The 2012 Buick LaCrosse sits in the upper third of the affordable large car class, offering a pleasing mix of luxury and comfort that edges into enviable Lexus territory. Performing with capability once unheard of from a Buick, the LaCrosse accelerates with confidence, and has an interesting fuel-economy option in the four-cylinder eAssist mild-hybrid engine paired with an 11-kwh electric motor. (The other powertrain option is a V6.) The car's price tag is on par for a class leader, opening at $29,960 and climbing to $38,270. All in all, the LaCrosse is an interesting car to consider this year.
If you're shopping for a large sedan with integrated hybrid technology and an optional V6, your only other choice is the Lincoln MKZ and MKZ Hybrid, which open at $34,645. With the hybrid, you'll get 41/36 mpg. The LaCrosse eAssist returns 36 highway, but in town, you're just going to manage 25 mpg. If the defining factor is interior luxury, the major competitor is the Lexus ES for $36,725. Truth be told, with new levels of hybrid technology creeping in to more conventional engine mixes, these kinds of comparisons are getting increasingly difficult.
The eAssist engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder described as a mild-hybrid powertrain thanks to the accompanying 11 kwh electric motor. Expect 182 hp out of the mix. The unit is paired to a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. The optional 303 hp 3.6-liter V6 also matches up to a six-speed automatic with FWD, but AWD is available. The V6 fuel economy comes in at just 17 mpg city and 27 highway for FWD and 16/26 for AWD. While no one will confuse the LaCrosse with a Euro sport sedan, the steering is surprisingly precise without compromising on the lush quality of the ride. Brakes are smooth and even, with none of the sponginess that tends to creep in when the word "hybrid" is involved in the car's mechanics.
Nothing on the exterior of the LaCrosse proclaims the car to be a hybrid. The only difference is in the tailpipes. The V6 version has two. Otherwise, you're looking at a masculine sedan with a strong profile and a compelling roof arch that looks good on the dealer lot and just as good on the road. Inside the spacious cabin has won the acclaim of reviewers who are particularly intrigued with the now standard Intellilink system, which provides seamless integration with the driver's smartphone for calling and music streaming via Bluetooth. Granted, the dash is a sea of buttons, but when you learn to navigate the tech, the options are pretty terrific. Although the seats get high marks for comfort, the trunk, at just 13.3 cubic feet is a bit of a disappointment.
Without question, the LaCrosse is safe on the road, earning five-stars in federal testing. Although not yet rated by the insurance industry, the 2011 variant was an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The LaCrosse comes standard with anti-lock brakes, and front, front-side, and side curtain airbags. (Rear-seat bags are an option.) Some reviewers quibbled about visibility issues due to the thick pillars at the four corners, but the optional rear-view camera will alleviate any concerns in this department.
The 2012 Buick LaCrosse is definitely one of the top-three picks for the model year in the large, affordable car class. It looks good, performs beyond reviewer expectations, and has intriguing engine and interior tech options. The cabin is comfortable and finished with high-quality materials and the option for the eAssist engine improves the fuel economy significantly. Although you may not have shopped the Buick dealer lot before, put this car on your list. It's well worth a test drive and you may be surprised how much you like it.