2012 Buick LaCrosse Review

2012 Buick LaCrosse - Buick's 2012 full-size LaCrosse with new eAssist feature gets impressive fuel economy.


The full-size Buicks sedans of the 1950s through the early 1970s were stylish, comfortable and had powerful V-8s. They were well-suited to older drivers who bought most of them and mainly drove them on America's ruler-straight roads.

The 2012 LaCrosse sedan now is the largest Buick, although it's smaller and lighter than those old gas-thirsty Buick land yachts. It comes with front-or all-wheel drive, whereas the old large Buicks had rear-wheel drive.

Prices for the new LaCrosse range from $29.960 to $38,270, with all-wheel-drive models starting at $34,070. Even the base LaCrosse is fairly well equipped with comfort, convenience and safety features.. A long options list contains a $1,195 power sunroof.   

The auto world is changing fast, but it still may surprise older large-model Buick loyalists that the LaCrosse has a rather small four-cylinder engine. It's a 2.4-liter 182-horsepower dual-overhead-camshaft unit with a new "eAssist" feature, which adds an electric motor that lets the gas engine shut down at stoplights.

The eAssist feature optimizes fuel economy using an on-board lithium-ion battery and motor-generator. It provides an electric boost of up to 15 horsepower during certain driving conditions.  The electric motor seamlessly starts the car when your foot leaves the brake pedal.

I tested a 2012 four-cylinder LaCrosse with eAssist and found it provides decent 65-75 m.p.h. times and brisk merges into fast freeway traffic, although it's no fireball.  I could feel the four-cylinder working hard during fast acceleration, but couldn't hear it.

The LaCrosse weighs 3,835 pounds and thus is faster and more comfortable with the available 303-horsepower revised 3.6-liter V-6, which is contained in an option package. The V-6 doesn't come with the eAssist feature..

Thanks to eAssist, the LaCrosse delivers a commendable, estimated 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on highways. Helping fuel economy are front grille "aero shutters"and under-body panels to lessen wind drag.

The V-6 is no gas hog, but delivers appreciably less at an estimated 16 to 17 miles per gallon in the city and 26 to 27 on highways.

Both engines shoot power through a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual-shift feature.

So what's it like to drive the solidly built LaCrosse? As with the Buick Regal sedan, this car feels almost European, with a firm-but-supple ride, precise steering with the right amount of power assist, responsive handling and linear brake pedal action. It's no BMW, but is more fun  to drive than, say, a Lexus ES350.

Open the hood, using its twin hydraulic struts, and it can seen that the engine is set far back for better weight distribution, which helps handling. However, some fluid filler areas are a little hard to reach because they're behind the engine.

The inviting LaCrosse interior has a large front console that eats space. But front seats are supportive, the fairly large controls are nicely placed and there are a good number of  storage areas.The rear-seat area is spacious, but forget about putting three occupants back there because the seat has a hard center  best occupied by a large fold-down armrest that contains two cupholders.

The power rear windows conveniently lower all the way to allow rear occupants to better grab food in drive-through lanes at fast-food outlets. .

The large trunk has a rather high sill that doesn't facilitate loading or unloading luggage. But split rear seatbacks flip forward and fold flat to increase the cargo area.

Buick has changed quite admirably with the times, as shown by the new LaCrosse.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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