Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

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Thread: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

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    Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Practical Montego beats more powerful LaCrosse in three of five categories
    By Anita Lienert and Paul Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

    GROSSE POINTE WOODS -- We were having breakfast at the local pancake house in mid-February when a reader recognized us and slid into our booth to get our thoughts on what would be the perfect car for 60-somethings. His main concern: A wife who is troubled by arthritis and is also recovering from breast cancer. She doesn't want to struggle with a trunk lid that's hard to shut or seats that are hard to climb in and out of. And he wants something roomy enough to carry his buddies and lots of golf equipment.

    Good thing we'd just finished testing two new five-passenger family sedans that may fit the bill: The 2005 Mercury Montego Premier all-wheel-drive model and 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS, which is only available in front-wheel drive.

    The two domestic competitors are aimed squarely at mature boomers. This is a sizable group of which Don Esmond, head of U.S. sales for the Toyota brand, recently said: "Not only do they have money, they are willing to spend it."

    But what's the best way to spend that cash when you're putting the Montego and LaCrosse in a head-to-head face-off? We have a winner -- but it just squeaked past the other car by a nose.

    Our test Montego was priced at $30,385, including a $650 destination charge. It had a $595 safety package that included side air bags and side curtain air bags that protect all outboard passengers, plus an $895 moonroof. Our test LaCrosse was priced at $32,750, including a $660 destination charge. It was loaded with $3,755 worth of options, including $650 chrome-plated wheels, $295 heated front seats and a $150 remote vehicle start.

    We compared the cars in five categories and then picked an overall winner. Here are the results:

    Styling

    We agreed that one of these vehicles had an extremely frumpy and dowdy exterior that inspired images of Geritol on wheels, while the other had sleek, sculpted lines and a more aerodynamic profile. Unfortunately, we couldn't agree on which was which. The Montego's tall roof and boxier shape spelled a roomier cabin and larger trunk. And we liked the bold grille, which is much more distinctive than the grille on its sister car, the Ford Five Hundred. Neither one of us was terribly enthusiastic about the design of the LaCrosse, however, which resembles a warmed-over Buick Regal. Our test car looked anonymous in silver and a bit dated overall. We'd recommend black paint instead to add a much-needed dose of sex appeal.

    Winner: Tie

    Cabin

    The practical aspects of the Chicago-built Montego's cabin shine in a side-by-side comparison. Unlike the LaCrosse, which requires passengers to squat slightly to enter -- as do most conventional sedans -- sliding into the Montego is a snap because it's got a much higher seating position. This is also a benefit when you are behind the wheel because it allows you to see up and over traffic.

    The interior of the Montego is simple and plain, but that's a benefit, too. Controls and displays are easy to see, understand and use -- dramatically better than in the LaCrosse. That's a critical factor when it comes to recommending a car to an aging buyer who may be coping with less-than-perfect eyesight. We liked the perforated leather seats, matte metal and glossy charcoal wood grain trim in the Montego.

    The LaCrosse had nice gathered leather in the cabin, but chintzy-looking fake wood. We knocked the Ontario-built Buick down for cabin workmanship because of big gaps in the trim and moldings.

    Our test Montego had a much roomier rear passenger compartment than the LaCrosse and a considerably bigger trunk, making it the clear champ in the crucial golf-bag test.

    Winner: Montego

    Safety

    The Montego trumps the LaCrosse in one respect because it can be ordered with all-wheel drive, which we consider a significant safety advantage that will improve tractability and security in bad weather. Our test Montego also was equipped with standard antilock brakes, traction control and adjustable pedals. Stability control is not available and side air bags cost extra.

    The LaCrosse has standard antilock brakes and a one-year subscription to the OnStar emergency communications system, but its StabiliTrak stability control system costs an additional $495 and is available only on the CXS model. Side curtain air bags are $395. If you want to really get down to basics, the LaCrosse has what may be the most fundamental "safety" feature of all -- a larger, more powerful engine. But we tallied that particular item up as a winner in another category.

    Winner: Montego

    Ride and Handling

    The Montego has a slightly longer wheelbase than the LaCrosse and standard 18-inch tires. This gives it a slight edge in ride comfort over the LaCrosse, with its smaller wheelbase and 17-inch tires.

    The ride quality in the Montego is excellent -- controlled and well-damped, without feeling marshmallowy -- although the longer wheelbase can make squeezing into tight parking spaces a bit of a challenge. The LaCrosse had more of a billowy ride that tended to feel a little floaty when going over bumps or rough pavement.

    We gave only average marks to both sedans in terms of steering. The Montego's power rack-and-pinion steering felt too vague with not enough feedback, and the LaCrosse's variable-assist steering felt disconnected from the road.

    Winner: Montego

    Engine

    The Montego may have been a slam-dunk in the overall comparison if it weren't for its tiny -- and noisy -- 3.0-liter V-6 engine, which feels grossly underpowered and overworked at 203 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque. The LaCrosse's 3.6-liter V-6, with 240 horsepower and 225 pounds-feet or torque, handily beats the Montego's power plant. The Buick inspires more confidence on the highway, especially in passing and merging situations. The LaCrosse's V-6 is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, while the Montego's V-6 is mated to a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, to improve fuel efficiency. The CVT, however, does not provide the distinctive "kickdown" feel of a conventional automatic when you step on the throttle to pass or accelerate, which may irritate some drivers. The two sedans have virtually identical fuel-economy numbers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the Montego at 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway. The LaCrosse is rated at 19 in the city and 27 on the highway.

    Winner: LaCrosse

    Final Impressions

    As we shuttled back and forth between both sedans, we tried to picture which one of the two we would recommend to our parents. When you look at it from that perspective, the Montego seems like a natural choice if you are only shopping domestic brands because it's so roomy and easy to use. The biggest disappointment about the Mercury is the engine. But without a doubt, the LaCrosse has its merits, too. A final thought to further muddy the water: The redesigned five-passenger 2005 Toyota Avalon sedan, with its incredible reclining rear seat, stylish and spacious interior and superior workmanship, may have them both beat. The Chrysler 300 sedan, our 2005 Detroit News Car of the Year, is also worthy of consideration, particularly the new all-wheel-drive model.


    Overall winner: Montego





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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by Detroit News
    The interior of the Montego is simple and plain, but that's a benefit, too. Controls and displays are easy to see, understand and use -- dramatically better than in the LaCrosse. That's a critical factor when it comes to recommending a car to an aging buyer who may be coping with less-than-perfect eyesight.

    How scary is that? People can't see well enough to find the volume knob in a car THEY OWN and drive all the time, yet they are fully allowed by law to drive on our streets and highways.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by HEMI300C

    Styling

    We agreed that one of these vehicles had an extremely frumpy and dowdy exterior that inspired images of Geritol on wheels, while the other had sleek, sculpted lines and a more aerodynamic profile. Unfortunately, we couldn't agree on which was which. The Montego's tall roof and boxier shape spelled a roomier cabin and larger trunk. And we liked the bold grille, which is much more distinctive than the grille on its sister car, the Ford Five Hundred. Neither one of us was terribly enthusiastic about the design of the LaCrosse, however, which resembles a warmed-over Buick Regal. Our test car looked anonymous in silver and a bit dated overall. We'd recommend black paint instead to add a much-needed dose of sex appeal.

    Winner: Tie

    (...)

    Overall winner: Montego
    Brilliant!

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by SobeSVT
    Brilliant!
    What a surprise !

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Wow. Forget about Buick going after the imports... it can't even trump a Mercury! I know it's one opinion from one magazine... but it's not an encouraging one. The fact that the Montego has AWD at $100 less than the FWD Buick is a bit of a kicker. Not good. GM may want to spread those lower SUV MSRPs around!
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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Whats sad is that the Lacrosse got bested with the upscale powertrain. Maybe GM ought to rethink the HF vs HV dillema because it seem the only company that offers "high value" engines (cheap, relatively lower tech, relitavely less refined) is GM. Kinda makes you think the uplevel engine ought to be standard.

    They are off on the safety thing though - larger engine, avail stabilitrak, onstar, that should be the winner. After a good snow, the majority of vehicles I see in the ditch are AWD/4WD. AWD may get you unstuck, but stabilitrak may keep you out of the ditch. AWD can be overly confidence inspiring - as I hear so many people say - yeah, I've got AWD, I won't slide when I hit the brakes! Its great at low speeds, where the risks are also low, but at high speeds on a slick surface, I'd take stabilitrak b/c it can help you when you are accelerating AND braking. Thats where most problems occur - on braking with a slick road. Thats why stabilitrak rocks and I would take it over AWD. However, the combination of both would be synergistic and I support optional AWD on most GM vehicles.

    I do agree with Paul though, Buick has plenty of competition from domestics and Toyota that they are not beating without even thinking about Lexus.

    Sobe SVT - as usual, is so biased I feel dumber for reading his posts. Are you related to lazerwizard? I mean that honestly - I'm not kidding nor trying to be funny or insulting. Honestly curious.
    Last edited by goblue; 02-23-2005 at 12:09 PM.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Don't forget that the LaCrosse lost out to a FORD Five-Hundred a few months back in a comparo between the Avalon, 300 Touring, Five-Hundred and LaCrosse in Motor Trend. It did beat the Avalon though. But that really doesn't mean anything since it was the '04 model.

    So, if it couldn't beat the Ford in that one test, I didn't see how it would get ahead of Mercury in other tests.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue
    AWD can be overly confidence inspiring - as I hear so many people say - yeah, I've got AWD, I won't slide when I hit the brakes!
    Hmmm... you're probably right... but I'd rather they rule out dumb people, and report on these features as if people with a brain will drive them! Just like airbags should be programmed for people with their seatbelts on... and to h3ll with people who don't bother buckling up. Short people, however, do merit consideration... as they are born short. Though I guess it can be argued that dumb people are born dumb! But no, AWD should be considered a safety feature, I think, because used properly it can help.
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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue
    Whats sad is that the Lacrosse got bested with the upscale powertrain. Maybe GM ought to rethink the HF vs HV dillema because it seem the only company that offers "high value" engines (cheap, relatively lower tech, relitavely less refined) is GM. Kinda makes you think the uplevel engine ought to be standard.
    Or, you could look at as, they put the HF engine in this car and it still was beaten, so why bother with the HF?

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue
    They are off on the safety thing though - larger engine, avail stabilitrak, onstar, that should be the winner. After a good snow, the majority of vehicles I see in the ditch are AWD/4WD. AWD may get you unstuck, but stabilitrak may keep you out of the ditch.
    I hear people say this all the time (mostly people without 4WD), but in 25 years of driving I have yet to observe this. Yes, there are 4WD/AWD vehicles in the ditch, but there are plenty of ordinary cars there too, and if anything, 4WD/AWD is underrepresented in the median. Man I wish there were some actual statistics on this so that we could put this thing to bed one way or the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue
    AWD can be overly confidence inspiring - as I hear so many people say - yeah, I've got AWD, I won't slide when I hit the brakes!
    Honest to god, you've actually heard someone say this? Again, I've never heard anyone relate AWD to braking ability, even though in pre-ABS days, being locked into 4WD had the effect of equalizing braking forces between the front and rear, which would actually have a small positive effect.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by MelvinJ
    Or, you could look at as, they put the HF engine in this car and it still was beaten, so why bother with the HF?
    Uhh, because performance is the one category that the LaCrosse won. So obviously the HF was a smart move.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue
    Whats sad is that the Lacrosse got bested with the upscale powertrain. Maybe GM ought to rethink the HF vs HV dillema because it seem the only company that offers "high value" engines (cheap, relatively lower tech, relitavely less refined) is GM. Kinda makes you think the uplevel engine ought to be standard.
    I totally agree!! Gm should get rid of the HV engines once and for all. Gm can't fight the perception war by maintaining both HF and HV engines. They should all be HF. Period.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by HEMI300C
    Uhh, because performance is the one category that the LaCrosse won. So obviously the HF was a smart move.
    Well, I was kind of kidding, but really, against the 3.0L Duratec in the large Five-Hundred, a LaCrosse with the 3800 may have won this category too. LaCrosse vs. Five-Hundred isn't a great comparison to make any concrete conclusions from in regard to engines.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by HEMI300C
    How scary is that? People can't see well enough to find the volume knob in a car THEY OWN and drive all the time, yet they are fully allowed by law to drive on our streets and highways.
    You do realize a lot of people can't see close objects well but can see distant objects, right?

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by goblue

    They are off on the safety thing though - larger engine, avail stabilitrak, onstar, that should be the winner.
    I didn't realize the a 240 hp engine offered a safety advantage over a 203 hp engine.
    Last edited by TiburonJT; 02-23-2005 at 03:12 PM.

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    Re: Detroit News: Montego Bests LaCrosse

    Quote Originally Posted by TiburonJT
    You do realize a lot of people can't see close objects well but can see distant objects, right?
    Oh- that's nice-- they'll be able to see me crossing the street from a distance but I'm fair game for that waterfall grille close-up.

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