2012 Buick LaCrosse Review

When I first started reviewing cars five years ago, I can assure you, I never thought I would find myself eagerly waiting to get behind the wheel of a Buick.

But that started to change when the redesigned LaCrosse arrived. And then came the midsize Regal, which combines sportiness and comfort. Put any badge you want on it, and it's simply a nice machine.

Then, when General Motors Co. rolled out the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year, I couldn't wait. This isn't just a car, it's a movement. With so many pending regulations on fuel economy and whatnot coming down the road, the LaCrosse resembles what most future vehicles are going to look like.

The future is now — or at least this summer when the LaCrosse arrives at dealerships.

The idea is absolutely brilliant: Take all of the technology that makes cars more efficient and put them all together in the most reasonable way. Use things like electric power steering, engine start/stop, aggressive fuel shut-off, improved aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, and a small electric motor that boosts the car when it needs a little help to stretch a gallon of gas farther than anyone could have imagined.

About five years ago, GM had introduced a "mild hybrid" system on a few vehicles. The execution was miserable and the vehicles felt like they were built only so GM could tout a few vehicles with a hybrid badge. Green refrigerator magnets that said "Hybrid" would have been better.

To this day, GM still does not have a traditional two-mode gas-electric hybrid sedan. But eAssist makes me wonder if it needs one.

It is the exact opposite of those earlier mild hybrid. It works, makes the car extremely quiet and never uses the word "hybrid." The badge is not as important as the 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which Buick estimates the LaCrosse will hit when EPA testing is done. The official numbers will be released in the coming weeks.

For comparison sake, other large sedans don't even come close to the LaCrosse's mileage. If people pull them up in comparison charts like the handy dandy one on Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com), they will think the 2012 LaCrosse numbers are a typo. The subcompact Honda Fit gets 35 mpg highway. The midsize 2011 Toyota Camry hits 32 mpg highway. Even the previous four-cylinder LaCrosse got only 31 mpg highway.

Furthermore, the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist is not some limited-edition super-fuel-economy model that only a few people will see or drive. It's the base model flagship for a premium brand. It has all of the trappings you'd expect in a car of this class and caliber. All of the gizmos and gadgets are there. It has those big comfortable seats and more leg room in the front and back than a theater seat. It's comfortable and complete. There are even a few eco-friendly gauges to help the driver take a little lead out of his foot and leave a little more gold in his pocket. It's an alchemist's dream.

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