Time is Right for Four-Cylinder Engine in Premium Buick

September 25, 2010/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS FREEWHEELING BY KATE McLEOD

When Buick announced it would eliminate its eight-cylinder engine and offer two engines, six- and four-cylinders, I knew the company was doing the right thing. It was going to be able to attract new premium buyers who are concerned about fuel economy.
Loyal Buick owners who cling to their eight-cylinder ride have to let go. For 2011, General Motors has given its Buick a 2.4-liter Direct Injection four-cylinder engine to market in a midsize sedan, the LaCrosse. Buick’s competitors currently offer only six-cylinder engines. Buick’s own 3.6-liter V-6 engine horsepower and torque compares admirably to its competition like the Acura TL, the BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ, the Lexus ES350 and the Hyundai Genesis.
A walk around the LaCrosse produces appreciation for its sleek yet powerful stance. It’s hard not to replicate the glowing language of a press release. This car is both handsome and elegant on the outside. Stepping into the base model LaCrosse continues the feeling of a sharp, modern, ambient lit, comfortable interior — classy and inviting especially at this price range at $26,000 to $33,000. That is $4,000 to $5,000 less than the competitors.
Maybe the decision to put the four-cylinder engine in the Buick, which replaces a 3.0-liter V-6, was helped along the government wanting automakers to achieve a Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 35.5 mpg by 2016.
The 2011 four-cylinder LaCrosse produces 182 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque.

Buick LaCrosse

At 4,026 pounds, Buick weighs more than any of the competitive vehicles, in some cases 400 pounds more. In most driving conditions the four-cylinder is quite adequate. Pushing this four-thousand pound vehicle up a steep hill was challenging and the strained-engine sound felt wrong in this luxury intender. Only about 25 percent of total LaCrosse sedans are expected to be sold with the four-cylinder engine.
The smaller engine does produce the best fuel economy among the five vehicles mentioned — with EPA ratings of 19 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway. The Lexus ES350, with a six-cylinder, comes close at 19/27 mpg, but it requires premium gas.
The popularity of four-cylinder engines is growing. In model-year 2000, 46.6 percent of North American production cars had four-cylinder engines. In model-year 2008, that percentage rose to 57 percent.
The government is bent on saving the environment. The auto industry is doing its part. In the near future, even with the internal combustion engine, we will reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles by raising fuel economy even more. Putting a four-cylinder in the LaCrosse is part of that effort. — Kate McLeod, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010

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