Chicago Auto Show 2015: Buick Avenir Concept And 2016 Cascada Convertible

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Buick Avenir Concept CAS15

Quick – what do you think about when you hear the name Buick?  I’m pretty confident I know what your answer was, and Buick is well aware of the stigma surrounding their company as well.  Buick has been taking steps in recent years to appeal to a younger audience, and those steps are clearly paying off if the vehicles I saw at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show were any indication.

While both vehicles were officially unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, Buick brought their new Avenir concept car and the 2016 Cascada convertible to show off in Chicago.  If there’s one thing I can overwhelmingly say about both vehicles, it’s that these are not your grandparent’s Buicks.

First up is the 2016 Cascada convertible. The Cascada features smooth lines, a comfortable looking interior, and some seriously cool convertible specs.  The convertible roof can be lowered in only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. Admittedly, I’ve not timed other convertibles and I’m sure that speeds are coming down as technology improves, but that’s still pretty impressive.

Probably the coolest feature that you’ll hope you never have to use are automatic rollover protection bars.  These bars deploy behind the passenger compartment when the threat of a rollover is detected. Other companies have incorporated this sort of protection into rear headrests, but the implementation by Buick allows for a cleaner overall line on the vehicle.

Up Next is the Avenir Concept. The Avenir – French for ‘future’ – is aptly named. Buick has done an outstanding job creating a concept vehicle that not only looks like it could be on the road next year, but also completely futuristic.  The main cabin looks like nothing I’ve seen from Buick, which is undoubtedly what they were going for with this design. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the current individual seating in the back row, the full-length center console is definitely new to me.

This car does look to have one thing that is very important to me though – legroom. The concept does, of course, feature items that may not make it to production should this vehicle come to market.  The rear seat monitors are an obvious choice for exclusion – or at least an optional component. I’m not going to lie though, if Buick delivers the Avenir in something close to its current form, I’d definitely take a much closer look and consider Buick for my next car.

What do you think about Buick’s recently announced vehicles?  Are they enough to woo a younger demographic? Or will they remain a staple of the older generation?  Let us know what you think, and feel free to read the full announcement releases below.

Full Press Release

Top-Down Luxury Returns with 2016 Buick Cascada

 2+2 convertible with distinctive design, premium features, refinement and 4G LTE connectivity

  • Advanced chassis technologies – including HiPer Strut front suspension – and standard turbocharged performance
  • Insulated soft-top system opens in 17 seconds at up to 31 mph

 DETROIT – Buick today introduced the 2016 Cascada – a dynamic, stylish convertible that uses innovative powertrain and chassis technologies to complement the driving experience.

The Cascada will be the first Buick convertible offered in North America in 25 years and the latest globally developed vehicle to join the brand’s growing portfolio. It goes on sale in early 2016.

“The new, 2016 Buick Cascada is a beautiful, engaging convertible that represents the very best of the brand’s global development practices,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick. “It’s a car that will delight customers with its fun spirit and help drive the momentum that’s fueling Buick’s success.”

The Cascada’s 2+2 configuration offers comfortable room for four adults. Its expressive driving experience is rooted in a rigid body structure, Buick’s sophisticated HiPer Strut front suspension and responsive Watts Z-link suspension in the rear – along with a 200-horsepower (149 kW) turbocharged engine.

And when it comes to dropping the top on a whim, it lowers in only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. When it’s up, superior thermal and acoustic insulation contribute to driving comfort.

“Cascada’s driving enjoyment is rooted in technologies that make it more comfortable and refined,” said Aldred. “Its features work harmoniously to provide a safe, connected and confidence-inspiring driving experience.”

Technology and safety highlights include:

  • Buick IntelliLink with a seven-inch-diagonal color touch screen featuring Text Message Alerts, Siri Eyes Free for Apple phones with an iOS 6 or newer operating system and navigation
  • OnStar 4G LTE with built-in Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Electronic rear-seat entry system automatically powers the front seats forward by simply pressing the seatback forward. It moves the seats back when the seatback is returned to the upright position
  • Electric safety belt presenters that use telescopic arms to slide the upper front safety belt assemblies from behind the front seat into closer reach for easier buckling
  • Rollover protection bars that deploy behind the rear seats when the possibility of a rollover is detected
  • Lane departure warning, rear park assist, rearview camera and Rainsense windshield wipers.

Distinctive design and thoughtful features

Designed from the outset as a convertible, the Buick Cascada has a flowing, sculpted profile, with fast-raked A-pillars that convey a wind-in-the-hair flair. When lowered, the top folds neatly and completely beneath a hard tonneau behind the rear seats, giving the car a pure open-air aesthetic.

“The Cascada’s design blends the suggestion of speed with sophisticated and uncompromising details,” said Holt Ware, Buick exterior design director. “Most convertibles are designed from existing coupes or sedans, meaning stowage of the top is an afterthought, but not this Buick. It looks handsome and has a premium appearance when the top is lowered – and a perfect, seamless profile when it’s up.”

The windswept exterior design is further accentuated with a sweeping body-side line and sleek headlamps that flow into the front fenders, with Buick’s signature wing-shape light-emitting diode (LED) daytime running lights delivering a distinctive appearance.

Chrome trim bridges between the wing-shaped taillights, which are also LED-lit.

The rear deck lid opens rearward to accommodate the folding softtop. The electro-hydraulic power roof system features multilayer construction – including acoustic and thermal barriers – designed for a comfortable ride in various conditions.

Inside, a thoughtfully trimmed and comprehensively equipped cabin reflects Buick’s renaissance. The instrument panel is wrapped with soft-touch material featuring authentic stitching, while heated front seats and steering wheel offer comfort in colder weather conditions.

The Cascada also has plenty of storage space for the trappings of a weekend getaway, including 13.4 cubic feet (380 liters) of cargo room with the top up and 9.8 cubic feet (280 liters) with the top down. The rear seatbacks fold down electronically to expand cargo capability for longer items.

Turbocharged performance, engaging driving experience

The Cascada is driven by a 1.6L turbocharged engine rated at 200 horsepower (149 kW). With more than 100 horsepower per liter, it’s one of the most power-dense engines in the segment. It delivers strong torque, estimated at 206 lb-ft (280 Nm), with an overboost feature that briefly pushes torque to an estimated 221 lb-ft (300 Nm).

Direct injection and variable valve timing complement the turbo engine’s performance with efficiency. It is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.

Power from the turbocharged engine is translated into driving enjoyment via the innovative suspension system, which employs the sophisticated HiPer Strut front suspension pioneered on the LaCrosse and Regal.

HiPer Strut is based on the MacPherson strut design and features dual-path top mountings that separate the transfer of spring and damper loads to the body structure. It enhances ride and handling by reducing torque steer; more linear and communicative steering through improved camber control, and improved impact isolation on bumps and rough surfaces.

A responsive Watts Z-link design helps center the rear axle during cornering, which helps keep the Cascada’s handling responses symmetrical on both left-hand and right-hand turns. The linkage’s capability to center the axle during cornering delivers a more-balanced driving experience because the rear suspension better follows the lead of the front suspension.

The Z-link design is also lighter and requires less space than a typical fully independent rear suspension. The lower weight enhances efficiency, while the compact design enables the Cascada’s generous cargo room.

Steering inputs are executed by a fuel-saving, rack-mounted electric power steering system, while stopping power is handled by standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Cascada rolls on standard 20-inch wheels.

A rigid body structure features high-strength steel in strategic areas, reinforced side sills and press-hardened steel in the A-pillars. It is the foundation for the Cascada’s driving experience, contributing to steering precision, ride quality and quietness – as well as safety. A 106.1-inch (2,695 mm) wheelbase enhances ride smoothness while enabling greater rear-seat legroom.

Full Press Release

Buick Explores Future with Avenir Concept

New design proportion, device integration, rejuvenating interior push brand forward

 DETROIT – Buick introduced the Avenir concept today in advance of the North American International Auto Show – a flagship sedan exploring progressive design with new levels of passenger well-being and technology integration.

The Avenir – French for future – is distinguished by its premium sports proportions and all-new interpretations of traditional Buick cues. It is the creation of a global team of Buick designers and sculptors who were inspired by historic Buick concepts, which pushed traditional boundaries, shaped future Buick models and influenced the entire auto industry.

“Avenir embodies Buick design, which centers on effortless beauty and presence without pretense,” said Ed Welburn, vice president of General Motors Global Design. “It demonstrates the growing international reach of Buick and offers an exciting vision of where it can go.”

The Avenir’s sculptural surfacing, expressive proportion and Buick’s signature sweep-spear bodyside visually cue an exceptional driving experience that awaits inside.

“The interior is designed with the driver and passengers’ comfort and well-being in mind,” said Welburn. “Technology is seamlessly integrated and builds on the features that have become hallmarks for today’s production models – helping drive a new generation of customers to Buick.”

Additional vehicle highlights:

  • Personal seating for four
  • Full light-emitting diode (LED) exterior lighting
  • Twenty-one-inch wheels
  • Next-generation direct-injected V-6 engine with fuel-saving Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and stop/start technology
  • Nine-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission
  • Driver-selectable suspension damping
  • Twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system
  • Next-generation Buick IntelliLink infotainment with large, 12-inch-diagonal color touch screen
  • Driver-recognition features that automatically sync infotainment preferences
  • Ionic cabin air filtration
  • Mobile device wireless charging
  • OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot.

 A new design direction with a nod to the past

A long hood, wheels-at-the-corners stance and a sloping, rear deck that pays homage to historical models, such as the Riviera, distinguish the Avenir’s proportion.

“Simply put, Avenir is a beautiful piece of sculpture, delivered on a premium proportion that acknowledges the Buick design heritage in a very progressive way,” said Michael Simcoe, vice president of design, GM International Operations. “The vehicle remains unmistakably Buick with a modern take on the traditional Buick cues such as the sweep spear and boattail. The result is a piece of artistry that is precise in its character, beautifully proportioned. It really takes your breath away.”

The most striking departure from contemporary Buick models is a new grille design that puts a new face on the brand. It features a large opening accented by a return to the three-color – red, silver and blue – Buick tri-shield insignia, accented by wing-shaped elements. The grille is flanked by bold headlamps featuring full LED lighting.

“The new grille is a modern interpretation of a design introduced on the landmark 1954 Wildcat II concept, which shattered expectations of what a Buick was supposed to be,” said Simcoe. “On the Avenir, it represents a break from convention and progressiveness in technology.”

Sculptural surfaces, taught lines, short overhangs and a broad-shouldered stance stretches 204.5 inches (5,195 mm) in length and 76 inches (1,931 mm) in width. Its reimagined sweep-spear element complements the long body lines and conveys a sense of motion, as does tapered rear-end styling.

Avenir’s sophisticated color palette, including a Crystalline exterior color and strained use of bright work accent the Avenir’s body lines and sets up the interior for a combination that takes Buick’s contemporary style to a higher level.

“It’s a sculpted design with a lot of snap in the character lines – with a classic long, low proportion,” said Simcoe. “Its length enables exceptional spaciousness inside, but just as importantly, a presence that speaks to luxury and the importance of style. In short, it’s the befitting proportion for a Buick flagship.”

A soothing environment with unprecedented integration

The Avenir’s four-place interior rewards the senses, makes managing technologies easier and enhances the feelings of personal space and well-being.

“A flowing, sculptural quality in the interior forms, deco trim, premium leather and ambient lighting, create an environment that is inviting and comfortable,” said Liz Wetzel, Buick interior design director.

Interior surfaces – inspired by nature and sea waves receding on a beach – flow seamlessly through the cabin. It is a motif featured on the seats and carried through in other trim components – even the carpet. In fact, a patterned insert for the carpet carries the motif in silk and bamboo.

“There’s an almost-three-dimensional or bas-relief effect to the design motif that adds depth and heightens the sense of place,” said Wetzel. “Layered and floating elements such as the center console enhance the perception of lightness, efficiency and dynamism.”

A color palette of light and natural tones blended with oiled and buffed wood trim, and Galvano satin-chrome accents, enhance the Avenir’s ambience.

“They’re rich, premium materials and warm colors innovatively executed to enhance the soothing effect of the interior environment,” said Wetzel.

Functionality is manifested in the Avenir’s device-integration technologies, which are designed to lift the user’s mood and make the details associated with daily life a little easier. It starts the moment the vehicle is started, synchronizing information and devices within seconds. The Avenir instantly configures gauge cluster and infotainment screen displays based on prior customization while also recognizing the user’s music preferences, calendar schedule and recently visited locations from a cellphone’s GPS. It can even pick up a podcast the user was listening to at the moment it was interrupted.

Buick’s user experience designers are also pushing the Avenir’s technologies for home integration, which would allow accessing home security cameras or the capability of turning on outside lights and closing a garage door that was inadvertently left open.

“The Avenir’s integration features build on the technologies already available or coming soon in smartphones and streamline them in a system that makes accessing and interacting with them easier,” said Wetzel.

Personal connectivity extends to rear-seat passengers, where USB ports and video screens allow occupants to plug in to their favorite media and slip into complete relaxation, arriving at their destination refreshed and rejuvenated.

“The use of color, material, form and amenities can affect a person’s mood and feeling,” said Wetzel. “The Avenir is a showcase of thoughtful and modern design with the capacity to anticipate and facilitate the personal needs of its occupants. It’s absolutely its own getaway destination.”

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