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LA show: Buick LaCrosse’s Aussie connection

Aussie accent: Buick’s new LaCrosse is set to borrow some Australian design input, but the question remains: will it turn up under Holden badges?

New Buick LaCrosse large sedan shapes up for US – and Australia?

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Buick logo5 Nov 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

GENERAL Motors’ next-generation Buick LaCrosse will feature design cues from the show-stopping, Australian-crafted Buick Avenir concept car when the large front-wheel-drive sedan goes on sale in North America next year.

To be unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show this month, the 2017 LaCrosse is believed to have been designed by a team headquartered in Detroit and reporting to former Holden design director Andrew Smith, who was GM executive director for Buick and Cadillac design during the closing stages of the project.

The Aussie links to the third-generation, Commodore-sized LaCrosse beg the question: what are the chances of the big American taking a spot in the new-look Holden range when the locally built Commodore and Caprice are killed off in late 2017?Holden refuses to discuss speculation about potential Commodore replacements, other than to say it will have a hand in the development of the new version.

So far, Buick has released two dark teaser images of the LaCrosse ahead of its show debut on November 17. One shows the new-look waterfall grille, while the other reveals the side aspect with a flowing roofline and Buick’s distinctive up-kick around the rear haunches.

By GM’s own admission, the shape owes plenty to the Buick Avenir that was largely designed and built at GM Australia Design’s Melbourne studios.

The original sketch for Avenir was penned by Holden designer Warrack Leach before a trans-Pacific design team – working simultaneously at Holden and other GM studios – brought it to reality.

The final vehicle was fabricated in Melbourne and shipped to the US where it was unveiled in January at this year’s Detroit motor show, wowing the masses and winning the EyesOnDesign best concept award.

While the Avenir is a concept for a large rear-wheel-drive Buick flagship based on GM’s Omega platform, it is also a design exercise expressing the future styling direction of Buick, GM’s mid-range brand sitting between Chevrolet and Cadillac.

That design language is set to get its first outing on the LaCrosse – a Commodore-sized front-wheel-drive large car built on the same new GM E2XX architecture as the next Opel Insignia and just-launched North American Chevrolet Malibu.

And because Buick, Opel, Vauxhall and Holden now share products globally, any car from Buick must be considered a chance for Australia’s Holden line-up, minus the Buick-specific grille and badges.

In a statement released in Detroit, Buick vice-president Duncan Aldred said the Avenir concept had shattered expectations of what a Buick could be.

“The 2017 LaCrosse promises to do the same,” he said. “Its expressive design represents a break from convention and highlights the progressiveness in all new Buick models.”

Describing the new model as “Avenir concept inspired”, Buick says in a statement that the LaCrosse’s all-new chassis will be lighter and stronger than that of the current model and deliver a more dynamic driving experience.

“New technologies such as a five-link rear suspension contribute to a more responsive ride, while taking Buick’s signature quietness to a new threshold – and it’s a premium feature not found on many other full-size luxury models, including the Lexus ES,” the statement says.

The grille features Buick’s tweaked “tri-shield” badge – originally based on founder David Dunbar Buick’s Scottish family crest – and a wing-shaped crossbar stretched across a darkened waterfall grille to the headlights.

Buick says the design emphasises LaCrosse’s new sculptural surfacing.

In a departure from Avenir with its “boat-tail” rear design taken from classic Buicks of old, the new LaCrosse has a sharper, perhaps more aerodynamic boot with what appears to be a lip spoiler.

The design is believed to have been done by a team reporting to Mr Smith, the executive director for design at both Buick and Cadillac. Since June, Mr Smith – best known at Holden for his work on the classic VU Commodore Ute – has been assigned solely to Cadillac, but not before the La Crosse design was done and dusted.

Within the Buick range, the LaCrosse is one step larger than the Insignia-based Regal that is sold in both North America and China.

While the Regal is 4831mm long and sits on a 2738mm wheelbase, the current LaCrosse is 5001mm long and has a stretched wheelbase of 2837mm. Both vehicles are 1857mm wide.

By comparison, the VFII Commodore is 4866mm long (in SS form), 1898mm wide and rides on a 2915mm wheelbase.

Like Insignia, the LaCrosse is likely to come in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive formats, with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines.

The V6 will be GM’s new-generation naturally aspirated 3.6 that, in Cadillac’s latest range, develops up to 250kW of power and 386Nm of torque (VFII Commodore V6: 210kW/350Nm).

Later, a twin-turbocharged version of the V6 is also likely for an all-wheel-drive sports flagship, pushing the power output beyond 300kW.

If it turns up in Australia under Holden’s lion badges, you can forget a V8 variant – GM has made it clear that bent eights are on the way out for its sedans in this country.

While Holden is yet to confirm which vehicle from the GM portfolio will replace the Commodore, it would not be unreasonable to surmise that the next-generation Insignia/Regal might replace the Commodore while the LaCrosse could take over from the Caprice.

Apart from the US and China, the current LaCrosse is made in South Korea where it is known as the Alpheon, although not for much longer. Poor sales of the model have forced GM Korea to kill it off before the end of this year and replace it with the imported Chevrolet Impala.

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