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First off, I wouln't touch a Lexus with your wallet, having said that I would rather have had a G8 GXP, because for what I put on the table for this Buick I could have had one. However this Lacrosse isn't for me, its the wife's and she stepped out of a Buick Terraza for it. She is extremely happy, no complaints and as long as she is happy, I have a happpy home.
No matter which way you go, I'm sure you can't go wrong. I hear Lexus cars are "okay"
As a two-time Lexus owner (and current LaCrosse owner) my opinion is that each car has its strong points. Buick's biggest advantage is in its styling. The LaCrosse's styling blows away the ultra conservative (read: boring) Lexus ES, its direct competitor. On the other hand, I think that Buick uses slightly less quality materials, more in line with a Toyota Avalon than a Lexus (still very nice though). Both my Lexus cars had a more luxurious "feel" to them. Another Buick advantage is that the LaCrosse has a little more engaging sensation when driving. It's a little hard to describe, except to say that the Buick is a little more fun to drive than the ES.
I would give the Lexus the edge in the quality of the build. I've found several small flaws in the paint and trim of the LaCrosse that never would have gotten past Lexus quality inspection. There is actually an inspector, wearing white gloves, who goes through every inch of a Lexus before it leaves the factory.
Also - and the thing I'll miss most about not having a Lexus - is the Lexus dealership experience. Lexus dealers treat you as if you are royalty. Any time i would take my car in for service (even for an oil change), I got a free loaner. If it was in the morning, there would be a chef there to cook me up an omelet before I left (no kidding). When I take my LaCrosse in for service, well it's just a car dealership. My LaCrosse is just another car being serviced along with Pontiacs and GMC pickups. And the waiting area there is nothing special, compared to the leather couches and wide-screen TV at the Lexus dealership (not to mention the free Wi-Fi). Don't get me wrong, I know that in the long run I was paying for this added pampering. Parts and labor costs were both higher with Lexus compared to the Buick dealership.
Which brings me to price: a similarly equipped LaCrosse will probably cost you several thousand dollars less than a Lexus. Plus the Buick dealership will negotiate price better than Lexus. There might only be one Lexus dealership in town, while there are probably a dozen Buick outlets, so you can shop around for the best deal a lot easier.
To answer your question as honestly as I can, is LaCrosse in the same league as Lexus: probably not yet, but Buick is closing the gap. The LaCrosse is a fine car and I'm really happy I bought mine, but there's a lot to be said about the Lexus as well. I think when buying a car you have to set your priorities. For me, it was all about the great styling of the LaCrosse while still having the luxury features I was accustomed to in the Lexus. For others, it may be the prestige of the Lexus brand compared to Buick. I really don't think you'll go wrong with either car.
They give the edge to the LaCrosse, barely, so I would say yes, they are in the same league. We own a 2007 Lexus RX 350 and a 2004 Acura TL, and after test-driving the 2010 LaCrosse with the wife a couple of months ago, we both liked it a lot. I thought the AWD CXL felt a tad under-powered but I'm glad to hear the recent news that they will be dropping the smaller V6 for 2011 and going with the larger one for AWD models.
That's definitely a big advantage of the LaCrosse over the ES 350, as far as I'm concerned - the availability of all wheel drive. As far as fit & finish, it may not quite be up there with Lexus right now, but it's pretty close, and probably better than my Acura.
BTW, I've also never gotten an omelet at my Lexus dealership. In fact the last time I was there, their service waiting area was being renovated so I had to sit on a stool the whole time. The wifi still worked, though. But personally I'd rather have a better driving experience than dealership experience.
I looked at both, but I must say I was more in favor of the LaCrosse from the start. After having the CXS since Christmas, I have not found any fit or finish issue with my car. I am very happy with the way it drives. It is very solid, great road feel and handling. The interior is really were the LaCrosse steps up AND AWAY from others. The interior to my mind is near perfection. Everything is right at your reach and though there are a few buttons, it does not take long to understand and work them. The rest of the interior is very comfortable and QUITE. The mirror blind spots that everyone talks about are no more so than my Honda Odyssey. The trunk is a good size too, and with the fold down back seats there is lots of room. Sitting here, I am trying to think of something to say neg. so as to help others look and see it the car is right for them and honestly - I have nothing neg. to say. I have never owned a car that has gotten as many looks or questions by others. And, I have had 29 cars in 40 years. Including: Mazda (x2), MG sprite, Mustang, Cougar, Citroen, BMW, VW, Nissan (x2), Fiat (x2), Plymouth Volare (yep - what can I say), SEAT (x2), Dodge Ramcharger, Toyota Supra Turbo ('87 and still own it too - runs great!) Chev Citation, Dodge Shadow, Buick Regal, Bonneville (x2), Grand Jeep Cherokee, Acura MDX, and an Odyssey. SO, I think I can say I have driven a few vehicle and the CXS is at the top of my list. Although, I really liked the red lights in the two Bonnevilles!, The Bonneville would be next on my list for power and comfort. Owning a Supra for 23 years has been a trip too. Engine and turbo are as good as the first day I drove it. It has NEVER stopped on me in 23 years. But it is a sports car and you can not put it up against the LaCrosse. Two different cars, build for two different rides and uses. BUT yes, I do love my supra! Whats not to love with a car that can do 130 mph. But when I have a choice - I take the CXS every time I can!
As most people here have said, the Lexus has higher quality interior materials and has more of a luxury feel. But the differences aren't night and day.
Motor Trend loves to run comparisons and declare the cheaper car the winner--the cheaper car is far more likely to advertise the win. They did the same when comparing the Lexus RX and Hyundai Veracruz. Lexus isn't about to run ads saying they beat Buick or Hyundai in a comparison test.