Buick LaCrosse (no offense to our French-Canadian friends)
Trim Level: "CXL"
EPA Vehicle Class: Midsize Car
Engine: 3.8L, OHV V6, rated at 200 Horsepower
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with Torque Converter
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 20/30/23
Test Loop: 5% City, 95% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 75 mph
Weather Conditions over 2-days:
* Day 1 -- 60-80F, Heavy Crosswinds, some A/C use
* Day 2 -- 60F turning to 28F; Heavy Headwinds through Cold Front
Driving Style: Average, with high speed limits (65-75mph)
Location Test: Little Rock - Tulsa - Kansas City
Vehicle Computer Average Speed Tank 1 = 62 mph
Vehicle Computer MPG Tank 1 = 28.3 MPG
Actual Calculation = 335 miles per 12.743 gallons (First Click Fill) = 26.3 MPG
Vehicle Computer Average Speed Tank 2= 60 mph
Vehicle Computer MPG Tank 2 = 24.7 MPG
Actual Calculation Tank 2 = 225 miles per 9.188 gallons (First Click Fill) = 24.5 MPG
Conclusion: As expected, this vehicle is designed to get its advertised 30 mpg-highway at 55 mph down to 45. The ancient pushrod "3800 Series III" 3.8L V-6 creates gobs of torque down low. The tach registered 1500 rpm at 55 mph. It was possible to get it down to 1200-1300 rpm under light throttle. This is the secret to getting good mpg in this car. Combine higher speeds, heavy wind, and higher engine speeds resulted in an economy figure much lower than advertised. Interestingly, the vehicle's calculated MPG was close to my calculated MPG when I filled it up myself. This leads me to believe that many rentals aren't delivered truly full. Either way, 30 mpg wasn't achieved.
Editor's Notes: One has mixed feelings when driving this car. You expect this mid-level model to be a good highway cruiser with heated leather seats and decent power, side-airbags, "quiet tuning", soft suspension, etc. The seats were flat and uncomfortable, but the interior noise level was very quiet, even with the high winds. The drag coefficient looks to be pretty efficient, but the styling opinion is in the eye of the beholder -- many have dubbed it the "Buick Taurus". You'll find this car in the garages of the 55+ crowd and the rental lot, as it replaces the Century and semi-sporty Regal.
The biggest complaint was keeping the car straight. Hit a bump or dip and the soft suspension absorbs the pressure but tosses the steering around. There is near-zero feedback from the wheel, and it required a HUGE number of steering inputs to keep the car straight out on the highway. It was very tiring after a few hundred miles. The dead-spot in the center was horrendous. You could turn the wheel a 1/4-turn in each direction back and forth and get almost nothing. It did have good power on tap, but a 5th gear could've been a good investment. I really tried to like this car, as I've rented it before (mostly city driving), but came away tired and disappointed.
Final note about automatic climate control systems: It seems like every time you set the "Auto" climate control in GM's, even if it's 30F outside, the A/C is engaged. It took turning the A/C button off several times to cure this. It's almost like it was trying to get you use the A/C even though you didn't want to. Most imports I've driven remember your previous A/C selection. I did use the A/C when it got close to 80F, though.
Coming up next: the 2006 Nissan Maxima SE (oh, so much fun, but so thirsty)