By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
When Buick's all-new LaCrosse debuted for 2010, it was praised for exterior and interior
design and refinement and has sold well as a result. Now, for the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, comes the first application of GM's energy-efficient eAssist "mild hybrid" technology as the standard LaCrosse powertrain. Essentially a major upgrade to the system offered in some 2007-09 GM vehicles, eAssist couples a small motor-generator to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to provide power assist for launch and acceleration, along with regenerative braking, which morphs the motor into a generator during deceleration to replenish the battery.
If a fairly affordable entry-luxury sedan that can hold its own against much pricier imports is what you might like, this stylish and refined American Buick may be the answer.
If GM's once-moribund but fast-rising Buick brand does not ring your chimes, you might prefer a comparably-priced domestic Lincoln or Chrysler, or a Japanese Lexus, Infiniti or Acura.
The biggest change in the 2012 LaCrosse is standard eAssist, which marries an 11 Kw (15-hp) electric motor to a 182-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four driving a six-speed automatic transmission. It's good for a 20-percent improvement in EPA highway fuel economy and an impressive 32-percent boost in city economy over the 2011 four-cylinder LaCrosse. If you prefer horsepower to hybrid power, a lighter and more powerful (than last year) 303-hp 3.6-liter V6 is a no-cost option.
Driving Impressions The 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist driving experience is essentially transparent. With the addition of electric boost, the LaCrosse accelerates more briskly than the 2011 four-cylinder version, though not as strongly...as the 303-hp V6 alternative, and it drives absolutely normally. We found the steering precise, the brakes strong, the handling surprisingly agile, and eAssist acceleration more than adequate, even in hard driving, though the engine can get a bit (Buick atypically) raucous at high loads and wide-open throttle. You barely notice the engine shutting down during stops (the tachometer needle drops to an "auto stop" position) or restarting – without the shudder typical of some hybrids – when the brake is released. A hill-assist feature retains brake pressure to prevent rollback during uphill launches with the engine shut down, an ECO gauge helps optimize efficiency, and a central instrument panel graphic shows electric power flow from battery to front wheels during boost and back during deceleration.
What's not to like about a mild-hybrid powertrain that dramatically increases fuel efficiency while enhancing performance and pleasability without adding much to the price?
It displays speed, navigation instructions, audio status (including song names as they begin playing) and other key information out there over the hood in your line of sight, and its brightness and vertical position are easily adjusted. The best we've seen.
Inside the nicely-crafted cabin, warm wood, smoked chrome accents and ice-blue ambient lighting in the instrument panel, console and door-handle pockets create a comfortable, upscale environment. Complimenting the exterior, the flowing design theme wraps around the instrument panel into the doors, and the high-grade leather has handsome contrasting stitching. All major buttons and controls – including those on the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel – are conveniently large, well-marked and intuitive to use. Most notable is the LaCrosse interior's almost eerie quiet thanks to Buick's "QuietTuning" process of systematically reducing, blocking and absorbing interior noise.
GM previewed its future passenger-car-styling on the 2009 Buick Enclave, a Buick look that continues through the midsize 2011 Regal and the upcoming 2012 Verano compact. On the 2012 Buick LaCrosse, that look features a big, bold waterfall grille, a sculpted side "spear" sweeping from the wraparound headlamp to taillamp design and a roofline that curves gracefully into a short rear deck. Thanks to electronically-controlled lower grille shutters that close at higher speeds to push air over and under the car and strategically-placed underbody aero panels, the eAssist LaCrosse is slightly more aerodynamic over the standard car.
To keep the starting price down while replacing the previous base four-cylinder with the costlier eAssist propulsion system, a few items that should be standard – remote start, a set of universal home remote buttons – turn up on the options list. That said, a full-color driver information center, OnStar (with a one-year subscription), XM Radio, a manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and both Bluetooth and USB connectivity are standard, plus such important safety features as traction and stability control, brake assist and six airbags.
The 2012 Buick LaCrosse's extensive options list includes high-intensity-discharge headlamps, "Side Blind Zone Alert" to help spot vehicles hiding in your blind spots, a (terrific) head-up display, heated and ventilated perforated leather-covered seats, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver (but not the primary passenger), a heated steering wheel, premium audio, GPS navigation, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power rear sunshade and even a 110-volt power outlet for charging your phone or computer. All are available either stand-alone or in packages.
Standard eAssist (also on the 2012 Buick Regal and coming soon on the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and other models), provides a 15-hp on-demand boost to the 182-horsepower four and shuts off its fuel during off-throttle coasting and deceleration, yet both engine and motor/generator keep spinning, ready to provide smooth, immediate power when needed. The motor-generator helps bring the engine to a smooth stop when the car stops, then smoothly restarts it when you lift off the brake. When you're off the throttle, regenerative braking charges the 115-volt lithium-ion battery to power the car's electrical systems with recaptured energy instead of fuel. The 303-horsepower direct-injected, DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 is flex-fuel capable and pleasingly muscular with front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. Both drive through GM's latest six-speed automatic transmissions.
2.4-liter four-cylinder (with eAssist)
182 horsepower @ 6,700 rpm
172 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37
3.6-liter V6 (Flex-fuel E85 capable)
303 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
264 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/27
The 2012 Buick LaCrosse wears a starting sticker of $30,820 (including $860 destination) with either an upgraded 303-horsepower V6 or the much more fuel-efficient new eAssist "mild hybrid" system. That compares to $37,205 for the full-hybrid 2011 Lexus HS 250h, $35,520 for the full-hybrid 2012 Lincoln MKZ and $40,220 for the conventional V6-powered 2012 Acura TL – all of which are smaller cars. Yet the LaCrosse eAssist competes well in EPA-rated economy at 25 mpg city, 37 highway vs. 35/34 for the Lexus HS, 41/36 for the MKZ Hybrid, and 18/26 for the Acura TL. Kelley Blue Book estimated residual values are not yet in for the 2012 LaCrosse eAssist, but the 2011 models (prior to eAssist) are estimated to retain 27-28 percent of their value after five years.
By Hiwayman (SC) on Saturday, June 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I'm a pretty big guy and this car has plenty of room for me to be comfortable. The car has a great ride, not the absolute best I've experienced but that is compared to the nicest vehicles out there. The vehicle has fantastic acceleration and handling, the steering is tight and responsive and acceleration is smooth. I have been extremely pleased with this car."
By Florida (FL) on Friday, May 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Luxury, great engine, technology equipped"
Cons: "Poor lateral visibility"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The 2011 Lacrosse CXS has everything you need. It's one of the smoothest rides I've ever had and the HUD technology experience brings the driver to a totally different level!"
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By LeSabre81 (RI) on Sunday, April 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,900overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price/Lease, Fun to drive, Comfortable"
Cons: "City MPG, Quality, Storage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"The car itself is sub par. In looks and features it's packed for the price, however the quality is not there. After 9 months and almost 7900 miles on it there are so many squeaks and rattles that according to the dealer "doesn't effect the driveabillity of the car. So its something WE just have to live with" I'm thinking really? I could have saved $10,000 and got a foreign make but Ive always had and loved a GM vehicle. Maybe its just my car as I have a few (4) friends with the same car with various "packages" and they have been "good" so far. As far as driving goes the car is comfortable and fun to drive, however seem sluggish at times or like the transmission isn't quite sure what gear it wants."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By VetteDriver (KS) on Thursday, March 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great styling, rich interior, excellent quality."
Cons: "Terrible driveability, 5,000 rpm shifts, gas hog."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My first review of the 2012 Lacrosse was all great at one month of ownership. But I soon noticed the gas mileage was terrible and no where Buick's rating. At 4,ooo miles the break-in period is over and the noticeable defect in this car is glaring! The transmission is set to shift at over 4,000 rpm. When accelerating on highways the shift points are at 5,000 rpm and over. The car practically redlines at every shift until you reach cruising speed. Not only is this very disappointing, crashes the gas mileage, and adds to engine wear, it becomes very uncomfortable to your senses. The V-6 engine has more than enough power to shift like a "normal" car but I found Buick has done this on purpose. They call this normal! Their customer service line blew me off when I complained about this situation. They acted like it was the very first complaint they have received about this. A quick search on-line finds many complaints about this high shift situation. A new program to re-set shift points is all it would take to stop the growing complaints, but Buick is ignoring the problem. After two months of driving this car I can't wait to get rid of it and back to a "normal" driving car. All the other amenities it offers are negated by this problem. Too bad Buick!"
25 people out of 28 found this review helpful
By Stew (CA) on Friday, February 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Needs more in-cabin storage for incidentals, my only complaint. At 70 MPH is getting almost 30 MPG, in-town not so hot, maybe 18 - 20. First Buick ever, I have owned over 60 cars. Nice styling too."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Gpop (AZ) on Friday, January 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Feels good on the road. Little choppy in town."
Cons: "Limited front passenger storage."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I like the car. Good feel and power. Only negative is the rear window and pillars. Very difficult to see side view when backing up. Narrow line of site."
22 people out of 23 found this review helpful