The Middle Kingdom: 2018 Buick LaCrosse & 2018 Infiniti Q70L Review Comparison
China’s new car market is now larger than that in the United States, and certain brands—and types—of cars especially reflect this reality. Buick sells substantially more vehicles in the Middle Kingdom than the USA, and many midsize sedans and large sedans—such as the Infiniti Q70—there are stretched by increasing their wheelbase for greater back seat comfort. Its fascinating to see how these machines drive on our shores.
The Buick is a new offering from just a year ago, and shares the Chevy Impala’s Epislon II front drive architecture. Adaptable to AWD, as in the test car, this is a well-proportioned, modern take on the large, V6 near-luxury sedan. The LaCrosse’s styling takes cues from the gorgeous Avenir concept. At first glance, the Buick interior seems to be operating at the same level, but time spent inside reveals missteps that remind more of “Old GM” than the nimbler, more focused company who has turned out so many terrific machines since the Great Recession. The leather is supple the front seats comfortable and offer myriad adjustments (including massage), but the graining and color of the plastic moldings is more mainstream than premium. The prominent placement of some of the most fake looking “wood” trim in recent years doesn’t help either. And while the rear area is fairly capacious, the seat’s cushion is low and the backrest angle doesn’t contribute to long distance comfort.
Infiniti does it much better inside the aging (gracefully) Q70L. Most every sweeping form one sees and touches is high quality, the metallic trim or gen-u-wine wood options being particularly fetching, and seating comfort for both rows is better than the LaCrosse. The technology offerings in the American Chinese car are more up to date than those in the Japanese Chinese one, however, with GM’s latest infotainment interface being more useful than the older—if reliably robust—one Infiniti offers. Both cars’ electronics can annoy; the Buick is constantly reminding you to check the back seat when you shut it off, and the Q70L’s lane assist and emergency braking seem to be a generation or two behind the best—no surprise really, as the vehicle’s architecture dates back to 2011 and this current version to 2014. The LaCrosse’s versions of these safety nets perform in a more transparent and trustworthy manner.
Performance-wise they’re close when both are powered by V6 engines; the 330hp Infiniti and the 310hp Buick both dispatch 60mph in under six seconds, with the Q70’s 3.7L VQ-series V6 now teaming much better with the corporate 7-speed auto than in years past and the Buick’s 3.6L engine getting assist from its 8-speed transaxle in being suitably refined as a luxury car powertrain. The Infiniti V8 test car had the sonorous and stout, 416hp 5.6-liter, which is capable of dispatching 60mph in under five seconds. Both ride very well and handle competently; neither offers much in the way of driver engagement, mainly due to steering systems that trail the best available for feedback and response, and suspensions that, while they do a commendable job of isolating road imperfections and still keeping their sedans’ body motions in check, don’t really offer any options other than steady-state, safe understeer. But since they are first and foremost luxury cars, the emphasis on a smooth ride is apropos. And both the LaCrosse and Q70L have brakes that feel strong and easy to modulate.
All of these dynamic traits make sense in the context of their expected use: chauffeuring successful business and government folk about the jam-packed confines of Chinese megacities. Here, now, with levels of congestion redolent of California a few years back and road decay of an entirely new level, they are at home as well. The biggest challenge for both the Buick and the Infiniti isn’t each other. It is the ferocious competition their price puts them head-to-head with, and a market that has swung dramatically towards crossovers and SUVs and away from large sedans.
EPA ratings: 20/29mpg Buick; 18/23mpg Infiniti
0-60mph: 5.8sec; 4.8sec Infiniti (5.6sec V6)
Price as tested: $48,970; $71,605 Infiniti
(3.5 / 5) Buick
(3.5 / 5) Infiniti
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