General Motors already announced that it was bringing its mild hybrid system back on the 2012 Buick LaCrosse courtesy of the eAssist technology, but this standard equipment is about to put some real heat on luxury rivals such as Lexus and Lincoln. With a starting price of 'about $30,000,'? the LaCrosse will have a base price close to the compact Lexus CT 200h with a size more inline with the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Unlike both of these cars, GM won't be marketing its eAssist technology as a hybrid and customers of the 2012 Buick LaCrosse won't find the hybrid name or badges anywhere on the car.
Like the current LaCrosse, the base powertrain for the 2012 model will be the 2.4-liter EcoTec direct-injected inline-four with a six-speed automatic transmission. In the current car, this was good enough to give the LaCrosse EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. By adding the eAssist technology, Buick is expecting the base 2012 LaCrosse to improve it fuel economy to 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. These improvements are possible by using a 15 kW electric motor found under the hood replacing what is the alternator on conventional cars and a 115-volt lithium-ion batter pack mounted in the trunk.
Similar to the previous GM BAS system, eAssist will not be able to propel the 2012 LaCrosse with all-electric power, but it will offer a boost at initial acceleration to reduce the load being placed on the engine. On take-offs, the electric motor will supply 15 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of torque while the battery pack can be recharged with regenerative braking. Compared to the old BAS mild hybrid, the new eAssist provides five times more boost and three times better regenerative braking. In addition to this regenerative braking, the engine also utilizes start/stop when the vehicle is stopped as well as GM's aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration.
'LaCrosse with eAssist is the smart choice for those who want great fuel economy and performance in a luxury vehicle,'? said Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president, Buick marketing. 'LaCrosse with eAssist is an excellent value, costing thousands less than competitors with similar technologies, and its fuel-efficient powertrain comes standard on four-cylinder-equipped models.'?
According to Buick, the 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist will also receive 'aerodynamic improvements and other enhancements'? such as underbody panels and active front shutters similar to the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Inside, the most noticeable difference is a new instrument cluster that features an Eco gauge to help the driver maximize fuel efficiency and a battery status screen, but the biggest difference is in the trunk. Since the eAssist system doesn't need to power the vehicle, it is lighter and more compact, but it still takes up some trunk space. Weighing in at 65 pounds, the battery pack reduces the LaCrosse's cargo volume from 13.3 cubic feet down to 10.9 cubic feet, but the placement of the battery allows the LaCrosse to keep part of the fold-down rear seat for longer items.
The addition of the eAssist technology won't be the only change for the 2012 Buick LaCrosse. In an attempt to bolster its luxury image, all Buick models will be dropping the trim level designations (CX, CXL and CXS) in place of a system used by other luxury automakers using option packages to set individual vehicles apart. Finally, the LaCrosse will still be available with the 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6, but according to Autoblog, this will be a no-charge option for customers looking to replace fuel economy with a little extra horsepower.
Buick also announced its plans to offer eAssist on the 2012 Buick Regal, which should provide yet another fuel efficient luxury sedan for GM.
'Buick's eAssist technology means customers don't have to trade a premium driving experience for efficiency,'? DiSalle said. 'We believe Regal and LaCrosse with eAssist provide more logical and affordable choices, compared to other hybrid mid-size and full-size luxury sedans.'?