Sleeper Hit Of The Detroit Auto Show: A Sportscar From Buick

As the Detroit Auto Show winds down and journalists covering vehicle reveals start packing up, people are still chatting about the sleeper hit: a concept developed by Buick, long an emblem for the stodgy sedans of yesteryear.

The mainstay Detroit brand revealed a sporty coupe that looks more like James Bond’s getaway car than your grandparents’ Sunday drive. Closer in resemblance to an Aston Martin, or even a Tesla, than its frumpy predecessors, the 2+2 Buick Avista coupe, arguably, stole the show. That’s to the delight of General Motors GM +0.47%executives who say the Camaro-inspired concept has a shot at supporting Buick’s goal: to reach younger buyers through premium design and dynamic performance.

“It’s expressive, it’s bold,” said Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for Buick parent company General Motors. “It’s got a lot of flair and energy.”

 

The 400-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 concept, which executives caution is more a symbol of Buick’s aspirations and less a page from its production playbook, is based on the platform that underpins the Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac ATS. Its smooth and flowing lines, new winged tri-shield grille and check-shape headlamp are among the design cues that the brand says will show up in future production models. Some are already integrated into the 2017 Buick LaCrosse.

“This vehicle is going to have an influence on every single Buick in the future,” Welburn said. Even the Avista’s exterior paint color – Deep Sapphire Jewel – has attracted attention, he added.

GM is investing more in Buick as it becomes an aspirational brand in China and a serious player in the luxury category, said Karl Brauer, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Not so long ago the brand was basically a gloried Chevrolet , but the rise of China has given Buick more influence, and that means giving it more investment and differentiation.”

For now, the Avista will be parked front and center at GM’s design studio in Detroit to inspire other vehicles slated for production.

“The Avista might go into production,” Welburn said. “The interest level is very high. What would make it difficult is that we have so many other vehicles we’re working on. This is the busiest GM design has ever been.”