CLINTON — If you are in the market for a refreshing high end sedan that delivers a smooth and comfortable ride with good fuel economy and looks, the 2012 Buick Lacrosse will not disappoint.
New for this year is an e-Assist electric motor, a junior hybrid of sorts that regenerates with braking and adds fuel economy to an already miserly 4-cylinder engine. Together they deliver 182 ponies to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
The e-Assist motor is hung onto the front of the engine in place of the alternator. Its lithium battery pack is stowed in the front of the trunk. While out of the way it reduces cargo space there to around 10 cubic feet.
Fuel economy is delightful with mid-20 to mid-30 miles per gallon estimates for city and highway travel according to EPA testing, with 29 miles per gallon in combined driving.
To further improve aerodynamics in the Lacrosse, front grille shutters are automatically controlled.
Another impressive feature Buick engineers built in is an auto stop/start engine control. It works by shutting off the engine while braking to a stop and, just as seamlessly, restarts when the brake pedal is released. Nice touch.
You can also opt to watch all of this eco action in near real time through a dash mounted screen that visualizes power usage in a graphic display for the driver.
Of course there is a price to pay for all of this economy in the form of relaxed acceleration although what is under the hood is ample for many driving situations. The sprint to 60 miles per hour was clocked at 10.5 seconds during repeated tests, more than a full second slower than other testing agencies have reported on the same car. Don’t know why.
A look around inside the cabin reveals an elegant interior lined with gauges, knobs and buttons placed within easy reach, all of which you’d expect from a luxury sedan starting in the low $30s. Gauges are further set off with blue accent lighting and optional leather seating space is generous and comfortable all around.
The same roof pillars that improve safety ratings on the Lacrosse unfortunately also contribute to poor visibility to the rear making an available backup camera and optional blind zone sensors more of a necessity. While the wraparound dashboard is impressive, I found it also contributes to knee bashing while entering and exiting the car.
If you want more off-the-line oomph in your Buick sedan, order an available 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers more than 300 horsepower to its front wheels in a commanding fashion. While fuel usage will not be as miserly, the powerful engine will move you into freeway conditions or through passing maneuvers with ease.
The Lacrosse competes in the luxury sedan market with a number of cars including the Infiniti G, Lexus ES350, Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Genesis and Acura TL.
Len Ingrassia is an auto columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at email@example.com.