FIRST IMPRESSIONS: First off, let’s concede that this isn’t the sort of executive car we usually review. It is, however, the first “new Buick” from the new Government Motors, er, General Motors, so we were curious how they’d spent our taxpayer dough. The answer, at first blush, is: Pretty well. The 2010 LaCrosse sedan is above all a handsome vehicle that made us think immediately of a Lexus. For good reason: It’s said to borrow its styling cues from the Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Lexus GS.

BOTTOM LINE: The latest iteration of a car that made its debut in 2005, the redesigned LaCrosse we drove is based on a souped-up version of the Chevy Malibu platform. Our entry-level, all-wheel-drive tester came with the base, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the powerplant generated 182 horsepower which, though adequate, wasn’t anything to write home about. More upscale versions come with 3.0-liter and 3.6-liter V6’s that make up to 280 hp.

Standard features in our CX included full power accessories, a power driver’s seat, and a seven-speaker CD/MP3 system. The switches were simple and easy to understand. The backseat was surprisingly roomy (though the trunk wasn’t). The suspension absorbed rocky road surfaces nicely, and the LaCrosse was a lot more nimble on curvy lanes than you might expect. (It is a Buick, after all!)
 
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY: Ah yes: the fact that it’s a Buick. That’s traditionally been GM’s lost-in-the-middle nameplate, a floaty-riding cruiser that’s a couple of clicks up from a Chevy, but not nearly so grand as a Caddy.

The perfect car, in other words, for your cigar-chomping, ample-bellied Uncle Russ, the one from Wisconsin who built a comfortable little plumbing company. Here’s the news, though: this ’10 LaCrosse may well appeal to a younger, hipper demo that’s got it eyes on an Acura TL or a Toyota Avalon as well. Especially if they opt for a punchier engine than the one in our test car.

With its price and value, the new LaCrosse will still be attractive to good ol’ Uncle Russ. But also consider it for your teenage daughter who just went off to college.