2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist

Although the following chart was released earlier this month (March 7, 2012), one can look at one portion of the graph, the portion showing the gas prices, with a certain sense of nostalgia, as in “$3.64 a gallon. . .ah, those were the days.” And subsequent to that, I had the opportunity to drive the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist.

Although the following chart was released earlier this month (March 7, 2012), one can look at one portion of the graph, the portion showing the gas prices, with a certain sense of nostalgia, as in “$3.64 a gallon. . .ah, those were the days.”

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And subsequent to that, I had the opportunity to drive the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist. Essentially, this is a simple hybrid system. And a reasonably smart one. That is, there is a 182-hp 2.4-liter, Ecotec direct-injection gasoline engine. There is a normal 12-volt battery. But there is a 115-volt lithium ion pack (located in the truck, which, it needs to be noted, takes up some cargo space) and a 15-kW motor generator. There is also start-stop functionality. And regenerative braking.

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So, when the car is coming to a stop, energy is collected from the braking such that as much as 15-kW (the capacity of the battery) goes into storage. In addition to which, there is fuel cut off during deceleration (not all the time—that would be a nightmare in traffic jams, one thinks) because if you’re going from 40 mph to 0 mph, the engine really doesn’t need to drink gasoline. And once at 0, the engine is stopped and the accessories and suchlike continue to operate, using the juice from the li-ion battery. When accelerating, the motor-generator helps restart the engine and under certain conditions (e.g., hard acceleration) adds a bit of a boost to the engine. Given that the LaCrosse has a curb weight of 3,835 lb., every little bit helps in the acceleration arena; if you get on freeways on a regular basis, you’re going to have to get used to the “C’mon, c’mon c’mon” that you’ll be chanting because there really doesn’t seem to be a sufficient amount of get-up-and-go during that procedure. (Which makes it seriously silly that Buick compares the car’s more-than-reasonable mpgs with the likes of the Acura TL.)

While the chart shows that people are certainly buying the car in greater numbers with a correlation to fuel prices, presumably while the 25 city/36 highway is certainly desirable for someone who is in the market for a mid-size sedan, chances are there is more to the buying decision than mpgs—otherwise, wouldn’t everyone opt for, say, something like the Prius v, which seats five and is rated at 44 mpg city and 40 mpg highway?

The thing is, the Buick LaCrosse is the kind of cosseting package that is comfortable and well-appointed, particularly should one opt for the package that brings in leather for the seating surfaces, and other goodies like side blind-spot detection and HID headlamps that actually swivel in relation to the orientation of the steering wheel. One interior feature that I found to be a bit, well, bizarre, is that the door pull openings on the tops of the arm rests are actually covered so that in order to pull a door shut rather than simply moving one’s hand in a vertical orientation, it is necessary to slide in one’s fingers in a horizontal orientation. One cover that is really a nice touch, however, is that which goes over the cup holders. And there are the now-obligatory things like auxiliary audio input and USB port.

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When releasing the chart that started this, Tony DiSalle, U.S. vp of Buick and GMC Marketing, stated, “Through intelligent technology, the LaCrosse with eAssist delivers great fuel economy without sacrificing a spacious cabin, strong acceleration, or signature Buick quietness.” I agree with two out of the three points.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter four cylinder with eAssist

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Horsepower: 182 @ 6,700 rpm

Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4,900 rpm

Wheelbase: 111.7 in.

Length: 197 in.

Width: 71.3 in.

Height: 59.2 in.

EPA: 25/36 mpg city/highway

Assembly location: Fairfax Assembly