Buick LaCrosse eAssist Announced

The primary focus at Buick as of late has been the just-launched Regal sedan, imported over to our shores from Europe.

The uproar made over the disappointing Regal GS model has been unmistakable, but the Regal is just one part of an expansion of the Buick lineup that is yielding impressive product.

Since the next-generation LaCrosse was launched as a 2010 model year product, many have pegged it above its arch-rival the Lexus ES. Regardless, the car has represented a huge step forward in Buick’s goal of becoming an “American Lexus.”

Impressive sales and increased transaction prices have followed for the LaCrosse. An 184-horsepower Ecotec four-cylinder model was introduced as the base model for 2011. Now for 2012, the ante has been upped with the introduction and standardization of GM’s new eAssist system.

The system is the next-generation of GM’s previous BAS (belt alternator starter) mild hybrid system. BAS was first introduced on the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line, and debuted later in the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, both of which have been discontinued.

After the Volt fiasco, GM is careful not to market eAssist as a hybrid, given that it isn’t capable of running on electric-power only.

eAssist adds an electric motor that makes 15 horsepower and 79 (!) pound feet of torque. The system shuts off the engine at a stoplight like a traditional hybrid. Under acceleration from this mode, the electric engine provides initial power while the gasoline engine kicks in.

The system also makes use of a fuel shut-off feature and regenerative braking. Other changes include an active front air-flow dam and a smoother underbody to reduce drag. The results are nothing short of impressive: 25 miles per gallon city and 37 mpg highway.

Those figures are a 25 percent improvement over the standard four-cylinder model for 2011. Making eAssist standard is a bold move and, as a luxury brand, it is exactly where Buick needs to be heading. The base model LaCrosse with eAssist will likely see a price increase to around the $30,000 mark for the 2012 model year.

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