Monday, November 15, 2010

Love Buick's fuel efficiency, Columbia? Get ready to love it even more!

Buick LaCrosse, coming soon with eAssist
technology to Columbia, SC
Even with gas still below $3 a gallon (knock on wood), fuel efficiency remains a concern for a lot of drivers in Columbia, South Carolina.  Buick's fuel economy has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years with new models like the Buick Enclave crossover and the new Buick Regal.  Perhaps the best example of the improvements, though, has been in the Buick LaCrosse.

The final model year of the LaCrosse's first generation offered a V6 engine rated for 28 highway MPG, or a 5.3L V8 rated for 24.  For 2011, LaCrosse offers a 4-cylinder engine rated for 30 highway MPG.  Now, for the 2012 model year, Buick is introducing the eAssist system to the four-cylinder Buick LaCrosse as standard equipment with an estimated 37 MPG!

Don't call it a hybrid--you won't be driving on the electric motor alone--but the eAssist system uses an electric motor coupled to the four-cylinder engine on the LaCrosse in lieu of a traditional alternator.  A 115V battery pack in the rear of the car provides the motor with up to 15 horsepower (or 11 kilowatts) of electric assistance during heavy acceleration.  This is a huge leap over the 2 kilowatts of the last-generation system found on models such as the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevy Malibu Hybrid.  The eAssist system also provides up to 15 kilowatts of regenerative braking power, capturing energy for later use that would otherwise be lost to heat and friction.  The system also allows the 2.4L Ecotec engine to shut down fuel delivery in certain situations, allowing the motor to spin the engine to a stop at just the right position to restart smoothly.  Unlike many hybrid sedans available in Columbia, the LaCrosse will retain its split-folding rear seat; cargo space will be reduced slightly to make room for the battery.

LaCrosse with eAssist will also include improved underbody aerodynamics and actively-controlled shutters on the lower grille.  When cooling is not needed for the engine, such as while cruising down the highway, the shutters will close to force air around the body of the car to reduce drag.  In cases where more airflow is needed, such as in the city or while going up a steep grade, the shutters will open to provide better cooling for the engine.

All of this, save for an ECO gauge on the instrument panel, is invisible and effortless to the driver as you'd expect from a Buick in Columbia.  Although pricing has not been announced for the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Buick expects the sedan to come in "about $30,000".

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