record and rewind live radio. It’s not exactly like Tivo but from the second you tune in an AM/FM/XM station the audio system will begin to buffer the program. You can then rewind or fast forward as you like. You can’t save radio programs to the included hard-drive, but it’s a small feature that owners will undoubtedly rave about.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

We’ve never been a huge fan of GM’s current multimedia system. It’s slow, buggy, and clunky- especially compared to Lincoln’s newest interface. However, this improved system fixes all of our concerns and more.  Redundant control paths, from touch-screen to head-unit and even the steering wheel mean drivers can move through the interface easily and with very few steps.  It’s easier to use than Lincoln’s SYNC, which heavily relies on voice commands, yet offers the same depth of control you’d find on a BMW without the tomfoolery of iDrive.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Behind the wheel

When the LaCrosse launches later this summer you’ll be able to choose from one of two direct injection V6 engines; a 3.0L delivering 255-horsepower or a 3.6L producing 280-horsepower. By the end of this year a fuel-sipping 180-horsepower 2.4L inline-4 will be introduced as the standard engine in the CX. All-wheel-drive (for the first time ever on a Buick sedan) can be optioned on CXL trim levels and can only be paired with the 3.0L V6.

Both V6 engines provide ample acceleration but neither are neck-snapping, especially the 3.0L laden with all-wheel-drive.  If you’re looking for a sporty drive, Cadillac may be a better choice. We were not able to drive the 2.4L four-cylinder I4 “fuel economy” option, but from the sounds of it we do have serious concerns 182-horsepower will be excruciatingly under-powered in a car this big.

With all that said, the work GM placed in making the LaCrosse smooth, isolated, and quiet paid off big time.  Twenty-percent stiffer than the outgoing model, the 2010 LaCrosse feels lively yet composed on the street.  Variable effort steering is surprisingly crisp and accurate.

Our favorite combination was the 3.6L powered CXS optioned with Buick’s real-time active suspension system and equipped with 19-inch wheels.  Sliding the shifter gate over on the LaCrosse to sport strangely does nothing at all to the transmission, instead stiffening the steering and suspension of the car.  It’s surprisingly noticeable and changes the feel of the car for the better.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse


Sampling the 2010 LaCrosse on the winding back roads and city streets of Michigan gave us the impression that Buick is taking its reinvention extremely seriously.  The styling and tech features will draw in the younger demographic GM is looking to attract but only if potential buyers take the time to see the value right in front of them. If Buick can get them in the door and behind the wheel for a test drive we think the car has the potential to be the brand’s next hit. That’s an enormously big “if”, because while the LaCrosse drives the pants off the Lexus ES350, how many import luxury buyers will really cross-shop a Buick?  We’ll find out.

2010 Buick LaCrosse photo gallery

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

2010 Buick LaCrosse Specifications

Competes against

Acura TL, Toyota Avalon, Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Camry, Lexus ES350

Trim levels / equipment options

  • CX – equipped at the start of production with a new 3.0L direct injection V-6, premium cloth seats and 17-inch wheels. The 3.0L engine generates 255 horsepower (190 kW) and 217 lb.-ft. of torque (294 Nm) and has a six-speed automatic transmission. Later this year, a new, 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder replaces the 3.0L as the standard engine.
  • CXL – also equipped with the new 3.0L direct injection V-6, adds leather-appointed heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps, outside rearview mirror with LED turn indicators and puddle lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels. An advanced, intelligent AWD system is available.
  • CXS – equipped with a 3.6L direct injection V-6; real-time active-dampening suspension (optional); perforated, leather-appointed, heated and ventilated seats, and chrome-plated 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch optional). The 3.6L engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, generates 280 horsepower (209 kW) and 259 lb.-ft. of torque (351 Nm).

Six-speed Hydra-Matic 6T40 & 6T70

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates

2.4L I4: 20mpg city / 30mpg highway
3.0L V6: 17mpg city / 27mpg highway [FWD] , 16mpg city / 26mpg highway [AWD]
3.6L V6: 17mpg city / 27mpg highway


Front: MacPherson strut coil-over-spring; twin-tube dampers with gas-charged valving; hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar
Rear: four-link (std. CX); “H”-arm (std.CXL and CXS); real-time damping available
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock: 2.75
Turning circle: 38.8-ft


17-inch steel with cover, std on CX , P245/50R17 all-season blackwall
18-inch aluminum, opt on CX , P245/45R18 all-season blackwall
18-inch alloy, std on CXL and CXS , P245/45R18 all-season blackwall
19-inch alloy opt on CXS, P245/40R19 all-season blackwall

Dimensions & Capacities

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Length: 197 inches
Width: 73.1 inches
Height: 59.2 inches
Track: 61.7 inches front, 62 inches rear

Headroom: 38 inches front, 37.3 inches rear
Legroom: 41.7 inches front, 40.5 inches rear
Shoulder room: 57.4 inches front, 56 inches rear
Hip room: 55.2 inches front, 53.9 inches rear

Interior volume: 99 cubic feet
Pass anger volume: 101.7 cubic feet
Cargo volume: 13.3 cubic feet (CX, CXL), 12.8 cubic feet (CXS)

Curb weight
3948lbs (est with 3.0L)
CXL FWD: 4018lbs (est)
CXL AWD: 4199 lbs (est)
CXS: 4065lbs (est)