When is a hybrid not a hybrid? When Buick says it isn’t. Well, sort of. With the introduction of the new LaCrosse sedan equipped with eAssist, Buick brings to market a vehicle that features a system that would normally label this Buick as a mild hybrid. And that it is, although you would never know it was anything other than a traditional automobile. The most important factor in this equation is the eAssist equipped Lacrosse gets an estimated 36 miles per gallon of fuel on the highway, which for most folks will average around the 32 mpg mark. Now, to put it into perspective, this is in a mid-sized luxury automobile not an odd looking compact.
Classified a mild hybrid, as in not actually powered by the electric motor, the LaCrosse is simple and reaps the benefits of electric power without the perceived drawbacks many buyers do not wish to contend. The main factor is range anxiety, which is not a question here.
The gasoline engine drives this Buick through a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission. However, with the assistance of the electric motor one can stretch 36 miles or perhaps even more out of a gallon of gasoline. In my book this is pretty darn good for a vehicle that will keep you and your passengers wrapped in the lap of luxury with plenty of room to stretch out.
Packaging has been a major concern in the designers and engineers minds as they move into developing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Buick designers and engineers have taken great strides in making sure the system in the LaCrosse does not impinge into the occupant space of the vehicle. The Lithium-Ion battery pack is compact and nearly unperceivable, located just behind the rear seat back taking up just a few cubic feet of trunk space.
Most of the trunk space continues to be available for all sorts of golf, travel, shopping bags. While the right side back is fixed, the left seat back does fold down to open a pass-through opening for transporting longer items such as snow boards and the like. It is a versatile design that will not impede on your active lifestyle. On the contrary the Lacrosse will only enhance
Consider this; A Toyota Camry Hybrid is rated at 35 miles per gallon on the highway with a far more complicated hybrid system. Even the luxury Lexus HS Hybrid only gets 34 on the highway and I would say the Lacrosse easily provides an equal level of luxury without the higher cost and possible maintenance needed with a full hybrid.
Compactness is carried over in other aspects of the engineering with the motor-generator barely larger than a traditional automotive alternator mounted to the engine in the same manner. This engineering marvel allows for the “start-stop” mode. Come to a stop at a traffic light and the gasoline engine shuts down. In less time it takes for you to remove your foot from the brake pedal and depress the accelerator the motor generator starts the engine and you are off on your adventure again. The Buick start-stop is nearly seamless.
A number of advances in aerodynamic design are incorporated in the LaCrosse equipped with eAssist. Located in the lower front grille are shutters that open and close to achieve optimal air flow and assists in improving fuel economy. Under-car aero-covers direct airflow away from openings which can rob fuel economy.
With all of these advances one will actually never know you are driving anything other than a conventional automobile. The base LaCrosse comes with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and the eAssist system for very little more money than previous base model LaCrosse. According to Buick folks, even with the slight bump in price you get a lot more features for that price. An interesting note is Buick has also made the move up to the more powerful V-6 engine no cost option. This means if a LaCrosse buyer would prefer to have the V-6, putting more importance on performance over fuel economy, it will not cost them more. However, the V-6 does quite well in the mpg department even without eAssist, which is not available, at least for now, coupled to the larger engine.
While the four-cylinder is rated at 187 horsepower I found the performance readably available for spirited driving. Granted, the more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 with its very healthy 303 horse power offers quicker acceleration and more ability for spirited driving.
As I drove through San Francisco down to Palo Alto and on out to Half Moon Bay I experienced all the attributes of eAssist. At every stop as I cruised University toward our first stop at the Garden Court Hotel the start-stop feature was unobtrusive. I barely perceived any difference from a traditional vehicle.
The power from the four-cylinder was assisted by the motor-generator as I made the run toward Half Moon Bay. I can see that once potential buyers drive this car they will no doubt see that perhaps a more powerful and thirsty engine isn’t necessary.
No matter how you look at the new LaCrosse it appears to be a vehicle that will attract a new buyer into the Buick showroom. Of course, look at the entire model family Buick is offering today and you see very quickly that these new Buicks are nothing close to what the badge once stood for. The LaCrosse is as cool as any other new electronic device, something you can really wrap your hands around.