Buick LaCrosse offers charm, improved fuel efficiency
By IRA SIEGEL For Sun-Times Media May 17, 2012 2:48PM
2012 BUICK LACROSSE PREMIUM I
ENGINE: 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with eAssist
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 25 city/36 highway
BASE PRICE: $32,440
AS TESTED: $36,685 (includes $860 for destination)
A truly likable and much improved Buick LaCrosse debuted in 2010, and in 2012 Buick is building on that success with more amenities, improved performance and better fuel efficiency.
The entry-level luxury sedan segment has many choices, and the 2012 Buick LaCrosse definitely has what it takes to be a serious contender.
For 2012, the LaCrosse model lineup has been completely revised. Base models start at $30,170 and come nicely equipped.
While a strong V-6 engine is available in the LaCrosse, the base power plant is now an all-new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with eAssist “light electrification” technology.
With an estimated 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, the full-size LaCrosse with eAssist delivers the fuel efficiency of a small car. That’s impressive and a huge factor considering the price of fuel these days.
This eAssist system uses a 115-volt lithium-ion battery and 15-kW motor-generator. The motor-generator helps boost power output when needed and recharges the battery when coasting or braking.
The eAssist’s gas engine will shut down at stops and come back online for accelerating; many refer to this type of system as a “mild” hybrid because the electric motor is not capable of propelling the vehicle on electric power alone.
Regardless of what you call it, this big, luxurious car delivers remarkable fuel economy.
The eAssist system captures up to 15-kW of energy that would normally be lost during braking (to recharge the battery) and the system shuts down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions.
LaCrosse with eAssist also features improved underbody aerodynamics, specially designed tires to optimize fuel economy and electronically controlled shutters in the lower grille that close at higher speeds to further improve aerodynamics.
Of course, there’s an eco gauge on the instrument panel to help drivers see how efficiently they’re driving, but as you might expect, the LaCrosse with eAssist wasn’t designed to pin you back in your seat when standing on the accelerator pedal.
From a dead stop, LaCrosse with eAssist accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 9 seconds. Remember, this powertrain was designed to reduce the frequency of your trips to the gas station.
When fully loaded with passengers, my 2012 Buick LaCrosse tester with eAssist felt anemic. Still, it was able to merge onto the highway or pull out into traffic without me worrying about getting rear-ended.
There is a bit of herky-jerky operation at times when coasting and then accelerating again, but that often comes with the territory.
If you want more power, though, the available 3.6-liter V-6 engine now makes 303 horsepower (23 more than the 2011 model) without compromising fuel efficiency over last year’s model.
The V-6 is rated at 17/27 mpg for front-wheel-drive models and 16/26 mpg for all-wheel-drive models. That’s significantly lower than models with eAssist, but it’s still respectable.
LaCrosse’s cabin is plush, comfortable and extremely quiet. Buick did well at keeping all kinds of noises from entering the cabin. You really have to drive it on the highway to fully appreciate those efforts.
The ride is exceptionally tranquil, and four adults will fit comfortably inside this large sedan. There’s plenty of head and legroom except for the rear seat’s middle passenger due to a high hump in the floor pan.
The 10.9 cubic-foot cargo area is a bit on the small side, too. But being able to cruise comfortably in a quiet and luxurious sedan with loads of amenities that can travel more than 500 miles before needing to refuel is worth a serious look.
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