By on February 8, 2011

GM is leveraging the strong growth of its Buick brand to bring back a technology that might otherwise have ended up on GM’s discard pile: the mild hybrid, or as it’s now called “e-assist.” The updated version of the old BAS mild hybrid first debuted as the base engine option on the 2012 Buick LaCrosse, and now GM has included the stop-start system as an optional drivetrain for the Buick Regal. Here’s the weird part though: in the larger, heavier LaCrosse, the system provides 25/37 MPG, while in the more-efficient Regal it returns a mere 26/37. Given that the two vehicles could already be better differentiated, the fact that Buick’s engineers weren’t able to squeeze more efficiency from the Regal e-assist is a bit disappointing. Still, GM’s strategy of addressing its hybrid shortcomings by attaching its hybrid hopes to its fastest-growing brand seems like a solid one. Who would have seen Buick as The General’s hybrid standard bearer just a few short years ago?

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16 Comments on “Buick: Born To Be Mild...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    Oddly enough, vehicle size and weight seem not to be very well correlated with fuel economy these days. Look up some examples on fueleconomy.gov and you will see it for yourself. Equip a Camry with the 2.5l engine and automatic transmission – 22/32. Equip the smaller, lighter Corolla with a 2.4l engine and automatic transmission and you get …. 22/30. The Camry wins largely thanks to a six speed autobox compared to the Corolla’s five speed.
    Similarly, Accord vs. Civic shows 23/34 vs. 25/36. The Civic’s engine is a much smaller 1.8 l compared to the Accord’s 2.4 l, which is probably where the two mpg comes from.
    Enthusiasts like to obsess about size and weight, but those are clearly not the only significant factors affecting fuel economy.
    Regenerative braking makes weight even less of a factor in fuel economy, so it isn’t surprising that putting the same powertrain in both the Regal and the LaCrosse yields very similar fuel economy numbers.
     

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      “vehicle size and weight seem not to be very well correlated with fuel economy these days”

      The more cynical person might think the various revisions to the EPA formulas over the years were designed to produce this result.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s also worth looking at different metrics.  Consumer Reports’ results often show better versus EPA in smaller, lighter vehicles (the Corolla equipped with the 1.8L, for example), and far worse city mileage in larger vehicles.
       
      Anecdotally, my observations come much closer to CR’s results than the EPAs, but I do a lot of urban driving.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I like how they’ve learned their lesson about slapping HYBRID labels on things that are barely hybrids. eAssist is far better, and if they can deliver 37 mpg in a Lacrosse (something they needed an XFE model for the Cobalt), then Kudos to them.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Thing is, those “Hybrid” H2’s and other SUV probably saved more fuel over their non-Hybrid versions than the Priuses did over their sedan equivalents.

    • 0 avatar
      Emro

      SVX, there was no hybrid H2… and their current hybrid SUVs are the real deal, philadlj is talking about the now defunct Malibu Hybrid/Aura Hybrid/VUE Hybrid… these all had the BAS system.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      No? The H2 is Tahoe/Suburban-based so it should be able to fit the GM SUV Hybrid tech. Nevertheless, the GM Hybrid SUVs are good tech.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Who would have seen Buick as The General’s hybrid standard bearer just a few short years ago?”

    Remember that attempt to rebadge the 2-mode Saturn Vue as a Buick? Buick is going to get more of this sort of stuff, now that it’s GM’s ‘dog’s-breakfast’ division. Whatever doesn’t work for Chevy (cheap Koreanish transit pods), GMC (no actual cars just yet), or Cadillac (bimmers that chug PBR) is going to end up wearing a trishield.

  • avatar
    GMis4GoodManners

    I only see this as a good thing.  The (for lack of a better word) First Gen mild hybrids didn’t offer enough fuel savings to be worth the even modest price increase.  Second Gen uses a bigger battery and more powerful motor and the fuel savings (so far not approved by the EPA) are quite substantial.  We don’t know what the additional cost of e-assist will be, but (logically) it should be between First Gen mild and the 2-mode hybrid systems.

    But then, I’m rather disappointed in the MPG’s of the 2.4 L Regal CXL to start.

    To address the “dog’s-breakfast division” label – IF (keyword: IF) Buick wants to position itself against Lexus (and that certainly seems to be where their marketing is going), they NEED hybrid technology (Lexus currently offers quite a few hybrids), even IF (Keyword: IF) they are only mild ones.

    Finally, let’s address Buick’s market dynamics: Although it’s going down, Buick remains one of the ….er…”older” brands out there, and that crowd wants technology ONLY if (1) it makes sense (do we really need a car that parks itself vs. it gets better fuel economy) and (2) is so seamless you don’t know it’s there (I wonder how many Lacrosses actually get sold with “heads up display”?).  I would say that e-assist does both, and is something “that crowd” can say “and it’s got …..” even though they have no clue what it does.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Exactly so. Buick’s market wants a larger, more comfortable car, but they also want good mileage. The eAssist system gives them the mileage of a much smaller car. It’s magic, but it’s good.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So I can come close to a CR-Z in hwy fuel economy with a Buick with “barely a hybrid” technology?  Honda engineers must be beating their heads against the wall.  (CR-Z auto 35/39, 6 speed stick 31/37.)  And the Prius gets 51/48.
     
    What interesting automotive choices we have.

    • 0 avatar
      GMis4GoodManners

      I have to agree with you assessment of the CR-Z – what a huge disappointment!  Heck, the new Elantra gets better mileage than the CR-Z, has more horsepower, and a back seat!

  • avatar
    Highway27

    Could the reported numbers also be showing very little difference due to the lack of Stop/Start effectiveness in the EPA testing regime?  Wasn’t it Mazda that said they weren’t bringing the technology to the US specifically because it made no difference on the test they had to report, even though it does return somewhat higher real world fuel economy?
     

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    See, this is why I started reading this site again. It’s wonderful to see level-headed reporting on something happening in a domestic automaker without piles of pointless cynicism and vitriol. Well done, TTAC.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmm… with a light foot I can make a full-sized sedan get close to 40 mpg.
    It sounds very attractive for the road warriors. My only concern would be the longevity of the battery.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I am mildly amused by Buick of late. I can remember when Buick began seeling Opels here in the late 50s. At one point they were referred to as Opels “By Buick.”  Then briefly in the 70s it was Opel By Isuzu. And now it’s Buicks by Opel. More than a bit ironic, no?

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