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2012 Buick Lacrosse eAssist: A Premium Sedan with a Boost in Fuel Economy

While the upcoming Buick Lacrosse failed to induce any excitement within the automotive enthusiast in me, I was more than a bit impressed by its new fuel-saving powertrain technology: eAssist. Recently, I had a chance to try out the new 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist through various terrains near San Francisco, both city and winding country roads, in order to witness eAssist in action.

eAssist, a mild-hybrid system standard on 4-cylinder 2012 Buick LaCrosse models, bumps up fuel economy 26% over its previous model, with an estimated 36 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in the city. During my 120-mile drive, however, I only managed to eke out 26mpg–which isn’t bad considering by lead-foot driving habits. I do admit, however, that I was looking for some performance in the car and did manage to punch it to 60mph in 9 seconds–not bad considering the LaCrosse I drove weighs 3,835 pounds with only a 4-cylinder engine pushing it down the road.

Helping those four cylinders is a liquid-cooled 15-kW electric motor, which replaces the alternator, to provide up to 15 additional horsepower to the 182-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. Regenerative braking helps replenish electricity to a 115V lithium-ion battery that powers the electric motor, providing additional power during acceleration. eAssist also stops and starts the engine when the car comes to a halt as well as cuts off the fuel during deceleration, almost seamlessly. It took me some time to get used to the engine shutting off when I stopped or feeling the fuel being cut off (faintly) when I decelerated, but knowing that this technology was responsible for adding miles-per-gallons to the ride quelled my minor criticisms.

My Buick Lacrosse drive also included a quick stop at GM’s Silicon Valley office, where Buick engineers kindly explained the ins and outs of eAssist as well as many of the aerodynamic features of the vehicle that help to boost fuel economy. For example, electronically controlled shutters within the lower front grille close at high speeds and lightweight panels are strategically placed under the body also improve aerodynamics.

Technology aside, the Buick LaCrosse did make me feel at ease during my 120-mile trek through the outskirts of San Francisco–it is definitely a car I would enjoy taking on a long distance road trip. And apparently I am not alone. Around 57% of LaCrosse owners say they use their car for vacations / long trips, according to data gleaned from AutoPacific’s Research Suite.  And with the touches of luxury on the inside–leather trim, dark wood grain accents, ice blue ambient lighting and a softly curved center console–to say my drive was comfortable would be an understatement.

So for $29,960, the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist is worthy contender for those looking for a premium midsize sedan with a touch of eco-friendliness, and for those looking to save a little dough when making their next road-trip.

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