Buick LaCrosse Hybrid Gains Mileage, Keeps the Great Ride
2012 Buick LaCrosse Review:
The 2012 Buick LaCrosse, a nice entry-level luxury sedan, now offers a hybrid system to stretch gas mileage.
Last year I loved the top-level LaCrosse with its strong 300-plus horsepower V6. This time, the tested Premium I Group with E-Assist features the entry-level LaCrosse’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is not as peppy.
The “gold mist metallic” test car had 182 horsepower, and that was noticeably less powerful. Acceleration is moderate and E-Assist turns off the engine at stoplights and then restarts as you accelerate. The Buick uses regenerative braking to create and store electricity to help keep the car operational at stops. A 115-volt lithium ion battery and electric motor kick in under heavy acceleration too, helping to give the car more acceleration.The hybrid gives the car a 25 mpg city and 36 highway rating, excellent for a mid-size luxury sedan. I was on the low end of those figures at 25 mpg and change in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.
Most folks will barely notice the E-Assist functioning, and if you attain higher gas mileage it’ll seem worthwhile. The 303-horsepower V6 in higher-end models delivers 17 mpg city and 27 highway, so this is quite a jump from that, although the V6 delivers much stronger acceleration and more of a luxury feel.
The LaCrosse drives great, rides great and offers plenty of comfort and luxury features.
Performance is smooth as Buick’s six-speed automatic transmission works well with the smaller engine. Handling is good with moderately heavy steering feel to the front-drive car, but quick turn-in as you slip the sedan through tight turns. There’s no significant body roll. LaCrosse feels on a par with the Lexus ES350 or Toyota Avalon, and slightly better than the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS.
Ride remains a Buick hallmark and is exceptional, aided by a 111.7-inch wheelbase. The LaCrosse handled our rough roads and streets with as much comfort as any car I’ve driven. The independent suspension at all four corners, plus MacPherson struts up front, creates a well-controlled ride.
Braking is excellent with four-wheel discs, anti-locks, and stability and traction control. I had this in sloppy weather and didn’t spin the tires. However, if you feel you need all-wheel-drive, it is available in higher-end models. The Premium I AWD model starts at $34,615, compared with the test car’s $32,440 list price.
LaCrosse starts at $29,960 in base trim with the 182-horsepower four-cylinder and goes as high as $38,270 for the Touring model with all the bells and whistles.
The Buick is quiet and offers a comfortable, attractive interior. I was a bit disappointed in the fit and finish, something I’d lauded in the previous LaCrosse. This test car had a huge gap between the door and dash, something I hadn’t seen in several years, in any make.I like the light blue trim ring around the dash, just above the wood-look trim, plus blue ambient lighting from all the knobs and buttons so you can easily see all the controls at night. Likewise the main speedometer and tach gauges also have a blue ring inside them to make them easy to see and add a luxury feel to the dash.
The test car had a two-tone brown over tan dash and perforated tan leather seats that were extremely comfortable. . Seating is well contoured and comfortable, both front and rear, and the LaCrosse provides plenty of interior room for four or five adults. Front seats are powered and include power lumbar supports, plus three-speed heaters that quickly made the car comfortable. The seats are ventilated for summer.
The steering wheel is a manual tilt-telescope model. Power adjustment seems more appropriate in a luxury sedan.
All of Buick’s control knobs and buttons are easy to see, but I found their arrangement a bit confusing and their number a bit over the top. I counted 34 buttons and three knobs on the center stack, plus there are more on the steering wheel hub.
I liked the navigation screen’s size and clarity and the back-up camera that is displayed there when the car is in reverse. That was part of a $1,345 navigation package.
Other options include a $1,440 driver confidence package that includes high-intensity discharge headlights that are adaptive, so they turn a bit as you go around a corner. The package also includes a blind-spot warning system, and a head-up display so you can see a digital readout of your speed on the windshield.A $600 entertainment package adds a Harman-Kardon stereo with 384 watts and 11 speakers, and a 120-volt outlet.
One downside with the E-Assist equipped LaCrosse is the smaller trunk. These have just 10.9 cubic feet of cargo room, and it’s awkwardly shaped. I had to carry a large duffle bag and it was too long for the trunk, so it had to go in the back seat. If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll want to see if this trunk will suit your needs.
The test car, with an $860 delivery fee, checked in at $36,685, still a moderate price for entry-level luxury with such gas economy. Comfort and ride quality remain strong Buick traits and the LaCrosse also offers a handsome profile.