Test Drive: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist car test drives reviews luxury cars hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews buick
2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

During university, a friend of mine needed a car to replace his recently deceased Ford Tempo.  Short on time and even shorter on money, he purchased a heavily used 1993 Buick Century.  Besides dropping the mandatory twin 12-inch subwoofers into the trunk, he installed limousine-dark tint all around the wire-hubcap-wonder.  When asked why he spent his money doing this, his response was “I’m 20 years old; I don’t want people to see I am driving a Buick.”  And this is the stigma Buick has been trying so hard of late to shake off.

In an all-out assault on its unfavourable perception, Buick is busy updating its line-up with vehicles like the Regal, the new-for-2012 Verano and the upcoming Encore mini-SUV.  They are trying hard to get a new generation of car buyer to associate Buick with ‘fun-to-drive.’  With the grandfatherly Lucerne now out to pasture, things are looking up for Buick.  But not so fast, there is still one more traditional offering in the Buick stable: the LaCrosse… or so I thought.

Test Drive: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist car test drives reviews luxury cars hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews buick
2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist. Click image to enlarge

The Buick LaCrosse is a mid-size sedan based on GM’s Epsilon II platform.  For 2012, there is the choice of a four-cylinder light hybrid powertrain, or a traditional V6. Six-cylinder models come equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive while the eAssist four-cylinder models get front drive only.  Other changes for 2012 include the end of trim names and the subsequent exterior badging.  Now it’s pick an engine, pick a drivetrain and sort through the plethora of option packages; it’s like buying your car at a Build-A-Bear store.

The LaCrosse comes standard with a 303-hp V6, at a starting price of $35,195.  The eAssist light hybrid is available on any front-wheel-drive LaCrosse for the small sum of $690.  This nets you 17-inch alloy rims, spare-tire delete, a rear spoiler and electric power steering.  I wouldn’t want to be a Buick sales rep trying to tell his or her “traditional customers” (insert your own stereotypes here) that they need to pay more for less: “Why, yes sir, for only $690, we will cut your power in nearly half and remove the spare tire for you. As a bonus, a good chunk of usable trunk space will also be taken up by a battery pack.”

Test Drive: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist car test drives reviews luxury cars hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews buick
Test Drive: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist car test drives reviews luxury cars hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews buick
2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist. Click image to enlarge

So what exactly is the eAssist “light electrification” system? And more importantly, what are its benefits?  According to General Motors’ press material, the eAssist system provides power assistance to the internal combustion engine rather than providing intermittent all-electric propulsion like a traditional hybrid.  This means the vehicle can never solely propel itself on electric power, but it does allow the engine to shut down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions, which saves fuel. This can be tracked on the real-time fuel consumption computer, which reads 0.0 L/100 km when coasting, with your foot completely off the accelerator.  The transition from fuel-off coasting to fuel-on acceleration is, for the most part, seamless.  Like all modern hybrids, the LaCrosse features auto start-stop technology that shuts the engine off when stopped.

The LaCrosse eAssist uses GM’s 2.4-litre Ecotec engine that generates 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque.  It is mated to a six-speed auto and an electric motor that generates 15 hp and 79 lb-ft  Even with 1,826 kg of mass to haul around, the four-cylinder is surprisingly powerful around the city, helped in part by the eAssist drivetrain.  The power deficiency does become noticeable at highway speeds, until the engine gets spinning closer to its redline. We have a feeling, though, that most owners would still find it adequate for day-to-day use.  To help further improve mileage, the engine spins at a lazy 1,700 rpm when cruising at 100 km/h.  The only real complaint with the drivetrain has to do with jerky downshifts at low speeds, caused by either the six-speed automatic itself or the eAssist system.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.