Buick has a surprisingly efficient and smooth-driving machine in the LaCrosse eAssist. The LaCrosse’s large size doesn’t do much to change the perception that Buick is for older customers, but there’s a reasonably up-to-date infotainment system inside, and the exterior styling is far more radical than Buicks of a few years ago.
All the buttons for the stereo, climate, and everything else on the crowded center stack are difficult to use while the car is in motion. I almost had to pull over to change the temperature because the button grouping is not very intuitive.
Interior design issues aside, the LaCrosse would be a more compelling choice in this segment if it were only a couple hundred pounds lighter. I like the efficiency of the eAssist powertrain (and the fact that it uses a six-speed automatic rather than a CVT) but I dislike how sluggish the car is while merging on a highway. And that was without any passengers or luggage in the car. The now discontinued four-cylinder LaCrosse without eAssist was even worse in this regard, though, and the decision to ditch that model was wise. The only eAssist-specific downside to the LaCrosse is a reduction in truck capacity because the battery pack resides behind the rear seat. I still managed to pack a lot of stuff back there when I took a bunch of old clothing to the local Goodwill, but I can see how the trunk space might be insufficient to former Park Avenue owners.
Overall, the LaCrosse eAssist is a solid choice for drivers who prioritize smooth, efficient transportation and a lot of interior space rather than steering feel and acceleration times.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
What’s most impressive about eAssist is its transparency. There’s no noticeable noise or shudder when it kicks on or shuts off. And, when mated to the 2.4-liter I-4, it helps return shockingly good fuel economy in this 3800-pound LaCrosse. On the debit side, this powertrain lacks the grunt you expect in this class and it audibly strains when called upon for merging and passing. Otherwise, the LaCrosse is a fairly convincing near-luxury vehicle. The cabin is lined with good-looking, soft-touch materials and is as quiet on the road as vehicles costing thousands more.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
eAssist is a system that enhances fuel mileage through the use of a 15-kw motor generator in place of the alternator. In practice, what it does is shut down the gasoline engine when the car stops (and then restarts it when you press on the accelerator), and it can also can shut off the fuel supply during cruising or decelerating. The good news is that it’s pretty invisible in operation. The even better news is that it gives the LaCrosse excellent fuel economy (25 mpg in the city, and 36 mpg on the highway) for its size. The price you pay is that the system is mated to a 182-hp four-cylinder that simply doesn’t have enough oomph for a car that weighs close to two tons. Add in steering that is too light and lacks precision, and you get a Buick that likely won’t appeal to enthusiast drivers. On the plus side, the interior is actually pretty nice, with decent materials and a good touchscreen system.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Considered on its own merits, the LaCrosse eAssist is an impressive effort. The powertrain is nicely integrated and returns some impressive fuel economy for a large premium sedan. Four-cylinder power likely won’t satisfy those trading in Park Avenue Ultras, but that’s why Buick offers the 3.6-liter-powered car for the same price (it does require you to opt for the convenience package, which costs about $1000). The rest of the car remains the same as when it debuted a few years ago, and has aged well. The interior design and materials quality are what you’d expect of a $35,000 car. Like everyone else here, I’m not enamored with the busy center console and its various buttons, but I suspect real owners will simply get used to them over time, just as BMW-owners become experts at navigating through iDrive. And for a large, front-wheel-drive luxury car, the LaCrosse drives well, with better body control and more accurate steering than the likes of the Toyota Avalon. Those who care about performance should sooner consider the Chrysler 300 or even the Hyundai Genesis, but considering that LaCrosse handily outsold both of them last year, most buyers in this segment think the Buick drives well enough. More significantly, the LaCrosse also outdueled the Lexus ES, which suggests buyers in this segment are beginning to give Buick a fair shake.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2012 Buick LaCrosse Premium I Group
MSRP (with destination): $33,300
PRICE AS TESTED: $36,880
2.4-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
Belt-driven, liquid-cooled motor
Horsepower: 15 hp
Torque: 79 lb-ft
WHEELS AND TIRES:
17-inch aluminum wheels
235/50TR-17 Michelin Energy tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 11.7 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.7/40.5 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.0/37.3 in
17-inch aluminum wheels
Automatic halogen headlights
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Stability and traction control
OnStar w/6-month trial
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
Universal home remote
Remote vehicle start
Rear parking assist
Heated exterior mirrors and front seats
Auto-dimming interior mirror
Seat and mirror memory settings
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Entertainment package- $600
Harman/Kardon premium audio system
120V power outlet
Driver Confidence package- $1440
HID headlights w/adaptive forward lighting
Side blind spot alert
Audio system w/navigation and rearview camera- $1345
Carbon Black metallic exterior paint- $195
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Chrome-plated 18-inch aluminum wheels- $650
Oversized power sunroof- $1195
Rear seat entertainment- $1295
Rear-seat thorax air bags- $350
This powertrain is all new for the 2012 model year.