First, the nitty gritty on the not-hybrid Buick LaCrosse eAssist. As the LaCrosse accelerates, a 15-kilowatt electric motor kicks in, providing 15 horsepower and 79 ft-lbs of torque to get the car going. When slowing down or coming to a stop, the electric motor kicks in again, shutting off the fuel supply and applying regenerative braking to the 115 volt lithium-ion battery pack. At cruising speed, a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower and 172 ft-lbs of torque takes over.
This boosts fuel economy by 25% over a non-eAssist LaCrosse, delivering 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Underbody panels, an automatic front grille air shutter, and six-speed automatic transmission contribute to the improved fuel mileage. A 2011 Buick LaCrosse equipped with the same 2.4 liter engine gets just 19 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Starting with the 2012 model (which comes out next year), GM will offer the eAssist as standard equipment on all 2.4 liter-equipped LaCrosses, and prices should be at or under the $30,000 mark.
For whatever reason, GM seems to want to segregate itself from standard terminology regarding electric vehicles and hybrids, and come up with their own nomenclature. For example the Volt is an “extended-range electric car”, and this new Buick LaCrosse uses an “eAssist” system, rather than just calling it a hybrid (which it obviously is). It doesn’t really bother me, though I wonder if not calling it a hybrid might actually lose them sales.
Buick is starting to really shape up though. Once neglected and almost assuredly marked for death, GM has salvaged the brand, first with the sharp-looking 2011 Buick Regal, and now offering a hybrid system as a standard feature for the LaCrosse. They also announced a Buick Regal GS, a faster version of the regular Regal with a nice horsepower bump. I’m sure eAssist will start showing up in other GM cars, and while the mileage isn’t exactly Earth-shattering, making it standard equipment and keeping the price down will go a long way towards moving these cars off the showroom floor.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.