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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
It might disappoint if you’re looking for a more sport-focused luxury ride, but others will be perfectly content, especially if you’re into serene driving. 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. It also enabled the eAssist LaCrosse to use a lower final-drive ration (2.64:1 vs. 3.23:1 in the regular four-cylinder LaCrosse). Net result: a very quiet and unruffled highway cruiser.

You can “feel” eAssist the most when it is doing its regeneration-braking thing. Let off the throttle at any time, and you can feel the motor-generator take control of the car a bit, as it seizes the opportunity to turn some deceleration into electricity.

Getting on the brake pedal causes more regen activity. The brake pedal experience is slightly different than a car without regen braking, but not unpleasant—just a bit different.

It’s pretty smooth, too, when the vehicle shuts down and starts up, in “auto-stop” situations. It doesn’t “judder” to a stop, as some such systems might. And helping the car launch smoothly from a shutdown is an auxiliary electric-driven transmission oil pump, which keeps the transmission primed and fluid flowing.

The LaCrosse will come with standard Buick IntelliLink, which uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver's smartphone to a new 8-inch, full-colour touch-screen display radio. (Photo: Mike Goetz/Auto123.com)

I can see owners becoming very accustomed to the little bits that make LaCrosse eAssist a bit different, and accepting them as completely normal. Of course, if you want to celebrate its electrical DNA, you can select the dash and/or nav screen readout that tries to visualize for you, when and how the electrical system is being activated. I say “tries” because the electric system comes on and off so often that the diagram is more of an approximation than a real-time gauge.

Later in the model year, the LaCrosse will come with standard Buick IntelliLink, which uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver's smartphone to a new 8-inch, full-colour touch-screen display radio.

Pricing Considerations, Final thoughts
Eventually, the eAssist will be the only four-cylinder LaCrosse model. In the US, the eAssist models will be priced identically to the V6 LaCrosse. But in Canada, the V6 LaCrosse will actually be slightly cheaper than eAssist — $34,400 versus $35,415.

Additional new standard features for all LaCrosse models include dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, and that new IntelliLink screen.

Not entirely sure if you can compare the LaCrosse eAssist to “full-on” luxury hybrids like the Lincoln MKZ ($42,242) and the Lexus HS 250h ($40,850). Best to just look at this new LaCrosse model as a refined luxury sedan that just happens to get great mileage.

Mike Goetz
Mike Goetz
Automotive expert