While there are plenty of hybrid SUVs and family cars on the market, in the world of luxury hybrid sedans, options are limited. In the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Hybrid Mashup Review, I set out to answer one question: How much hybrid do you really need?
The 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist is the best looking vehicle to come out of GM in decades. To compete with the fluid Lexus ES and edgy Acura TL, the LaCrosse had to be a looker, and GM nailed it. My tester was equipped with standard 17-inch wheels, bi-xenon projector headlamps and crystal red paint, the latter doing good service to the car’s flowing lines.
The 2013 Lexus GS450h is a bit of a styling conundrum. It eschews the less expensive GS350 F-Sport model’s athletic accoutrements for more subtle curves and airflow-friendly dynamics. Really, the obsidian black paint isn’t the best color for this car, as it hides much of the profile’s subtle contouring. What I’m left with, then, is a bulbous and disproportionate attempt at an athletic luxury car. 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Point: Buick.
Inside, both cars express luxury in very different ways, with the LaCrosse offering ice blue mood lighting amidst soft-touch plastics. The Lexus, on the other hand, features richly grained leather, impeccable fit and finish and enough bamboo trim to anger a family of pandas. Is the Lexus’ interior worth the extra dough? Yes- I could live in here and be entirely content. 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Point: Lexus.
Under the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist’s hood resides a 2.4-L Ecotec direct-injection four-cylinder engine and Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic transmission. Less visible is a liquid-cooled motor/generator unit and lithium-ion battery system which provide additional propulsion to the front wheels. It’s not a remarkable boost in power, but the surge can be felt when driving around town.
Unfortunately, the mild hybrid duo fails to motivate the 3,835-lb LaCrosse with gusto and the transmission is forced to hunt through gears like a tired mountain biker.
The 2013 Lexus GS450h’s new powertrain offers remarkable refinement and flawless power delivery. The 2GR-FXE V-6 touts efficiency by way of the Atkinson Cycle and Toyota’s new D-4S port- and direct-fuel-injection system. D-4S uses slit-type injector nozzles with a modified port shape, higher fuel pressure, and idle port injection for efficient combustion and improved NVH.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a CVT transmission, and is assisted by a pair of water-cooled 650V DC electric motors. It all amounts to brisk, natural-feeling performance and efficiency at any speed. 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Point: Lexus.
Both the Buick and the Lexus offer a supple, well-controlled ride without compromises. While the LaCrosse eAssist’s twin-tube front dampers and four-link rear suspension do without electronic assist, the GS450h uses a sophisticated fully-independent Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system with driver-selectable damping.
The Buick was surprisingly good at carving corners while the Lexus was expectedly nimble and balanced. The Buick, however, does nearly as good a job with far less complexity. 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Point: Buick.
Fuel consumption is where we found the LaCrosse eAssist to break its stride. Both cars were subjected to a ~80% highway driving mix, a mild hybrid’s forte. While the GS450h returned a solid 32 MPG average, the LaCrosse couldn’t surmount more than a miserable 21.8 MPG.
Granted, the LaCrosse accepts regular unleaded fuel while the GS sips premium, but still, 21.8 MPG for any four-cylinder vehicle is awful. 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist vs. 2013 Lexus GS450h Point: Lexus.
In this realm, it really depends on what you’re looking for. At $36,175 as-tested, The 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist provides excellent value in theory, but the extra cost and weight of the mild hybrid system are just not worth it. The 2013 Lexus GS450h’s value is also questionable, as my tester commanded $69,754 – an eye-popping $12,050 premium over the $46,900 gasoline-powered GS350.
Still, the Lexus is king of the luxury hybrid market, and I see no reason not to get one if your finances allow. It’s a nearly perfect execution of performance, comfort and economy that will surely appease the well-heeled environmentalist. Despite its high sticker price, the Lexus reigns supreme.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
-Rent it or
I give the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a FORGET IT!
Harsh, yes, but since you typically can’t rent the eAssist version and the hybrid fuel economy proposition is completely moot, I’d recommend going with the less expensive, more economical and more engaging Buick Verano Turbo.
I give the 2013 Lexus GS450h a BUY IT!
Even though I typically recommend leasing most technology-laden luxury cars, this one has proven to be an exception. Blessed with typically strong resale values and excellent reliability, any Toyota or Lexus hybrid vehicle should prove to be a solid long-term partner.
Daniel Buxbaum has had a life-long passion for all things automotive. His background as a Porsche, Audi and BMW service advisor brings a more technical approach to his writing. Dan’s passion for automotive journalism secured him a position as regional manager and contributing writer for Parts & People, a multi-region automotive trade publication. Dan is also an active member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and Motor Press Guild (MPG).