The Shape of Things to Come – Buick Concepts
What the hell happened to Buick? Back in the day – and I’m talking waaay back in the day – Buick sat up there with Cadillac as a highly desired luxury car. Long, sleek, elegant lines. High-end styling. Superior ride. Then somewhere along the way it devolved into the go-to car for your grandfather to take grandma to bingo.
Gramps’ canary yellow Skylark may have been a huge hit at the retirement community, but Buick hasn’t been getting guys’ engines revving for decades. Telling your buddies, “I’m thinking of buying a Buick” doesn’t evoke jealousy, it gets the same reaction as telling them, “I’m thinking of ordering a Cosmo. They’re delicious.”
So when GM invited me to attend a Buick lunch last month, right before the New York Auto Show, I declined. I figured spending a few hours hearing all about the latest Lucerne (tag line: “For People Who’d Rather Not Draw Attention to Themselves”), wasn’t worth the free piece of grilled chicken. But I got hungry, so I went anyway.
Turns out the people at Buick might be just as bored with the cars, and as distressed the nameplate has lost it’s luxury luster, as the rest of us. Because it looks like they are finally doing something about it.
Here are two of Buick’s latest concepts, the re-imagined Riviera (top), and the drop-top Velite. Both of which are designed to showcase Buick’s new global design direction, shake off the “old fuddy-duddy” feel and inject some much needed excitement back into the brand.
Each of the new concepts exhibits the classic Buick design cues: the waterfall grill, three porthole vents on each side, and a boat-tail back end, but adds a whole new level of styling around them.
The front-wheel drive Riviera (which I was told has a good chance of going into production fairly close to the concept version), was unveiled at China’s Auto Shanghai last year. It brings back the long, sweeping lines of the original Buicks, but with a more modern, almost futuristic feel. The designers told me the look they were going for was the energy and expressiveness of a crouching animal, adding interior and exterior lights to create drama and theater. Designers tend to talk like that, but standing in front of the car, I got what they were saying.
This is definitely not the Riviera your piano teacher drove. Even with the expectation that the gull-wing doors and much of the high-tech interior won’t make it to the production version, this Riviera will actually turn heads. A lot of them.
The Velite, a four-seat convertible first shown four years ago, is described as an example of “restrained extravagance”. Named for an elite class of quick-moving soldiers in Napoleon’s army, the Velite is another example of where Buick wants to go design-wise. Long and sleek, it combines a feeling of elegance with a sportiness rarely seen in a Buick. The interior, with it’s leather trimmed everything, and wood inlays, is a far cry from the econo interiors we’re used to seeing on their cars. And the ability to hit the beach with one girl beside you, and two more behind? Big plus.
So, Buick, whaddaya say you stop paying Tiger to convince us that driving a LaCrosse really isn’t that embarrassing, and let us park one of these babies in the driveway?