Buick is back, judging from the concept car I’ve been gazing at all day.
I’m at the Chicago Auto Show, chatting with Chip Thole, the manager of exterior design, and Aaron Stich, the interior creative designer, both at Buick.
The brand new Avista concept looks like a futuristic Jaguar XJ, which is a compliment indeed for the iconic GM-owned brand about their design skills. I could see Jaguar designers just up the carpeted hallway sneaking over to take notes.
Buick has started changing perceptions about what it means to own a Buick. People will not make fun of you. The uptick started with the 2014 Regal GS with its manual transmission and sleek lines. That 259-horsepower sedan has some oomph. I imagine the Avista, if it ever debuts as a production car, might have around 400 or 500 horsepower or more. The concept car specs say it has a 3.0-liter V6 twin turbo with an 8-speed transmission and rear-wheel drive.
First, that design aesthetic.
Buick used 3D-printing tech for several of the interior and exterior parts, hinting at a possible future when cars are even more customizeable. The exciting trend here is that designers at major automakers now have tools to help them experiment right at their desk and without the layers of complexity (e.g., prototyping the old way).
Inside, there’s a display that looks better than anything I’ve seen in current European models. Buick debuted the Avista at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit a few weeks ago. A concept is a way for automakers to spill the beans. This is what they are thinking about, writ large in physical form. When you sit inside, you get a cocoon of iPhone heaven, like the screen is surrounding you. There’s a screen above the steering wheel and in the dash that angles down between the seats for easy reach. Both Stich and Thole said it’s possible a car like this would have haptic vibrations for many of the dials and no physical knobs at all.
Another interesting update has to do with the materials.
The car has titanium and carbon-fiber accents, especially in the front grill. Those materials help with overall weight and durability. They also tend to jump out at you (it explains why the front grill seems to sparkle).
I was already excited about the Buick Avenir from last year -- it was a highlight of the auto show circuit for me. The Avista has sleeker lines from front to back and a stance that says you will be leaving other luxury sedans in the dust. Including that Jaguar XJ.
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