Saturday, June 10, 2006

Deifne; Buick

Ok, so General Motors is like an alcoholic family. there is the kid who does all the work to support the family (Chevy); the kid who looks good for the neighbors (Cadillac); the kid who just doesn't care about the rules (Pontiac); the kid who left the family (Olds); and the forgotten kid (Buick). Well Buick is not ready to give up and die on the vine like Olds did and the entire lineup has been completely redone.

Enter the Lacrosse, the Lucerne, and the still in development Enclave. I never thought much about the naming of cars mostly because of the late 90's need to have alpha numeric codes and not real names. The new Buick philosophy is now much more "beyond precision". I have no idea what that means, but I sure hope Buick does. They claim to be narrowing gaps and using higher quality materials and French stitching EVERYTHING.

Buick has still only had marginal sales and seems to be failing in the quest to find more buyers and younger buyers. It is hard to see Buick in this bad of shape, seeing how many of the baby boomers are now in the average age of Buick owners; the problem seems not to be a lack of possible buyers but rather one of not being the best for the money.

It is clear that Buick is the forgotten child of General Motors and as such gets mostly left over capacity. The Lacrosse for example is built on the Grand Prix platform, the Lucerne is a Cadillac DTS, the Terraza is a Buick badged GM global minivan, the Rendezvous is built on the old GM global minivan platform and the Rainier is the millionth recreation of the GMC Envoy. So even though Buick is still alive in General Motors eyes, as far as the market is concerned Buick is dead in the water.

So what is the Enclave anyway? Well that all depends on your view. Some see it as just another SUV to crowd up the parking lot at Target; some see it as a totally new way of life for Buick and others see it as just a waste of time. I don't have any personal view on the Enclave so I looked up the work enclave in the dictionary. This is what I got from Wikipedia: "In political geography, an enclave is a piece of land which is totally surrounded by a foreign territory." Wow, that is quite a loaded statement as far as design goes, and it really fits this Buick.

Now I know some of you will be asking (or rather yelling) that any new SUV cannot be an enclave. First, it is not a land mass; second, it is not any different from any other suv. Well no it is not a land mass, but the thing is huge enough to be one; and although it is another suv, it is different from any other crossover in is conceptual form.

I am a design student so I want to try and decode the design bibble-babble for you. Buick had the chance to build a one of a kind concept here. They did do a lot of things that Buick and General Motors simply does not have the money to build in actual production, like the wood trays in the second row. They did not go too far off into la-la land though and, like the Camaro, created a concept that for the most part could be built as is from the show.

The designers sourced major parts and built the show car on a platform that is (going to be) real and tried not to push to the point of no return. That is not to say they didn't push at all but they knew what could be and could not be done. I would expect to see the show car (minus some wood and with more seats) in CXL trim.

I am afraid that the brass over at GM global design will plastic up and wood down this Buick and then wonder why nobody wants to pay 40 large for it. oh well.

So enough about reactions to the car and lets actually talk about the design! This Buick has all of the traditional Buick style you would expect to see right down to the waterfall grille. What is so nice about this crossover is that it is curvaceous, but not bloated. Just about ever peace of the exterior fits in such a way, you are drawn toward this van in truck's clothing as soon as you set eyes on it. When you open the door to the concept, and look inside for the first time you wonder if the badge on the steering wheel is really a Buick tri-shield or if all of a sudden Lexus bought the Buick logo.

Wood is everywhere in this concept and I hope it stays and that some trees actually die in the process of making this crossover. There is a nice blend of wood and brushed aluminum on the flat dashboard and a seamless integration of the "infotainment" system General Motors is so proud of. The two tone leather dashboard is lovely with its French stitching on every seam, and the black plastic surrounding the 6.5 inch DVD navi screen goes unnoticed. When your eyes settle you will find not just one tree but a whole forest was leveled and a farm of cows killed to bring you this vehicle with a polished wood and leather wrapped steering wheel.

Look toward the rear and you will find that this Buick does not have a bench in the back two rows but rather what Michael Burton calls intimacy or romance, with the sense cachet like that of a private jet. Wow. That’s nice. The Enclave is not your typical eight passenger suv, it is a SIX passenger suv. That means that each person has his or her own personal space. There are DVD screens that fold down, and there are trays for the second row, everybody has something to play with!

Power is going to be a big concern for the final production of this vehicle and we will have to see what Buick is told to put in. For now the Enclave is powered by a 3.6L V6 making 270 horses and driving the front wheels. The engine uses duel cams and VVT technology, so it should run smoothly, especially with GM's new six-speed tranny.

All in all, I would say this is a good trade up for Buick and for General Motors. There will be a total of three Lambda based crossovers including a GMC and a Saturn version. I would also expect to see a bowtie version sooner or later after the 2008 launch. Each version has a different set of rules to play by so don't expect to see three of the same with different badges on the grille.


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