Poor Rip Van Winkle, if he were to awake today he would not recognize so many things that have exist today that were not here when he laid down to take his nap.
Things like smartphones, American Idol, children not being spanked – and Buick.
Sure, Buick was a division of General Motors 20 years ago but it looked nothing like it does today. Perhaps no other automotive division has undergone such a radical product transformation as Buick has in the past two decades.
As one of the surviving members in the GM family, Buick dealerships no longer resemble the parking lot at a Bingo Hall. About the only thing familiar these days is the Chevron badge in the center of the front grille and those cool fender ports everybody has knocked off and slapped on their cars.
Recently I tested the new Buick LaCrosse with eAssist fuel-saving technology. Basically, Buick takes a 2012 LaCrosse premium sedan and puts a 15 kW motor-generator together with its Ecotec 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine under the hood for a quiet, comfortable ride that delivers fuel economy once reserved for tiny econoboxes.
By stopping the gasoline engine when the vehicle is not moving Buick is able to tweak 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway from the new LaCrosse. The vehicle operates primarily under power of the gas engine during most situations but the eAssist will kick in under heavier acceleration or when the vehicle comes to a rest.
Power for the eAssist motor comes from the 115-volt lithium-ion battery mounted above the rear transaxle and is recharged during deceleration or braking as in full hybrid vehicles.
The new LaCrosse with eAssist is not a full hybrid vehicle as it never uses the electric component for dedicated propulsion but GM is adding this technology to several of its mid- to fullsize sedans including the 2013 Chevy Malibu.
“Given the uncertainty of today’s fuel prices, the LaCrosse with eAssist is a smart and timely choice for customers who seek excellent fuel economy and want the roominess and features of a full-size luxury sedan,” said Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president, Buick marketing. “The winning combination of advanced technology, no-compromise driving performance and luxurious style and passenger comfort stand to make LaCrosse with eAssist a must-have sedan.”
LaCrosse is listed as a fullsize sedan that seats five adults in comfort and in my week behind the wheel I found it one of the most comfortable and smooth sedans that I have driven lately, regardless of pricing. And while it does offer a great ride and acceptable driver feedback, it may just lull ole Rip back to sleep for another 20 years when it comes to acceleration. Despite the brand’s reincarnation of late there is a reason they are still not racing Buicks in NASCAR anymore.
Pricing for the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist begins at just under 30 grand with our tester arriving at a very nicely equipped $36,880 complete with all of the latest automotive amenities. And as good as the vehicle looks in the daylight, the ambient lighting at night throws off such a glow you will want to drive ‘til dawn (and given the great fuel economy you may finally be able to afford to).