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2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist First Impressions

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Mike Goetz
It's electrifying, but in a quiet, refined Buick way
The system can provide the equivalent power of about 15 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to provide acceleration assistance, but not enough to realistically move the car on its own. And the design is such that the electric motor can never work independently of the gas engine.

The eAssist model will net you a 17-percent improvement in highway driving, and a 23-percent boost around town. (Photo: Mike Goetz/Auto123.com)

The 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine is rated at 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque.

The battery pack gets recharged by the generator, which is also equipped to enact some regenerative braking. When you brake, you actually tell the generator to put some load on the engine, which slows the car, and allows the generator to make lots of juice. Conventional brakes work in concert with the regenerative process.

Also part of eAssist is automatic engine stop-start. The IC engine shuts off whenever the car stops in traffic and/or at intersections. The motor-generator restarts the car by turning the crankshaft.

The 115V lithium-ion battery powers all of the Buick’s electric functions, whether the IC engine is running or not. The only time the “regular” battery is used is to spin the starter, when you first get into the car for your drive.

eAssist also gives you aggressive “fuel cut-off” capability, to further fuel savings and regenerative recharging possibilities.

Rounding out the eAssist attack is a new-design six-speed automatic transmission, and an aero package similar to the one in the Cruze Eco (active shutter system in lower grille, air dam and underbody panels, low-resistance tires).

Smooth, Quiet, Refined

We were able to take the Buick LaCrosse eAssist for a great drive around Northern California, including a stretch down the legendary Pacific Coast Highway.

If you’re accelerating smoothly, it’s hard to tell that this thing has electric assist. That’s not to say that the power is underwhelming, but rather that the electric torque has been integrated very seamlessly into the drivetrain. Nothing abrupt about it. Overall, the power output seems perfectly adequate for a luxury vehicle of this size.

The ability to blend in electric power at opportune circumstances allows the transmission to stay in its gear more often—so there is less downshifting and revving. (Photo: Mike Goetz/Auto123.com)
Mike Goetz
Mike Goetz
Automotive expert