The North American International Auto Show starts tomorrow and for the trip up to Detroit, Buick has provided me with a 2012 Buick Lacrosse with e-Assist. For 2012, the Lacrosse has a standard a 4-cylinder engine with a light electrical assist and automatic stop.
The e-Assist system is somewhere between BMW's Efficient Dynamics auto-stop/brake regeneration system and Honda's Integrated Motor Assist in terms of the level of hybridization. E-Assist offers a 15 horsepower and 79 ft-lb of torque electrical boost to the gasoline engine where Efficient Dynamics offers none. The Honda IMA system adds 23 horsepower and 78 ft-lb of torque.
So how does it drive? Having driven a 2011 Lacrosse 4-cylinder without e-Assist the very first thing I noticed was the extra torque in the low RPM range. You won't be pulling stumps with your Lacrosse, but the electrical boost at low RPM gives the 4-cylinder a more V6 feel in terms of take off. The gear ratios are also tuned well to get you rolling up to speed swiftly. It is still a 4-cylinder, but in normal city and suburban driving, it will feel like a V6. Speaking of city and suburban driving, according to the computer, I'm averaging 26.6 mpg in that combination.
The transmission will keep the RPM higher when needed and Buick's QuietTuning does its job keeping engine noise out of the cabin. Full throttle acceleration isn't swift, but the tach will swing nearly all the way to 7,000 rpm without protest. Refinement of the 2.4 coupled with the electric motor is excellent, continuing with the nearly V6 feel displayed in city driving.
Those wishing for more power for drag racing would do best to check off the box for the 303 horsepower 3.6 liter V6 and be on their way, but the 2.4 with e-Assist will satisfy 90% of buyers out there who are more concerned with fuel economy than pink slips.
I have yet to test out the long distance highway fuel economy, but as soon as I click save on this post, I am getting in the car to start my 250 mile trip to Detroit where I'll pick up our friend Z-06. Send me your questions in the meantime.