Friday, March 23, 2012

So Cal Drive: 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist

2012 LaCrosse with eAssist at Covina Bowl
Recently I was in Los Angeles to photograph some historic architecture, and the folks at Reynolds suggested that I utilize the opportunity to get to drive the new 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist technology. I hadn't been behind the wheel of an eAssist Buick yet, so I jumped at the chance.

The car I drove was the 2012 LaCrosse in base level trim with no additional options. It featured the same basic 182 hp 2.4 litre 4 cylinder engine as last year, with a few changes to integrate the eAssist system. An electric motor capable of adding 15hp is added in place of the alternator, and is connected to a 115V battery pack in the trunk. This battery pack feeds the motor and is charged during regenerative braking- similar to a mild Hybrid car. It also uses slightly numerically lower gearing- 2.64:1 instead of last year's 3.23:1, a slightly smaller gas tank, special tires with lower rolling resistance, thermostatic shutters on the air dam (as seen on the Chevy Cruze ECO) and a new six speed automatic transmission.

In many ways the system acts like the mild hybrid it is derived from. Upon deceleration, the brakes charge the battery and the fuel cuts out- the car goes into "Auto Stop" mode and the engine shuts down. The electric motor pushes the car from a stop and the engine restarts- all of this is very similar to a mild Hybrid system.

Where eAssist differs mainly is philisophical - Mild Hybrids aren't intended to drive without the gasoline engine, but with eAssist, the electric motor offers assistance while driving (even at highway speeds) and cuts down on the amount of gasoline the that is used. How much less? EPA Fuel economy ratings for the 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist are 25 city/ 37 highway, compared to 19 city/ 30 highway for last year's four cylinder. In my combined driving of city landmarks such as Covina Bowl and the Northwoods Inn, combined with a rather congested freeway drive to Bob's Big Boy in Downey, the eAssist LaCrosse averaged just over 29 mpg- for a full sized roomy sedan with Buick comfort and safety.

How much attention from the driver is needed? As little as you care to give it. There's a fascinating display on the cluster that shows the power mode- engine, electric, or hybrid- and the state of the battery- but the car does everything seamlessly with no conscious effort from the driver. Those who exercise light brake pedal pressure will recharge the battery more quickly, but that is about it. If I covered the display, you'd just think you were driving a responsive family car that does really well on fuel economy.

And isn't that what you've always gotten from Buick?

2012 LaCrosse with eAssist at the historic Covina Bowl

2012 LaCrosse with eAssist at the historic Covina Bowl 
Power display in Auto Stop Mode

Fantastic original Covina Bowl signage

LaCrosse with eAssist at the classic Northwoods Inn

The Northwood Inn features western details

LaCrosse with eAssist at the classic Northwoods Inn 

Modern car, historic setting
Tasteful cloth trim in the 2012 LaCrosse

The instrument panels flows into the doors

Rear seat is comfortable with excellent leg room

Classic Buick Ventiports on the hood

Futuristic Projector Beam headlamps

Timeless Bob's Broiler in Downey- beautifully restored

Beautifully restored signage

LaCrosse with eAssist under the Drive-In 

LaCrosse with eAssist under the neon lights

Perfect destination for a road test- Bob's broiler

LaCrosse with eAssist under the lights at Bob's Broiler

Neon  reflections on LaCrosse's hood
(Test car provided by Reynolds Buick- cross posted on the Palm Springs Automobilist)

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