in 2012 Affordable Large Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $19,134 - $21,810
Original MSRP: $30,170 - $38,820
MPG: 25 City / 36 Hwy
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2012 Buick LaCrosse Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

In the past, Buicks were known as cars best-suited for the right lane. Their ride was a throwback to an earlier time, and they lagged well behind the performance of most modern sedans. Now, test drivers say the 2012 LaCrosse is a capable performer. It offers confident acceleration with either of its two available engines. For 2012, LaCrosse buyers can choose better fuel economy with the mild-hybrid eAssist, or a V6 engine that offers more power than the 2011 model.

While the Buick LaCrosse doesn't handle with the sharpness of a sport sedan, reviewers say it handles as well as any family sedan and should easily meet the needs of most drivers.

  • "The hybrid system’s additional torque helps this new LaCrosse get to 60 mph 0.2 seconds sooner than the last car, according to Buick." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The 2012 LaCrosse doesn't feel like a typical ‘green’ car. The eAssist technologies at work manage to exist humbly in the background of the driving experience instead of stealing the limelight." -- AutoWeek 
  • "The 4-cylinder engine is smooth but not at all powerful. It delivers adequate go from a stop, but it quickly runs out of steam. The 3.6-liter V6 is robust, with plenty of reserve power. Regardless of engine, the transmission is silky smooth." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "It's still no sport sedan, but it won't make you fearful of short freeway on-ramps. The auto start/stop feature works pretty well, starting almost imperceptibly except in very quick transitions from brake to throttle." -- Motor Trend 
  • "eAssist. … works surprisingly well to significantly improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency without degrading its driving character, or piling on excessive cost." -- Kelley Blue Book 

Acceleration and Power

For 2012, the Buick LaCrosse sees improved power from V6 models, but the big news is the introduction of Buick’s eAssist engine, a mild-hybrid system which provides better fuel economy than the outgoing 2011 model.

The eAssist models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a small electric motor. Combined, the Lacrosse eAssist’s powertrain delivers 182 horsepower to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Shoppers seeking more power can opt for a 303-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine, which also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is also available on V6 models.

According to the EPA, the LaCrosse eAssist gets 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, while V6 models get 17/27 mpg and 16/26 mpg city/highway with front- and all-wheel drive, respectively. Reviewers like the fuel economy improvements on eAssist models, as well as the V6’s additional 23 horsepower compared with the 2011 model. However, most agree that the four-cylinder offers a nice combination of performance and economy.

  • "The additional horsepower that the engineers have wrung out of the V6 makes this engine even more attractive. More importantly, the new eAssist hybrid powertrain is much better suited to this application than the old four-cylinder, providing decent acceleration, very respectable fuel economy and highly refined operation." -- Edmunds
  • "Like everything else in the LaCrosse, the direct-injection four-cylinder is impressively smooth, quiet, and refined. The transmission is programmed to rev the snot out of it in normal driving, giving the impression that this Buick isn’t arguing with your right foot - and the end result is that a four-cylinder winds up being quite sufficient in a 3800-lb car." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "You barely notice the engine shutting down during stops (the tachometer needle drops to an "auto stop" position), and it restarts without the shudder typical of some hybrids when the light turns green." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "Shift behavior is quite good with the 4-cylinder, but with the V6, it's sometimes hesitant to downshift when more power is needed." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The LaCrosse is far from a muscle car, but giving it a blast of acceleration from a stop manages to chirp the front tires. While taking off from lights, passing other cars, or going for a quick lane change in traffic, the car responded promptly. The electric boost from the hybrid system works with the four-cylinder engine to deliver adequate acceleration for most needs." -- CNET 

Handling and Braking

Buicks have a reputation as ponderous, floaty cars, but the 2012 LaCrosse goes a long way toward erasing that image. Most reviewers say that the LaCrosse isn’t quite a European sport sedan, but they also note that many import buyers who aren't looking for sporty performance would be comfortable with the LaCrosse.

Still, those looking for a sedan that handles well in tight corners might want to look toward true sport sedans like the Cadillac CTS, or upscale trim levels of sporty family cars, like the Mazda6 Grand Touring edition.

While all-wheel drive is available for 2012, most test drivers have gotten behind the wheel of front-wheel drive eAssist models. The mild-hybrid LaCrosse uses regenerative brakes which are often panned in hybrid cars because they feel unnatural compared with traditional brake systems. However, the LaCrosse’s brakes earn high marks for their predictable, natural feel.

  • "Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the 2012 Buick LaCrosse is the driving experience. The steering feels precise, and handling is significantly better than you'd expect without sacrificing the plush ride quality one expects of a luxury sedan." -- Edmunds
  • "The Buick LaCrosse eAssist doesn’t use a typical hybrid blended brake master cylinder, so its brakes feel no different than any other nonhybrid vehicle. This is a very good thing. Like last year’s four-cylinder model, it uses electric power steering, which isn’t nearly as natural feeling as the hydraulic steering in the V-6 model, but does completely eliminate torque steer." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "There’s a hint of nonlinearity in the first bit of brake-pedal travel as the vehicle slows without the expected pressure buildup in the pedal. Once you get past that brief oddity, braking feels normal as the regen tapers off, giving way to mechanical operation." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Not what you would call sporty, but LaCrosse handles well, with assuring competence. Even in standard form, the car is more nimble than you would expect given its size." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "No changes were made to the hydraulic braking system, but the small bit of free travel at the top of the pedal summons regen." -- Motor Trend 
  • "The brakes didn't feel like the regenerative braking in normal hybrids; they were more natural, and the linearity was good. Frankly, we're leery of the light-electrification movement partly because it compromises the braking feel in some of BMW's ‘Efficient Dynamics’ cars." -- Cars.com 

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