Buick LaCrosse eAssist

Buick has officially announced changes to its 2012 LaCrosse sedan, which will feature the first hybrid drivetrain in Buick's history. Dubbed eAssist, the hybrid technology will come standard on the sedan, priced from $29,960 before an $860 destination charge.

According to Buick, eAssist – which is paired with the sedan's 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine – will help the LaCrosse get 25 percent better gas mileage than the current model, up to an impressive 37 miles per gallon on the highway. That's better than other premium hybrids like the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Lexus HS250h, but it falls just shy of Lexus's smaller CT200h hybrid hatchback, which gets up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

"LaCrosse with eAssist is the smart choice for those who want great fuel economy without sacrificing the driving dynamics and passenger comfort that have made Buick the fastest-growing major automotive brand in the United States," said Tony DiSalle, Buick's US vice president of marketing.

But if your focus is on excitement rather than economy, have no fear: you can still get the 2012 LaCrosse with a V6, which will be available as a no-cost option over the hybrid powerplant. And thanks to a slightly revised internal design, the 2012 LaCrosse's V6 now puts out 303 horsepower, an improvement of 23 horsepower over last year's model. Both engines will be paired to a standard six-speed automatic transmission.

Other changes for 2012 include a host of new standard features including dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a full-color driver information center, Bluetooth and USB connections for MP3 players. The LaCrosse will also be available with Buick's IntelliLink system, which connects smart phones to the sedan's in-dash, 8-inch screen, allowing drivers to listen to Internet radio sources like Pandora and Stitcher.

Expected in dealerships later this summer, the starting price of the 2012 LaCrosse will be nearly $3,000 higher than last year's model. But for the extra money, you get a lot more standard features and your choice of fuel-efficient hybrid or powerful V6.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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