Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge
Author

Richard Dredge

Buick LaCrosse

The Buick LaCrosse was intended to be the perfect car for every occasion

Following the trend for building concepts with as much versatility as possible, the Buick LaCrosse was a five-seater saloon and a pick-up all in one, with a bit of convertible thrown in for good measure. Or, as Buick put it, the LaCrosse was the “master of metamorphosis”. In theory, by offering several bodystyles in one car, it would be possible to do pretty much anything without needing half a dozen vehicles, although whether or not anybody would buy a range-topping model which converted into a pick-up truck was open to debate, as surely such a car would be too compromised to afford its occupants true luxury?

The primary purpose of the LaCrosse was to offer stylish accommodation for up to five people. In true American fashion there was power-operated everything, including all four doors, and to allow easy entry and exit, each of the doors opened a full 90 degrees. The whole cabin was finished in very light colours (largely cream leather), to ensure it felt as spacious as possible, but so that the car felt even more light and airy there was a glass roof.

If the occupants still felt the interior of the LaCrosse was too claustrophobic, the roof could be opened up, along with all six side windows. That way, the LaCrosse became a five-seater luxury convertible; that opening roof measured a sizeable 43 inches by 37 inches, so it really opened up the car’s cabin. To stop things getting too noisy there was an electrically adjustable wind deflector at the leading edge of the roof, although with all of the side windows down and the glass roof opened, it couldn’t have been especially tranquil travelling at speed.

The cabin itself was uncluttered, with no instrumentation being visible at first, apart from an analogue clock in the middle of the fascia. Everyone was treated to first-class seating and many of the LaCrosse's functions were voice activated. A joystick activated most of the rest of the functions such as the headlights, indicators, wipers, gearbox, satellite navigation, climate control and on-board telephone. A head-up display provided data for the driver, while an optional head-up display in front of the passenger could show either the same information or a constant view of the rear seats to make sure any unruly children could be monitored.

Behind the adaptable cabin there was a split load bay which allowed maximum space efficiency when carrying items that didn’t need the full height of the boot. But the really neat part was the way the boot floor could be lowered so that if the extra height was needed, for especially bulky items, they could also fit in. Things didn‘t stop there, because with a single voice command it was possible to transform the LaCrosse from a saloon into a pick-up. First the sunroof dropped slightly before gliding along the arc of the roof. Then the whole assembly including the rear window and boot lid would glide forward 37 inches into the space vacated by the sunroof. Another glass panel then slid vertically from behind the rear seat to seal off the cabin area, and while all of this was happening the middle section of the tail light display would rotate down and out of the way, while a hinged panel folded down to protect the upper surface of the bumper during loading.

This process produced a load bay that measured 40 inches square, which wasn’t especially large for a pick-up truck. But if load space was more important than passenger space the length of the load bay could be more than doubled by folding forward the rear seat backs. A hinged panel bridged the gap between the boot floor and the seat back, creating a continuous, flat load bay that was more than eight feet long. Load lugging had never been so luxurious.

 

Vital statistics
Debut Detroit, 2000
Exterior designer Benjamin Jiminez
Interior designer Yuntae Kim
Engine Front-mounted, 4.2-litre, V8
Transmission 4-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Power 265bhp at 5600rpm
Torque 284lb ft at 4000rpm

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