GM’s track record has been less than stellar. First we had the Saturn Vue Green Line, a very “mild” hybrid that paled next to competitors like the Ford Escape. Next came the extraordinarily expensive 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs, which cost far too much and delivered far too little. Finally, we have the Volt – ’nuff said. No wonder GM’s latest hybrid endeavor has come to market with little fanfare, no “hybrid” logos on the vehicle and no hybrid branding from GM. Can we honestly call the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a hybrid?
According to a GM press release, the 2012 model-year version of the Buick LaCrosse is dragging a skeleton out of the GM marketing closet: the mild hybrid. But don’t you dare use the “m” word… it’s the eAssist.
Mated to a 2.4L Ecotec direct injection four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission, the eAssist system uses power stored in the battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation. An advanced 115V lithium-ion battery and latest-generation 15-kW motor-generator unit help increase fuel economy through:
- Regenerative braking, which provides up to 15 kW of electricity to charge the battery
- Providing up to 11 kW (15 hp) of electric power assistance during acceleration
- Automatic engine shut-off when the vehicle is stopped
- Aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration down to zero vehicle speed, enabled by the torque smoothing provided by the motor-generator unit
- Intelligent charge/discharge of the high-voltage battery.
But most importantly:
While the eAssist system shares the same basic belt-alternator-starter configuration of previous BAS designs, it delivers more than three times the power and is much more capable than the previous-generation BAS system.
Buick says this will be the standard powertrain option for the LaCrosse starting in 2012, and along with aero and tire tweaks will loft the model’s mileage to (shout it) 37 MPG highway and (whisper it) 25 city. The price: 65 lbs and a $2k-$3k sticker increase to “about $30,000”. The Lacrosse has sold well this year (by recent Buick standards… 52k sales year-to-date), and the LaCrosse’s average transaction price is reportedly sitting at $32k… but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a gamble. The question now: will GM also drop a two-mode hybrid in the LaCrosse as threatened?