While at the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Labour Day weekend last year, I was walking with a small group of GM Canada officials when we approached a Buick Regal Grand National. The conversation came to an abrupt halt, when one executive type said, “that was the best car we have ever built”. My broken filter did not prevent me from saying “Really?” Fortunately, another, somewhat less senior manager stepped in and said “yeah, it certainly was cool, but the best ever? It really wasn’t a very good car.”
When a car is really cool, people tend to forget about little things like cheap plastic, broken switches and unreliable everything. Sure, the Grand National was wickedly fast for the time, but the parts bin interior was nothing short of horrid.
In the days leading up to the North American International Auto show, rumours began circulating that Buick was going to drop a successor to the Grand National on the evening before the show. What they did unveil was a sleek coupe concept called the Avista. While not quite a GN successor in name, the Avista could possibly be the shot in the arm that Buick needs to escape its reputation as a brand best suited for geriatrics.
Quite possibly one of the most visually seductive concepts in decades, the Avista is so hot that even the competition approves.
Built on the same platform as the new Camaro, the Avista keeps Buick’s V6 turbo legacy alive, in this case with a twin turbo V6 that sends power to the rear wheels.
In a neat twist, the Avista very nearly did not become a reality. It was penned by a couple of young designers who believed so strongly in their vision that they worked outside of the official GM design process to create a strong case, a case that blew the bosses away. Nick Jaynes at Mashable goes into more detail about the story, which could well end up having long lasting effects on General Motors’ process.
Montreal based auto journalist Benjamin Hunting spoke with the design team at Detroit.
General Motors press release
DETROIT (Sunday, January 10, 2016) – Ahead of its public debut at the North American International Auto Show, Buick today revealed the Avista concept – a 2+2 coupe that pushes the brand’s contemporary design ethos and rekindles its historic performance roots.
A sleek, sweeping proportion is the foundation for this vision of a contemporary grand tourer, with a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6 driving the rear wheels and a driver-focused cockpit offering a comfortable, connected center of control.
“The Avista embodies the dynamic soul of Buick,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick Sales, Service and Marketing. “It is a modern expression of the brand’s heritage of sophisticated performance, communicated with beautiful elegance.”
The Avista’s uninterrupted body lines stretch front to rear, suggesting motion – resembling Buick’s design language introduced on the Avenir concept and carried into production on the 2017 LaCrosse. The absence of conventional B-pillars between the doors and rear side windows enhances the flowing profile.
“There is elegant simplicity in the Avista’s surfaces, which speak to the purity of the car’s performance, and a timeless beauty that’s a hallmark of Buick design,” said Bryan Nesbitt, executive director Global Buick Design. “It was designed to capture the spirit of the perfect drive.”
Marking the front and rear, Buick evolves its signature wing-shaped lighting with “soft curtain” elements that create illuminated “halos” around lamps’ edges, suggesting a three-dimensional shape and sculpture. Their design forecasts the evolution of Buick’s production lighting features, while the Avista’s grille features the brand’s new winged tri-shield insignia set against a three-dimensional mesh background.
Additional exterior features include:
A 2,811 millimetre (110.7-inch) wheelbase and 1,601 millimetre (63-inch) front/1,598 mm (62.9-inch) rear tracks for sporty proportions and an aggressive stance
Twenty-inch aluminum wheels with colour-toned accents match the car’s Dark Sapphire Jewel exterior
Front fender vents with chrome accents evolve Buick’s signature fender ports.
Performance-oriented, modern cockpit
Like the exterior, the Avista’s 2+2 interior is defined by flowing, uninterrupted lines conveying elegance through simplicity – with intense technical and surfaces details, in everything from 3D-printed door and seat trim to a future vision of Buick’s IntelliLink, with touchscreen controls on a widescreen instrument panel display.
The centre console also incorporates touchscreen controls and extends to the rear seating area. Open side storage compartments built into the front of the console are enabled by the new Electronic Precision Shift, similar to the 2017 LaCrosse.
A Superior Blue foundation colour echoes the exterior and is complemented with Mist Gray leather seating inserts, console trim and door trim. Exposed carbon fibre and aluminum accents throughout reinforce the precision of the performance-oriented driving experience. The fading pattern on the seats, console and doors were inspired by waves receding at a beach’s edge.
“Waves, whether from the sea or in the sand, are all about motion and flow,” said Nesbitt. “That’s exactly what this concept is all about – flowing design and the purity of the driving experience.”
Buick designers enhanced the passengers’ sensory experiences with next-generation QuietTuning and air-quality control, including advanced noise cancellation technology, ionic air purifiers and aromatherapy.
The Avista also advances Buick’s legacy of turbocharged performance, which carries forward in the 2016 Regal GS and other models. Similar to the 2017 LaCrosse, the concept twin-turbocharged 3.0L V-6 features fuel-saving Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and Stop/Start technology to complement its power with efficiency. The engine is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and Magnetic Ride Control delivers more precise body motion control.