The name eAssist sounds like a good moniker for one of those "I've fallen and I can't get up" emergency pendants that are popular with Buick's loyal repeat-customer base, but it's actually intended to attract heartier buyers concerned about the long-range forecast for fuel prices. The "e" is for the electricity used to help a 2.4-liter engine accelerate a 3850-pound luxury BUICK SEDAN
at a pace folks might be willing to pay $29,500 for.
Think of it as the wildest mild hybrid on the road. Like the mild hybrid system in the 2009 Chevy Malibu, it employs belt/alternator/starter (BAS) technology and a small battery pack to recover and store some of the energy lost when braking or coasting, then give it back when the car accelerates. Unlike that system, which provided a 16-percent fuel economy bump, this one is combined with subtle improvements throughout the vehicle to boost fuel economy by about 28 percent, to an estimated EPA city/highway rating of 25/37 mpg. (That is to say, fuel consumption should drop by 21 percent.) Unlike the Malibu's system, which added about 13 percent to the cost of the similarly equipped conventional LT model, Buick's eAssist will be a no-cost option.
Okay, scratch that. The cost is about 2.6 seconds in 0-60-mph acceleration, because your only other choice of engine in a 2012 BUICK LACROSSE
will be the 280-horse 3.6-liter V-6, and presuming Buick
holds the line on that car's 2011 price, the upcharge will be the cost differential relative to the 2011 BUICK LACROSSE
2.4-liter, about $1370 (5 percent). That's a pretty healthy bump in return-on-investment.
Everything's upgraded big-time. The Hitachi-supplied lithium-ion battery pack operates at 115 volts (the Malibu ran a 36-volt NiMH pack), stores 0.5 kilowatt-hours worth of energy, and is optimized for power delivery. (By contrast, the Volt's Li-ion cells are optimized for energy storage.) The three-phase electric motor provides 110 lb-ft of peak torque like the Malibu's.