Review: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

When this car was dropped off for me, I walked around it and thought, “Hmm, some Jaguar, some Lexus, and some of their own styling all blended together. Not a knockout, but definitely okay.”

I got in the car and thought the same thing, except with the addition of Audi.

Ten years ago, the average age of a Buick purchaser was somewhere in the seventies, and now its in the fifties. GM moved it down 20 years in 10 years. That’s still not where you want to be if you’re a car manufacturer, but it is progress.

There’s an old saying in the car business, and it is still very true: “You can sell an old man a young man’s car, but you can’t sell a young man an old man’s car”.

One of the tactics used by GM to keep moving that average buyer age down is to make the powertrains in their vehicles technology-rich. To that end, Buick offers the 2012 LaCrosse e-Assist, a mild hybrid. The hybrid technology in the car is low-cost, but high-value from Buick’s point of view. The hybrid technology is so mild that Buick doesn’t even put “hybrid” anywhere on the car’s flanks.

But, the proof is in the pudding, and the EPA says that the Buick LaCrosse with e-Assist, equipped with a 182 HP 2.4 liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic, will get 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. On a blended basis, that’s about 30% better fuel mileage than the same engine by itself.

And that’s not all – like other hybrids, the engine will shut off at stoplights (for up to two minutes), then re-starts instantly when you release the brake.  Also, regenerative braking recharges the small battery pack.

It will also give you a horsepower bump of 15 HP when you’re passing or need some extra oomph for some other reason.

How did this thing drive, you might ask?

Very well, actually. And unlike some other testers, I was able to achieve the promised fuel economy driving on both the highway and in the urban environs of Washington, DC.

Besides the fuel mileage aspect, the car handles a little above average for it’s segment, braking is very good, ride quality is very good (and quiet), and all in all, it’s a very pleasant experience. Even if that experience is not exciting in any way, it’s still a pleasurable way to spend some time behind the wheel. The big LaCrosse (it’s classified as a mid-size car, but it is right under the full-size dimensions) acquits itself well in all driving conditions and feels solid no matter what you’re doing to it on the road.

The thick pillars do obstruct outward vision a bit.

The interior of the car is very nice and on par with its competitors whether that’s an Acura, a Lexus or a Lincoln. Just as an interesting sidebar, the interior was designed by GM’s design studio in China, and the principal exterior designer was an Australian. Both teams did a great job as far as I’m concerned.

The car delivered to me had Buick’s “Premium I Group option package”, which, besides the usual stuff you would expect in a car like this, also had:

Auto-Dimming inside rear view mirror
Universal home remote
Remote start
Power lumbar adjuster, driver
Leather package:
Leather-appointed seating
Heated front seats
8-way power front passenger seats
Fog lamps, front halogen (why is this in with the leather package?)
Heated outside rear-view mirrors with turn signal power adjustable, auto-dimming
Ultrasonic rear parking assist
Memory seats and mirrors

That gets you to a $32,440 total.

Then, two more option packages:

Entertainment Package $600.00

AM/FM/XM stereo, CD, Harmon Kardon 384-watt 11-speaker system
120 volt power outlet (very handy)
Note: even the standard stereo has both Bluetooth and a USB port so that you can insert a flash drive with hundreds of MP3 files on it in there and go wild

Driver Confidence Package $1440.00

High intensity discharge headlamps with adaptive forward lighting
Side-Blind zone alert
Heads-Up display

Audio system with navigation and backup camera $1345.00

Add in a destination charge of $860.00, and you’re at $36,685 for this Buick LaCrosse manufactured in Kansas City, Kansas.

And in case you’re wondering about the warranty on this mild hybrid, the Buick LaCrosse e-Assist has a 4-year, 50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year, 100,000 mile limited warranty on the powertrain, and lastly, an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the e-Assist components.

Is the Buick LaCrosse worth it; is it worth almost 37 grand? Well, it’s as worth it as much as the other players in this segment. As an example, it’s better-looking than the Acura and the Lincoln as far as I’m concerned, and it’s certainly better bang for the buck than the higher-priced Lexus. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it outpaces the competition, but it is at least their equal and can hold it’s head in any gathering of same. And so can you, if you own a 2012 Buick LaCrosse.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. The Lexus may cost more, but it’s going to hold it’s value a lot better, so any savings you get up front will get wiped out when you trade out of the car five or six years later. Not that I’m a Lexus fan, just that I think pepople should be aware of that.

  2. IDK, there is still the faint whiff of Geritol and Aqua Velva around any Buick from my view point. They need to come out with an honest-to-god sportscar, I think.

  3. I have this Harmon Kardon system in another Buick and it is really wonderful. I crank up Rush and Metallica on the way to work and by the time I get there, I’m ready to go.

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