You’ve heard the saying, “every little bit helps.” And, these days that is definitely the case, especially when it comes to fuel economy. Well, Buick has added some mpg’s to their beautiful LaCrosse sedan with GM’s eAssist light hybrid system. So, let’s see if a little “electrification” goes a long way.
Now in its third year, the mid-size Buick LaCrosse could certainly use a jolt of interest, and the 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist might just be the spark it needs. It is a modest spark however, with just 15-killowatts of power coming from a small belt-driven motor-generator attached to a direct-injection 2.4-liter Ecotec I4 engine. It adds 15-horsepower and 79 pound feet of torque to the Ecotec’s 182-horsepower and 172 pound feet of torque.
This light hybrid concept is not new, as it’s been kicking around GM since the Saturn Greenline series, and more recently in the Chevrolet Malibu. It has been updated though, and now stores power in lithium-ion batteries located in the trunk, which cuts storage space down to 10.9-cubic feet. Nearly seamless regenerative braking helps keep the batteries topped off.
Little has changed to the LaCrosse’s luxurious and well designed interior, except for a new ECO gauge in the twin-pod I.P.
When it was new for 2010, the LaCrosse set the benchmark for premium sedan interiors. The modern elegance of the wrap-around theme includes a flowing center stack, attractive wood grain, and exposed stitching. But, the dash can also be a knee basher when getting in and out. Front seats are wide and comfortable, and available with heat and ventilation. The back seats aren’t quite as comfy, but rear leg room is good.
An optional 11-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system supplies plenty of decibels. The infotainment system is a bit overwhelming at first with its mix of touch-screen and buttons, but well-designed steering wheel controls help a lot.
Without a doubt the LaCrosse loves long distance touring. So, hard drive Navigation, Head-up display, and Side Blind Zone Alert are useful options, as is a back-up camera, for parking.
The eAssist system is not designed to drive the front wheels alone. But, with its automatic start-stop function, it does allow the gas engine to shut down at stops and when coasting down, yet re-start almost instantaneously. It is one of the smoothest idle stop systems out there.
And speaking of smooth, when it comes to styling, the LaCrosse is about as silky as it gets. All of the traditional Buick elements are in place, from the waterfall grille to the now hood-mounted portholes. It’s a classy look, spiced up with optional HID’s, a high belt-line, carefully used chrome trim, LED tail lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels wearing high mileage tires. Underbody aerodynamics have been improved, and electronically controlled grille shutters optimize wind resistance.
But, eAssist is no barnstormer. Our LaCrosse lumbered off the line, reaching 60 in 8.7-seconds. That’s over a second slower than the V6 LaCrosse, but 4-tenths quicker than the previous I4. Indeed it felt peppier than times indicated. Thankfully, there’s a true 6-speed automatic transmission, and not a CVT. It provides smooth but slow shifts on our way to the end of the ¼ mile in 16.8-seconds at 84 miles-per-hour. Coming to a halt from 60 was equally smooth, as well as stable with a good average stopping distance of 125-feet, courtesy of all-disc ABS brakes
The Lacrosse was the first modern Buick sedan to value both ride and handling. It glides down the highway but never wallows; despite some early under steer, cornering measures up well for a mid-size sedan with luxury intentions. Buick’s impressive HiPer Strut setup is not available with eAssist, still, the traditional strut front and four-link rear suspension keeps the LaCrosse solid and composed. Weight transfers well, but steering is heavy without much feel.
But, the LaCrosse eAssist is mostly about better fuel economy. So, what are those Government Fuel Economy Ratings? Well, they’re almost 40% better than the V6 LaCrosse, and 25% better than the outgoing 4-cylinder as well, coming in at 25-City, 36-Highway. We averaged 29.1 miles-per-gallon of Regular in mixed driving without effort. A much better than average Energy Impact Score is just 11.4-barrels of oil consumed per year, while emitting just 5.1 annual tons of CO2.
But eAssist doesn’t seriously jack up the prices so payback comes quickly; in fact, eAssist is now the base LaCrosse coming in at $31,030.
While we were already big fans of the Buick LaCrosse, the addition of eAssist has made us even more so. It offers help where most of us need it most… in our wallets, by providing additional fuel economy without a lot of additional cost. Power hungry buyers can always opt for the V6. As for us, we’ll choose the eAssist, as a little electrification indeed goes a long way.
Engine: 2.4-liter Ecotec I4
Torque: 172 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 8.7 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.8 seconds @ 84 mph
EPA: 25 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.1 tons/yr