This big Buick has EPA ratings of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
By T. Q. Jones
In some ways the rising sales of American cars contain some hidden surprises. For instance, how many domestic car buyers would have been willing to pay the equivalent of nearly forty grand for a Buick of any kind ten or 15 years ago? Yet a group of car aficionados looked at the interior of this 2012 LaCrosse and thought it looked and felt like quality.
We pointed out some years ago that part of the problem with the domestics was the simple fact that making better cars wouldn’t save the U. S. industry because it would take another generation before the American buyers believed the cars were better. At the time, people were still saying a car with 50,000 miles on it needed to be traded in “because it’s just about worn out.”
That wasn’t true then and it’s even less true now, though some people believe it’s still true and others are more than willing to use that belief as a bargaining chip. What has really surprised us is how fast domestic buyers have made the leap to believing American cars are as good as any produced anywhere else.
How did that happen? We think the recession had a lot to do with it. General Motors came out with some really quality products beginning with the 2007 and 2008 model years, and replaced its various models with newer and better versions at the rate of one or two per year. Ford and Chrysler were doing the same thing, and with a little help from the government in some cases managed to hold on until Americans were willing to trust the domestic industry far enough to buy these new and better cars.
The fact that everyone had less money to spend on new cars due to the recession helped lead the buyers to cars they might have waited to take a chance on if they had the money to buy or lease their first choice, which was probably something from across either pond.
Five or ten years ago, a car like the 2012 Buick LaCrosse hybrid probably wasn’t even on the drawing board at GM, as their lead time is somewhere around two to three years these days. Which means, of course, the marketers and engineers have to try to decide now what you are going to want to buy in 2015. Hit it right, and they’re heroes, guess wrong, and everyone thinks they’re idiots.
What’s on offer here is a large domestic car with just about everything on it. It probably has everything you want and certainly has everything you need, all the safety stuff and the majority of the entertainment stuff and at least 95 percent of the wanted luxury stuff. That last includes such things as leather trim and lumbar support as well as a head-up display and rear view camera. List price: $36,685.
We said it was a large car, and it is. But, thanks to the use of a four-cylinder 2.4-Liter engine with an assist from the electric motor of the “E-Assist” system plus a few hybrid tricks such as automatically shutting off the engine while you are waiting for the light to change, this big Buick has EPA ratings of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
As it happened, we were able to make three distinctively different mileage runs in the LaCrosse, a basically all-city run but with virtually no rush hour driving, a run that was a mix of heavy highway driving with some city driving and one clean run to Bastrop and back at 65 mph or so.
The results were a 25.0 mpg average in the city run, 33.8 mpg on the heavily highway run, and 36.6 on the run to Bastrop and back. Dang, we’ve been saying new cars should be bought with an eye to getting something around 20 mpg in town and 30 mpg on the highway, and GM drops the LaCrosse one on us with averages five miles per gallon higher in both city and highway driving.
The larger cars, medium size and up, are now getting fuel economy in the 30-mpg range in town and 35 mpg or more on the highway, generally on 87 octane fuel while some of the smaller cars will hit 40 mpg in anything but city traffic.
We’ve driven a few cars this year we really like. Chevrolet’s Sonic, this Buick LaCrosse, and two from Mazda, the Mazda 3 and the new Mazda 2 come to mind. All of them should be on your shopping list, along with a few others we’ll be telling you about in the next few weeks.