The Truth About Cars » Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Cadillac Flagship, Redesigned LaCrosse To Be Made In Detroit By 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cadillac-flagship-redesigned-lacrosse-to-be-made-in-detroit-by-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cadillac-flagship-redesigned-lacrosse-to-be-made-in-detroit-by-2016/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798938 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

In light of General Motors’ recent announcement of a $384 million investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, two vehicles from Cadillac and Buick could wind up being produced alongside the next-generation Volt.

Edmunds reports IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley expects Cadillac’s all-new flagship to be produced in late 2015, with the Buick LaCrosse — currently assembled in Fairfax, Kan. — joining the flagship in 2016 for the latter’s next redesign.

Though GM hasn’t said much about the flagship, industry insiders claim the vehicle will be aimed at the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class, and may be priced as much as $100,000.

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A Primer On SLAB Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-slab-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-slab-culture/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:55:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=794826 title

This well-traveled Houstonian thinks his town is Pistonhead Nirvana, proven every month via fanboi scale and diversity at Cars and Coffee gatherings.  Or with every 1000+hp racer on at Texas2k, every shoestring budget’d LeMons racer and Art Car fanatic: it’s all here. Except there’s nothing like Houston’s SLAB culture.

A confession: I know automotive subcultures, no matter which socioeconomic population nurtures it, always raise the ire of outsiders. My response?  Every generalization about SLABs applies to anyone building a custom, race or show car. We are all the same, deal with it.   

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Like most automotive hobbies, the Houston SLAB scene starts with the belief that the factory’s work needs improvement.  While spec racers turn a depreciated hulk into a track beast, the SLAB rider takes a slice of unloved Americana, bringing it back to a time when Japanese cars were cheap rust buckets that’d never threaten General Motor’s existence! I mean, look at our grilles and look at theirs, right?

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A car that traces its roots back to the 1970s Pimp Rides is necessary to make a modern SLAB: Camcords need not apply. Any Blaxploitation movie gets you up to speed on Pimp Rides, but the Houston SLAB scene uses them as a springboard to something new.

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Depreciated American luxury cars are the norm: Cadillacs, Buicks and certain Oldsmobiles are preferred.  Lincolns/Panthers and Chryslers are cool too, even Jaguars and Quattroportes pull it off vis-à-vis distinctly luxurious proportions.  But don’t break your budget on the ride, GM’s W-body is one of the most common platforms for good reason, as costly modifications are necessary to pay homage to the Pimp Riders while advancing the game:

  • Massive stereos, some are IASCA worthy with a little tweaking.
  • Kitted out power popping trunks, slathered in custom vinyl and personalized phrases in neon/mirrors.
  • Wire wheels much like the Cragar units supplied as OEM for Cadillac in 1983 and 1984, except replacing the fragile tin content with 100% steel. Texan Wire Wheels sells them as “83s” and “84s”, seemingly cornering this niche market.
  • Vogue tires in new sizes for new cars, naturally.
  • Replacement steering wheels, usually with wood grain rims.
  • Candy Paint, just like any vintage rodder.
  • Reupholstered interiors, taking advantage of the latest trimmings on the market.
  • Aftermarket HID lights, custom LEDs, Lambo doors, flat panel TVs and anything else you’ll find in the custom car scene.
  • Oversized brand logos, like the tailgate emblem from an Escalade.
  • Lowered suspensions (often aftermarket Air Ride) for obvious curb appeal.

That stance is at the SLAB’s core: it’s a sweet American luxury sedan ridin’ close to the curb.  Close to the concrete, up against the “slab”…hence the name. Some suggest that SLAB is an acronym for Slow-Loud-And-Bangin’ but that definition seemingly came later.

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But the wheels make SLABs so eye-catching: references percolating through Houston’s music, Houston’s culture.  Originally a re-pop of those Cadillac rims from 1983 and 1984, some are fed pro-baseball grade growth hormones to extend the hub far beyond Cadillac’s factory specification.  Ordinary wires have “pokes” while insanity ensues when you go “super poke.”  While not sure of their origin, odds are that having more poke comes people’s need to out-do each other. Like everything else in this world!

IMG_1759Your taste in poke is subjective, but they are all known as swangas and elbows.

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Elbows are when the hub and spoke of your wheels “poke” out of your body just like your arm’s elbow when perched atop the door sill.  Makes sense, but Swangas?

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Again, not sure: it’s connected to the organized dance that multiple SLABs do on an open stretch of road.  It’s like watching racers warming up their tires during pace laps.  It’s infectious: even the cops do it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Here’s what I saw at the first annual SLAB Parade, put on by the Houston Arts Alliance.  This cow town’s been good about supporting the art scene, especially our Art Cars and our screwed and chopped Rap artists.  While H-town Rap is a “thing” for the likes of Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, Detroit has yet to embrace Houston’s re-branding of their Camry prey/Rental Car fodder and their highline euro-wannabes. Aside from the Chrysler 300, of course.

So welcome to the Third Coast, the coast that actually likes American cars. How they were: with real names, impressive proportions and maybe even SLAB hugging overhangs, too. And the people who make them?  They are no different than other car nuts.

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No doubt, Houston is the best place to be a car fanatic, mostly thanks to our diverse population.  Love it or hate it, hopefully you enjoyed seeing this slice of Automotive Americana while I avoided the pitfalls of a milquetoast overview of an automotive sub-culture. Fingers crossed on that last part.

 

 

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EGR-equipped Buick Regal Hits 40 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791809 EGR Buick Regal Gets 40 MPG

The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better fuel economy.

Can’t beat that!

Far from being pie-in-the-sky thinking, however, the motivation for building this 40 MPG ultra low-emission Buick Regal comes out of necessity. Namely the 2025 CAFE regulations that will force automobile manufacturers to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon EPA rating across their product range. At the same time, the EPA is also expected to release new, more stringent emissions standards in a bid to improve air quality and save lives. Those two factors mean there is considerable industry focus on improving both emissions and fuel efficiency without incurring huge R&D costs- and the EGR system built into the SWRI team’s 2014 Buick Regal might play a big part in that.

EGR, for those not in the know, stands for exhaust gas recirculation. In the case of the Buick Regal tester, the 2.0 Liter engine was modified so that exhaust from one dedicated cylinder is run with a rich mixture of fuel and air to reform hydrocarbon fuel into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reformulated exhaust gas is then cooled and looped into a patented mixer where the exhaust gasses are mixed with fresh air before going into the engine intake. “By running one cylinder rich, the excess fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide,” added Chris Chadwell, manager of SWRI’s Spark Ignition Engine R&D section. “The in-cylinder reformation slightly reduces the carbon dioxide and water vapor while producing large volumes of carbon monoxide, which is a good fuel, and hydrogen, which is an outstanding fuel. That provides an octane boost and a flammability boost, and extends the EGR limit of the engine.”

It’s all pretty trick stuff, in other words- and it’s not that far away from being a production-ready piece. Let’s hope the next generation of Buick Regals- heck, let’s hope they build a new ROADMASTER!- has enough slick SWRI stuff on it to still be legal, then. In the meantime, you can check out an under hood shot of the SWRI EGR-equipped 2014 Buick Regal, below. Enjoy!

 

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Source | Photos: SWRI; Originally published on Gas 2.

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Opel Will Build Buicks For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-will-build-buicks-for-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-will-build-buicks-for-north-america/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:38:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782977 450x299xOpel_Cascada_Innovation_2.0_BiTurbo_CDTI2-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.PKOtAH6g90

Opel is announcing that they will build a Buick model for North America in the “second half of the decade”.

Automotive News reports that the announcement comes amid a $245 million euro investment for the Ruesselsheim, Germany plant that will start exporting to North America, and receive a new model. At the same time, Opel will stop plans to export to China, allowing the much stronger Buick brand to take the lead.

Neither the Opel Adam nor the Cascada are built at Ruesselsheim, which raises the question of what model Opel will build for Buick. Currently, the Insignia, aka our Buick Regal, is built at the site.

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QOTD: What’s Buick’s Next Niche? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-whats-buicks-next-niche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-whats-buicks-next-niche/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781153 Opel_Adam_1.4_Glam_–_Frontansicht,_15._Januar_2014,_Düsseldorf

Industry sources tell TTAC that Buick is due for a new niche car in the next couple of years, and it could only be one of two models.

According to our sources, the nameplate will be a low-volume car that is expected to attract someone who might otherwise be interested in a Verano. That narrows it down to two choices: the Adam subcompact, or the Cascada.

The Adam, sold as an Opel in Europe, will also be badged as a Buick for the Chinese market. GM’s new small, turbocharged engine family seems to be a good fit for the car, which was heavily touted at the new engine’s introduction. According to Jalopnikthe Adam would apparently be packaged with a new three-cylinder engine. How that might fit with the Buick brand would be an interesting question, as the Vernao and other cars are often touted as offering a quiet ride and superior NVH characteristics. But having a small car that appeals to younger buys wouldn’t be the worst thing. I never thought the Encore would work, but I was dead wrong.

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The other possibility is the Cascada, a four-seat ragtop based on the Verano. While convertibles are hardly the strongest segment, the death of the Chrysler 200 has left a giant void in the market for an American convertible that isn’t a pony car. Believe it or not, consumers (and of course, rental fleets) are interested in a front-drive ragtop that places more emphasis on comfort than speed, and the Cascada could fill that void nicely.

The big question is, what will it be? I’m going to hedge my bets and say…both. I really do believe both products will arrive on our shores first, but the Adam might be the one that gets here first. B&B, time for you to play armchair product planner and make your case for one or the other.

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New or Used : Care Free? Or Car-Free? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-care-free-or-car-free/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-care-free-or-car-free/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:32:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773529 1999 Buick Century: Where Automotive Novocaine Meets Ambiguous Androgyny.

1999 Buick Century: Where Automotive Novocaine Meets Ambiguous Androgyny.

Dear Steve,

I just graduated from college this past December and found a wonderful job at my old alma mater.

The good news? I can walk to everywhere I need to go. My work, two nearby parks, the supermarket, and to most of my friend’s apartments and townhouses. I’m living an ideal life at this point.

Which brings me to the big question. Do I even need a car?

I have inherited a 1999 Buick Century with about 130k miles that my parents bought brand new.

I HATE this car with a passion. Every time I drive it, I think about quarters shooting out of the tailpipe and onto the oncoming traffic. This year alone my parents spent nearly $2000 trying to keep this money pit on the road.

They want me to keep it, but I don’t want it within 300 square miles of my daily life. What should I do?

Steve Says:

Lao Tzu had a wonderful saying when it came to these types of situations.

“When in doubt, do nothing.”

You don’t know what the future holds. So I wouldn’t get rid of the car just yet. At the same time, you don’t need to add a lot of unneeded expenses in your life.   So I’m going to encourage you to re-allocate some of your funds so that you get the maximum pleasure minimal level of misery from owning this joyless machine.

First, see if you can get an auto policy that will offer a reduced rate for less driving. Preferably one with either a 5,000 mile limit or a 2,500 mile limit. This will save you a nice chunk on your insurance costs, which is a big expense for most folks in their 20′s.

From there you should take some of those savings and invest in a car cover.

The advantage of using a car cover is that…

1) It becomes a bit of a pain to constantly put the cover on and take it off. Therefore when you’re on that fence between either driving or using some alternative motor-free transportation, you’ll opt for the later.

2) A car cover enables you to avoid spending money on giving exterior care to a car you no longer use. It also helps you avoid wear issues such as faded paint, peeling dashboards, and other cosmetic wear items that result from a car that sits in the sun for far too long.

3) This may be a bit anecdotal. In my own travels, I have found that buyers don’t negotiate as much when you use a car cover and keep the car in good running order. A car dealership can’t pull off this trick with their inventory. However enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts are frequently able to offer a halo of extra care and value to their rides when they use a car cover.

I would change the oil once a year, keep an eye out for leaks, and drive it once every two weeks or so. Even if you don’t want to. Just find a good excuse.

Maybe you will use ye olde Buick Century, or maybe not. But at least you’ll be able to keep this unwanted car out of sight and out of mind. At least until your lifestyle changes, which it will. Trust me.

 

 

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Opel Adam Entering Chinese Market As A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756345 2013-Opel-ADAM-Models

When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.

CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. Buick will import the Adam at first, though local production could come to fruition further down the road.

Under the hood, two engines will be available to future Adam owners, including a 1.2-liter engine driving 69 horses through the front wheels, and a larger 1.4-liter with 100 horsepower. Both engines are gasoline-powered.

The customer base for the Adam are those seeking a trendsetting lifestyle machine that has little to do with their parents’ Regal or other sedans.

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Japanese Brands Dominate Consumer Reports Rankings, Detroit Three Struggling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754369 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Though quality and performance have improved as of late for products made by the Detroit Three, they still have a ways to go to beat the Japanese brands dominating Consumer Reports‘ current rankings.

Automotive News reports seven of the top 10 brands rated for overall reliability and road-test performance as conducted by the magazine are Japanese, while the two top Detroit brands — Buick and GMC — tied for 12th; Ford and Jeep tied for last place.

The top-rated brand for the second consecutive year was Lexus, scoring 79 out of 100 for their lineup deemed “quiet, plush, and very reliable” by Consumer Reports. Following the luxury brand were Acura, Audi, Subaru and Toyota (tied for fourth place), Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW and Volvo (tied for 10th).

As for where the remaining Detroit Three brands landed, Chrysler took up the 14th position while Chevrolet, Cadillac, Dodge and the aforementioned Ford and Jeep rounding out the bottom of the rankings behind Nissan, the lowest ranked Japanese brand in a tie with Volkswagen for 19th.

Ford and Jeep’s dead-last ranking is the result of technology woes for the former’s MyFord Touch infotainment system, and a “crude and outdated” lineup — including a Grand Cherokee suffering from weakened reliability, and a Cherokee that the magazine says “isn’t that competitive” — for the latter. Ford, in particular, is a “sad story” according to CR director of auto testing Jake Fisher:

The Ford Fusion, not only does it look, but it drives like a good European sports car. It really does. The problem is the reliability, and that’s what’s dragging down that brand.

Meanwhile, Fisher notes that if General Motors had “a whole lineup of Impalas,” considered the best large sedan based on road tests conducted by the magazine, the automaker would be at the top of the rankings. Overall, Fisher believes the Detroit Three as a whole are “going the right way” in terms of reliability and performance.

Regarding individual models, the Ram 1500 was rated the Best Pickup over the Silverado/Sierra twins in part due to the lack of reliability information for the latter two, while Hyundai captured the trophy Best Mid-Size SUV for their Santa Fe, Subaru holding off the Honda CR-V with their Forester for Best Small SUV, and Tesla, whose Model S holds the highest overall score ever given by the magazine: 99 out of 100, takes home the Overall trophy.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=729570 2014 buick regal

Time: 2332, Eastern. Outside temperature: six degrees. Speed: 83 mph, climbing.

 One needs to remind himself of following distance when letting the dogs run.

Thoughts appear as bullet points in the frontal cortex.

  • Led Zep II makes me hammer down
  • The left lane is clear, but there are some right lane travellers that could become obstacles.

One thousand one…

One thousand two…

“I should have quit you, baby, long time ago…”

One thousand three…

“down on this killing floor, break it down for me now…”

One thousand four…

  • Prius just oozed into the left lane to pace, not pass, the fuel tanker putting up considerable spray.
  • Headlights are dirty. Need to slow down anyway.
  • Too bad.

Wait a second, I’m lamenting having to back off while driving a Buick!

“People worry I can’t keep you satisfied…”

This 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a parts-bin car. A re-badge, and yet, it’s one hell of a highway flyer. The Regal is also surprisingly adroit in kinkier situations. It’s kind of a damn shame that this car is an automotive Palestinian. It’s sold as a Buick, but it started off as an Opel with a side of Saab, and was supposed to be a Saturn. For many, the Regal does nothing to recommend itself. That changes when you drive it, but if you think about it too much, it’ll piss you off.

The Regal Turbo AWD makes me angry with General Motors. Where the hell were cars like this in the ’80s and ’90s? GM passed those decades playing Program Objective Bingo. Does the under-engineered, over-budget, late-to-market shitbox du jour tick all the boxes for the Vehicle Line Director? If yes, proceed directly to market. Lather, rinse, bankrupt.

Regals then were GM-10 (later W) platform garbage. Nostalgia has already kicked in. The myth goes that a vicious public bought in to so much “hype” over the Camry and Accord and didn’t give the all-around-solid GM front-drivers a fair chance. Fiction. In reality, now is the only time in a generation that General Motors has built a modern midsize sedan that isn’t lashed together from pig iron and offal.

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General Motors is making complete-package cars that compete. Why did it take so long? Did it really require kicking the blue-collar backbone in the jewels and a quick-rinse bankruptcy for GM to get it? It didn’t have to. It shouldn’t have had to, and that’s why I’m upset by the Regal.

The last time a Regal wasn’t a total shitbox was…gosh, was it ever not a shitbox? Maybe the first Colonnade Regal, or the last-gasp G-body? It’s been at least thirty years since the Regal was anything but woefully assembled with dull orange-peel paint covering slap-dash bodywork with chintz horror chamber interiors.

Now we have this 2014 Regal, which wasn’t even supposed to be a Buick. Inside left me more impressed than a Lexus ES. On the road, you can feel the benefit of the Russelsheim engineering. Punch it and will fly. The structure feels brick-outhouse solid. This is the kind of car we used to wish GM could make. What the hell took so long?

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There’s a whole bunch of cousins built off the Epsilon II architecture the Regal is based upon. Among the Malibus, LaCrosses and XTSes, the Regal Turbo with AWD is the most compelling.  Yup, it’s not that roomy, but neither is the Audi A4, the revered BMW 3 Series or even the Infiniti G37. The reality is that the back seat space, while snug, is actually better than those other cars, and the Regal has a 14.2 cubic foot trunk, also actually pretty good.

The Regal draws an inevitable comparison to the Cadillac ATS. It’s only natural, the cars are priced closely together, and they appear a close match size-wise. You can’t knock the Regal on space and then turn around and say “king me” to an ATS. It’s got a teensy 10.2 cubic foot trunk, and there is no interior dimension that is larger than the Regal. It’s no surprise, then, that the ATS interior is just 90.9 cubic feet, noticeably tighter than the Regal’s 96.8 cubic feet.

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Ah, but the Regal is also too expensive to play in this sandbox, even if the ATS and its weaker value are on your automotive fantasy team. The Regal definitely isn’t as special as the ATS, the 3 Series, or heck, even a milquetoast-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But if the Regal with turbo engine, AWD, leather, Driver Confidence Package #2, Premium II Package, and Power Moonroof is too pricey at $40,000, then what does that make the ATS equipped roughly the same way at about $47,000? Remember, there’s less space all around and the maddening burden of CUE, so clearly the differentiator is the driving experience. The ATS is indeed better to drive, but is it $7,000 better?

That’s a question best answered on your own, but most would say no. If you’re the practical sort, wait a year or two and take advantage of the Buick’s more prodigious depreciation for a great pre-owned deal. The Regal is great to drive. It’s precise, responsive and powerful. The ride is on the stiff side of compliant. The exhaust is on the drone-y side of throaty. Switch the traction control off, though, and you will be shocked to find that you can rotate this thing with the throttle. It may be FWD-based, but that tail will wag. The HiPer Strut front end, with its tuned-up geometry does its thing like a grown up. All the smooth wheel control would be better served by more feedback at the steering wheel rim, though.

The Regal gets a cleaned-up dashboard for 2014. There’s fewer buttons on the center stack, and the layout is logical. Ergonomics for the hard controls are good, though a knob for fan speed control would be more elegant than the up/down buttons. The touch panels for temperature and seat heater control look great, but are dismal to use. They’re unresponsive and distracting. The latest version of Intellilink drives the larger in-dash LCD, but it suffers from organization problems and too many sub-menus. The system also has a speed issue, sometimes hanging up for a few seconds while tuning through radio stations or calling up functions. I’d be especially upset to be making monthly payments for that kind of underachievement.

2014-buick-regal-5

The Driver Confidence Package, by the way, is something you can completely live without. Skip it and drop the price of this weaponized midsizer back into the $30,000s. The dynamic cruise control is pretty well-tuned, but everything else is just unnecessary for an attentive driver. Of course, the flip side of that is that it may be more than necessary to offer the blinking lights, beeping warnings and last-ditch interventions. Those features give Buick some safety talking points, and when buyers opt for it, the profit margin puffs up.

The Regal Turbo AWD is a good car in a tough spot. From behind the wheel, it’s surprisingly good. But it’s between a rock and a hard place. Even within the GM family, it’s not as good as the ATS, but it’s a lot better than the ho-hum Malibu. The Regal does have the chops to keep a reasonable enthusiast entertained, but it falls short in the cars-by-the-pound measures of space and stuff for the lowest price.

The 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a charmer of sorts, but its like trying to get someone’s attention in a room full of Kennedys. There’s pressure on all sides, and even though the Regal has done yeoman’s work to drop the average age of Buick buyers and driven a bunch of conquest sales for Buick, it will probably finish its life as it started: a carpet-bagger Opel that’s mostly irrelevant, nice enough, and surprisingly frisky.

Regal_Ext_11 Regal_Ext_5 Regal_Ext_6 Regal_Ext_4 Regal_Ext_3 Regal_Ext_10 Regal_Ext_9 Regal_Ext_8 Regal_Ext_7 Regal_Ext_2 Regal_Int_12 Regal_Int_11 Regal_Int_10 Regal_Int_9 Regal_Ext_1 Regal_Int_8 Regal_Int_7 Regal_Int_6 Regal_Int_5 Regal_Int_4 Regal_Int_3 Regal_Int_2 Regal_Int_1 ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1984 Buick Century Olympic Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1984-buick-century-olympic-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1984-buick-century-olympic-edition/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707178 08 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, GM was a major sponsor of US Olympic athletes at the 1984 Summer Olympics (which were boycotted by most of the Warsaw Pact as payback for Jimmy Carter and friends boycotting the ’80 Olympics over Part XXIV in the War In Afghanistan), which meant that you could buy an Olympic Edition Buick Century that year. I moved to Southern California while the ’84 Olympics were going on, but all I remember about them was my friend who made the national news by drunk-driving over tens of thousands of orange cones set up for the bicycle-road-race event in Orange County (delaying the start of the event and earning five years of weekend orange-vest-freeway-cleanup duty)… and the sight of all these Olympic Centuries being driven around by low-level employees of the Games. Here’s one that managed to stay on the street for nearly 30 years, before washing up in an Oakland self-service yard.
12 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinSort of a forgettable member of the forgettable Celebrity/6000/Ciera family, but the US Olympic Team badging makes it a rare find.
11 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure this Olympic hood ornament is worth at least several dollars today.
06 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinCheck out these Olympicized headrests!
25 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIf a Buick buyer was too cheap to spring for the cassette deck (as this car’s buyer was), GM supplied a radio with the cassette door replaced by a plastic block-off plate. I’ll bet all the cassette-deck mechanism is in place behind this plate, too.
28 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinGold pinstripes.
20 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinEven the first year after the end of the Malaise Era was still fairly Malaise-y.

02 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 1984 Buick Century Olympic Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=698417 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

When you say “Regal GS” my mind immediately leaps to the fourth-generation Regal (2nd generation W-body) with the supercharged 3.8L V6. When I was car shopping in 2000 I dearly wanted a Regal GS but there were two problems: Buick’s grandmotherly image and the price tag. As a result I bought an entirely different old person car: a Chrysler LHS. But I digress. This GS is an entirely different beast. Buick’s latest middle child is none other than Opel’s largest sedan, the Insignia. Refreshed for the 2014 model year, the differences between the Insignia and the Regal are most pronounced on the exterior where a Buick waterfall grille and logo have been inserted into the same opening as the Opel and ventiports have been added to the hood. And… that’s about it.

Two things are obvious when looking at the Buick Regal: it was designed in Europe and it was designed to to be both a Buick and an Opel from the start. Rather than looking out of place (like the Chrysler 300 to Lancia Thema transition) the Regal looks “meant to be.” Although the Regal is related to the Chevy Malibu, there’s essentially no exterior resemblance. The Regal GS I spent a week in gets the tweaked front and rear bumpers from Opel’s Insigia OPC model which ditches the foglamps for extra ventilation and integrates the exhaust tips into the rear bumper cover. Circling back around to those ventiports: I still think they look silly, but thankfully the Regal has the right number (four) and they are smaller and less conspicuously placed than on other Buick models I could mention.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003

Interior

2014 brings a new interior to the Regal based around a standard 8-inch touchscreen and new center console. Although you will still find a few hard plastics in the cabin, overall materials quality has improved and is firmly competitive with the Volkswagen CC, Audi A4 and Acura TL. Most cabin touch points feel more premium than the more expensive Lexus ES but the Volvo S60/S80 still lead the segment. Non-GS shoppers can opt for a handsome two-tone interior that combines a brown steering wheel and upper dash with a light grey/tan seats and carpet which would be my preference. GS models however are stuck with a very Germanic black-on-black theme. Part of the GS package is an 8-inch LCD instrument cluster and a chunkier steering wheel with sport grips, soft leather and a flat bottom. The disco dash is not as configurable as Chrysler’s 7-inch unit but the graphics are more modern and the system allows you full access to your media device, something uConnect still lacks.

For reasons unknown Buick chose not to borrow the Recaro seats found in the Insignia OPC, opting instead for more aggressively bolstered versions of the standard seat design. This may be because Buick owners are less likely to need the 5-point harness design, but it is most likely because we Americans are fatter so fewer of us would fit in the narrow seats. My 6-foot and slightly overweight frame fit snugly and comfortably in the front seats but the ceiling in the rear of the Regal proved too low for me to sit without cocking my head to the side. The lack of rear seat headroom was disappointing because the Regal offers several inches more rear leg room than the RWD Cadillac ATS and CTS and three inches more than the Volvo S60 and S80.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link

Infotainment

Like the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Opel Insignia now uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. For reasons I don’t understand however, Buick doesn’t get Opel’s interesting touchpad with “finger writing” recognition that Opel has been advertising across the pond. I’m guessing this is so that Buick doesn’t step on Cadillac’s toes. Compared to CUE there are a few other changes for Buick-duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing and we have physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, IntelliLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001

Drivetrain

Nestled sideways under the hood is the same 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that the Cadillac ATS and CTS use. Good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, this is the same engine that you find in the “regular Regal.” That’s right, no longer does “GS” stand for “more power.” This means the GS looses 11 ponies vs 2013 but the turbo Regal gains 39 vs 2013. To differentiate things, GM does alter the torque curve to deliver all 295 twists at 2,500 RPM instead of 3,000 in the non-GS model. GM hasn’t completely ruled out the 325 horse 2.8L twin-turbo V6 the Insignia OPC uses for the American market, but I’d call it a long shot.

GS shoppers can choose either a 6-speed manual transaxle or a 6 speed automatic, but if you want the optional Haldex AWD system you’re forced to select the auto.  Although the GS uses the same AWD system as the regular Regal AWD, the engineers tossed in an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. GS trims also bump the suspension up a notch by combining GM’s HiPer Strut technology with active dampers on all four corners. The suspension offers three modes: normal, sport and GS. The feel ranges from European family sedan to firm.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001

Drive

GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axis more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.

The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feedback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Despite a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths, where it starts to lose composure. Trouble is, without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

Driving a FWD Regal back to back with our AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out, there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition. Rather than being the softest entry in the segment, the GS is among the firmer.

Put your foot to the floor and the GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference is, the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car, part carnival ride. The 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s S60 T5 AWD; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL. Despite similar power figures, the Volvo ran to 60 nearly 7/10ths faster which caused me to question my numbers. However, a loaner provided by a local dealer confirmed my findings. The reason seems rooted both in the GS’ gear ratios and the more advantageous torque curve from Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

At $37,830 starting, $40,195 with AWD and $44,975 full-loaded, the Regal undercuts the Volvo S60 T5 AWD and Acura TL by a couple thousand across the board (comparably equipped) and is more than $5,000 cheaper than the Lexus ES depending on your configuration. The Acura TL is in its final year of production and is, as you would assume, outclassed by the Regal in most ways. The recently refreshed Volvo delivers better road feel and a slightly more premium interior at the expense of more cash and less grip. The Lexus ES suffers from soft springs, an uncompetitive interior and steep price tag.

Over 611 miles I managed a reasonable 22.1 MPG in the GS which bests the real-world numbers from the V6 competition but comes short of the turbo Caddy and Swede. Why do I keep coming back to Cadillac? Because as hard as GM has tried to keep Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac from stepping on each other’s toes, the Regal GS is about the same price as the 2014 Cadillac ATS. It’s hard enough to go up against what is probably the second best vehicle GM has ever produced, but it is made doubly hard when there are so many combined Buick/Cadillac dealers. This means you’ll frequently find the Regal GS next to a sharp handling Caddy is on the same lot. Trickier still is the base Cadillac CTS which is slightly cheaper than a loaded GS, and, you guessed it: is often parked right next to the Buick.  Buick seems to have finally gotten the hang of being the middle child and in the process they have given not only Chevy owners but Volkswagen owners something to aspire to. That said, I’d be hard pressed to choose the Regal over an ATS 2.0T.

 

GM provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68.5 dB @ 50 MPH

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-006 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-008 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-009 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-011 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-012 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-013 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk-001 ]]>
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Review: 2014 Buick Enclave (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642841 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like Rainier, the Enclave is closely related to a GMC and Chevy version. Unlike the Rainier, the Enclave has only two doppelgängers instead of the 6-11 stablemates the Rainier contended with (depending on how you count your GMT360 and related SUVs.) The Chevy Traverse tackles the bottom of the market, the GMC Acadia handles the middle, and Buick occupies the top rung. That means the $38,740 to $52,925 Buick is targeted at the same shoppers as the Acura MDX, Infinti JX35/QX60, Lincoln MKT, the aging Volvo XC90 and if you believe GM, the Audi Q7.

Exterior

Although there is a strong family resemblance, GM managed to style the closely priced Acadia and Enclave differently enough that the Buick looks more expensive when parked next to the GMC. The Traverse, on the other hand, shares very similar styling cues and the family resemblance is more pronounced. This could be a problem for potential shoppers as the only other entry in this segment that shares heavily with a mass-market variant is the Infiniti. (The Nissan Pathfinder’s twin.)

Despite the parts sharing, the Buick cuts an elegant form that my eye hasn’t tired of. The mid-cycle refresh brings new front and rear end styling to bring the Enclave up to date with the rest of the Buick lineup. Although I like the look of the Enclave, I don’t find it as appealing as the new MDX or Q7. In terms of style, I’d call it a tie between the Buick, Infniti and Volvo. Even though Buick’s questionable “ventiports” are continuing to grow and migrate to the top of the hood, the engineers made sure you can’t see them from inside the car.

The other thing the engineers managed to hide is the sheer size of the Enclave. Buick’s curvaceous design language managed to fool a friend of mine who said he was looking at an Enclave because he thought his Escalade was too big and too hard to park. Let’s look at the numbers. The Enclave is exactly 6/10ths of an inch shorter than the big Caddy and rides on a wheelbase nearly three inches longer. The Buick is 5 inches shorter than the Cadillac making it easier to get in a short garage, but it’s just as wide at 79 inches. Don’t assume it’s easier to park wither since it cuts a turning circle one and a half feet bigger. This is the kind of Buick I remember: ginormous.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I consider myself something of a dashboard connoisseur. I like my dashboards elegant, tasteful, squishy and preferably made from cow. I was therefore surprised to find the Enclave has best injection molded dashboard available. GM starts out with a single piece molded dashboard designed to look like leather with different textures pieced together. The molded product is then stitched with a sewing machine to insert thread along the injection molded faux-seams.

The result is impressive. Unfortunately the rest of the Enclave’s interior didn’t receive this level of attention. This means the old Enclave’s thin steering wheel is still shared with the defunct Buick Lucerne and the only real wood you’ll find is on that optional half-wood tiller. Odder still is the fact that no attempt is made to have the real wood look like the face wood in the car with the fake wood having a grey hue and the steering wheel veneer being nutty brown. I know I’m going to get complaints from this statement, but here I go. In a market where everyone but Acura is doing real wood, the aces of forest-substitute stick out like a sore thumb. (Note: the Canadian MDX can have real tree as an option.)

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Enclave counters these interior mis-steps with large and comfortable front seats and the only 8-seat configuration in this class. That 8th seat is important because it allows the Enclave to compete not only with the competition we have mentioned so far, but also with large body-on-frame SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX56/QX80. In this context the Buick has a significant price advantage over the larger competition starting $25,000 lower than the Cadillac. Because those large competitors are aging and often draw heavily from their mass-market donor trucks, the Buick represents a decent value without looking like a cheap alternative.

As with all three-row SUVs, seats get less comfortable as you move towards the back. The middle captain’s chairs in the 7-seat Enclave are the most comfortable among the 3-row crossover segment while the optional three-seat middle bench drops  to class average. Due to the Buick’s age, you won’t find power flip/fold seats like the Acura or kid-friendly second row seats that can move forward with a child seat strapped in place. The Enclave regains its class leading comfort status in the third row with the most head room and cushiest thrones.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
Being a refresh and not a redesign, 2014 doesn’t being an infotainment revolution to the Enclave. As it turns out this is a good thing. GM created a new integrated navigation and entertainment system that could be fitted to all their older vehicles to make them competitive with the systems coming out of Ford, Chrysler and BMW. This “stop-gap system” (my words, not GM’s) is one of my favorites on the market regardless of class. Although it is sold under the same Intellilink brand name as the Cadillac CUE derived system in the new LaCrosse, this system is totally different and in my eyes, superior.

Shared with the Encore, Verano and a few other GM products, the software is responsive, intuitive, and makes use of a bank of physical buttons that make navigating the system easy. As with other systems that I lean towards, Buick’s allows you to use either a control knob, the touchscreen or an extensive voice command library to interact with the system. Although a 7-inch screen is smaller than many of the competitors, I’d rather interact with Buick’s interface on a daily basis than Audi’s MMI. For a complete dive into the touchscreen interface, check out the video at the top of the review.

2013 GM 3.6L V-6 VVT DI (LLT) for Buick Enclave

Drivetrain

GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L direct-injection V6 is the only engine on offer in the Enclave cranking out the same 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque as in the other Lambda crossovers. (The Traverse also uses a 281 horsepower variant on base models.) Those power numbers put the Encore in the middle of the pack with the 240 HP Volvo being the least powerful and the Lincoln MKT being the most powerful at 303 ponies from its 3.7L V6. Having the HP crown wasn’t enough for Ford, so they also make their 365 HP twin-turbo V6  available.

Sending power to the front wheels is a 6-speed transaxle that has been reprogrammed for more civilized shifts and less lag when downshifting. Like last year, you can add AWD for $2,000 more. I should point out now that although the Audi Q7 is still a front heavy crossover, it is the only rear-wheel biased crossover in this segment and as such uses ZF’s silky-smooth 8-speed automatic.

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The Verano may be an Opel in American clothing, but the Enclave is traditional Buick out on the road. The enormous and high-profile tires (255/65R18), soft suspension and quiet cabin soak up the road around you allowing you to comfortably rack up the highway miles. When the road starts winding, the same tires and springs that allow for a compliant ride conspire with the nearly 5,000lb curb weight to take a toll on handling. That heavy curb weight also has an effect on performance, with the Enclave talking 7.3 seconds to hit 60, nearly a full second behind the Acura. Why? It’s all about the weight with the Acura being 700lbs lighter and even the cast-iron Volvo is 400lbs slimmer. Although I can’t say that 7.3 seconds to get to 60mph is excruciating, even the Infiniti JX35 with a tall first gear and the least torque in the group manages the task before the Buick. Only the ancient Volvo XC90 and the diesel Q7 slot in after the Enclave.

If you’re the kind of shopper that wants to hit the back country roads after dropping the kids off at preschool, the MDX is the clear winner in the segment. Surprisingly, the Enclave didn’t end up at the bottom of the segment when it comes to road manners. That’s where you’ll find the soft, CVT equipped Infiniti and the Volvo. Middle of the road manners and segment average pricing means the Enclave manages a “decidedly Toyota” middle of the pack finish. Unless you select that eight-seat option.

Now I must come back to that full-size SUV digression. If you’re looking for a three row vehicle that seats eight, you don’t have many options. If you want something that seats 8 and had some luxury pretense you have even less choice. It also means you’re going to end up with either a GM Lambda platform crossover, or a luxury body-on-frame product that dates back to the 1990s when “tarted up Tahoes” were all the rage. When pitted against this competition, the Enclave’s handling, steering feel and fuel economy go from class middling to class leading. While the Enclave isn’t as fast as the Escalade or the QX56/QX80, it beats the Lexus to freeway speeds. The Buick is also easier to park, easier on the eyes and easier on the wallet.

After six years on the market, the Buick that started the brand’s resurrection is starting to show its age. The Enclave is crossover in the truest sense of the world straddling the middle ground between the minivan like entries like the Infiniti and the large and thirsty truck-based options like the Cadillac Escalade. My final word is that if you’re looking for a 7-seat three row utility vehicle, there are plenty of better options out there, but if you’re looking for an 8-seat utility vehicle then the Enclave should be on the top of your list. In the end, that 8th seat is probably the best thing the Enclave has going for it.

Buick provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 7.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 17.5 MPG over 559 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68 db

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-008 2014 Buick Enclave Interior 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-007 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-010 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-011 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-013 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-014 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-015 ]]>
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Piston Slap: What Would Ed Lister Do? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-what-would-ed-lister-do/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-what-would-ed-lister-do/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 11:34:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637417 TTAC commentator NoGoYo writes:

Sajeev,

I’m faced with a problem that’s hard to solve: the problem of being 21 years old and stuck with a grandma car. I drive a 1995 Buick Skylark coupe with the GM 60 degree V6 (3.1 liter) and a four speed automatic transmission. It handles rather decently for a pedestrian GM product, but as you would expect from a lower-RPM pushrod V6 hooked to a 4-speed slushbox, it has about as much power as Queen Elizabeth II.

I tried to sell my car and upgrade to something more speed freak 21-year-old friendly, but gave up after not even getting close to a sale. My question is…should I sell the car at a rock bottom price just to get a more lively set of wheels, or invest a couple of bucks trying to make the old Buick a bit less of a snoozer?

Sajeev answers:

Were you expecting a level-headed discussion on the merits of Hot-Rodding a potential Sleeper Skylark versus Not-Rodding a better vehicle? From a TTAC writer with two resto-mod Fox Body Lincoln-Mercury vehicles? Here’s the thing…

You didn’t mention a budget, so I’ll assume you’re a typical broke 21-year-old (no hate, we were all there) with far more time than money. And you own a seriously cool car (stay with me here) with a star crossed history. The 1992+ Skylark was such a radical design that it deserved better, but it was a product of a fundamentally flawed General Motors. And, OMG SON will you peep that interior???

Who wouldn’t want to beat the living snot out of some poor soul in a Civic/GTI/ST Ford/FR-S or get the jump on a careless driver in a Mustang/Corvette/Ferrari in a car this…well, this unbelievably, obscurely radical looking?

You think I’m nuts for saying you could shock a Ferrari?  Hear me out…

Just like my precious Fox Bodies, the GM N-body accepts a host of superior parts from other GM products, some will be easier than others.  Assuming you are good with wrenches and actually want to be a Hot-Rodder, let’s see what we can Google:

  • Suspension: Performance springs, shocks and sway bars (Addco and from an FE3 Oldsmobile) will be easy to find.  This thread has even more fun stuff, and this shows the independent rear suspension available on 1997+ versions.  There’s a good chance the IRS bolts-in with minor modifications, from N-body to N-body. I also really, really like this thread.
  • Brakes: Camaro front calipers sound like a nice upgrade from the forums.  And the IRS swap nets you rear disc brakes too, supposedly.
  • Wheels/Tires: Larger wheels from W-bodies look like a no-brainer.  Who knows, maybe the big, common and cheap 17×8″ wheels from a 1994-present Mustang fit.
  • Powertrain: A manual transmission swap and an upgrade to a better 60-degree V6 (3.4L, 3.5L or the big bore 3.9L, way-hey!) makes perfect sense when the right donor car(s) show up.
  • Education: Learn how to drive your Frankenstein-d machine at a drag strip and a road course. Talent makes up for a premium car badge: believe that!

But wait Sanjeev…how the heck can you get the jump on a Ferrari? You gone crazy?

Maybe this link will inspire you. Or this video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

You are driving the future, so make YOUR future a better one. Can you do an all-wheel drive, fully independently sprung, turbocharged LS4-FTW in your Skylark?  In time, I think you can.  What are you gonna be driving when you’re thirty…and is it gonna top this?

Ain’t nothing gonna top this, son!  I can see it, and it’s been done before.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/#comments Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=629290 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Acura ILX has been derided as being nothing more than a gussied-up Honda Civic, an analogy that I too applied to the compact Acura when it first arrived. But then our own Brendan McAleer caused me to question my dismissal of the ILX. How many shoppers out there are willing to option-up a base model by 50% and don’t think twice about the fact their “limited” model looks just like the base model? All of a sudden the ILX, especially the 2.4L model we tested made sense to me. What was the revelation? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Exterior

I know that we have a segment of readers that believe all modern cars look-alike, but I’m going to say it any way. The best thing about the ILX is that it doesn’t look like a Civic. Don’t believe me? Park a Civic and an ILX next to one another and you might even think the two cars are totally unrelated. How is this possible?  First off, no sheetmetal or glass are shared between the two and Acura decided to tweak just about every hard point other than the wheelbase for Acura duty. If you look at the picture below (which highlights how poor my Photoshop skills are) I have overlayed the ILX on the Civic for reference.

In addition to a blunter nose, lower roof and a more aggressive character line, Acura modified the structure of the car by moving the pillars around. The A pillar moves 8 inches rearward vs the Civic giving the ILX a hood that is several inches longer and a windshield that is more deeply curved. The C pillar has also been tweaked giving the ILX a more graceful silhouette and a smaller trunk lid. While they were at it they swapped in an aluminum hood for some moderate weight savings.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L SedanThe result of Acura’s nip/tuck is an attractive, albeit sedate, premium look. I think that Buick’s Verano is more exciting and the not-yet-on-sale 2015 Audi A3 looks more luxurious, but the ILX plays right to the conservative heart of the target Acura shopper. In keeping with the premium image, 17-inch wheels are standard on all ILX models except the hybrid where things drop to eco-minded 16-inch rims. The most demure Acura “beak” integrated into the front grille and hidden exhaust tips complete the design of the smallest Acura.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

The ILX’s interior represents more of an upgrade over the Civic than I had expected. Soft injection molded plastics span the dashboard and very few parts are shared with the Honda . By my estimation. the interior parts sharing is limited to a traction control button, air vent open/close dials and the door handles. Anyone worried that the Civic’s funky two-tier dash is along for the ride will be pleased, the interior style of the ILX is very mainstream from the double-bump dashboard to the four-dial gauge cluster.

In typical Acura fashion the ILX comes well equipped in base form and options are bundled into packages helping to keep dealer inventory manageable. All ILX models get zone climate control, keyless ignition, push button start and a steering wheel wrapped in soft leather. Base hybrid models get manual cloth seats but all other ILX models get heated leather thrones coated in perforated leather with a driver’s side only 8-way power mechanism.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012Front seat comfort is substantially similar to the Honda Civic thanks to shared seat frames and adjustment mechanisms. The ILX’s front seats get more generous seat back bolstering in keeping with its more premium and sporting image while the seat bottoms remain as flat as Kansas. Thanks to the platform changes that make the ILX more attractive on the outside, interior room is compromised slightly with headroom and legroom figures falling when you compare it to the Civic.  Compared to the Buick Verano the numbers are right in line.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults. Opting for the hybrid ILX forces the removal of the folding rear seat backs (the batteries have to go somewhere), while the ILX 2.0 and 2.4 sport the same 100% folding mechanism as the Civic. This means it’s not possible to carry long cargo and three or four passengers like you can in the Verano. This deficiency is made more of a problem by the ILX’s small 12.3 cubic foot trunk, notably smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT, or even the Mazda3.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Nestled in the “double bump” instrument cluster is a standard 5-inch color LCD that does double-duty as a trip computer and infotainment display. This base system runs the same software as the Honda Civic but places the screen in a more “normal” location and uses a button bank that should be familiar to current Acura owners. The base system features standard iDevice/USB integration, Bluetooth speakerphone/streaming and Pandora smartphone app integration. The 200-watt amplifier and 7 speaker sound system are well-balanced but volume isn’t this system’s forte.

ILX 2.0 and Hybrid models with the “technology package” link the climate control system to a sun sensor and the GPS system for improved comfort and bumps the sound system up to a 10-speaker surround sound system with a 410-watt amp. Also along for the ride is the same 8-inch navigation system found in the Acura TSX and TL. The system doesn’t sport the improved high res interface in the MDX and RLX but is among the easier to use on the market as long as you don’t try to use Acura’s voice commands for browsing your iPod. Seriously, just don’t even try. Sadly 2014 hasn’t brought any major changes to the options lineup meaning that the more powerful engine and the more powerful sound system are mutually exclusive. The choice to saddle the 2.4L model we tested with the same 5-inch display and software as the Civic is the biggest flaw with the ILX so far.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Under the ILX’s long hood you’ll find an “interesting” assortment of engines. Why interesting? Let’s start at the beginning. First off, Acura uses three different engines in the various ILX models. Rumors that Acura planned to kill off the base 2.0L four-cylinder appear to be unfounded as the 2014 ILX can still be had with the 150 horsepower mill. This is the same engine found in European market Accords and other world Honda models but appears to be exclusive to the ILX in America.  Honda’s old 5-speed automatic was tapped to send the 140 lb-ft to the ground. The ILX Hybrid gets the Civic’s 111 horsepower, 127 lb-ft hybrid system without modification. While the 1.5L engine seemed adequate in the Civic, I found the small engine and traditional belt/pulley CVT vexing in a near-luxury sedan.

On to what we’re here to talk about: the 2.4L Civic Si engine. Yes, Acura decided ILX shoppers should get a little sport-love and snatched the Si’s 201 horsepower engine for premium duty. In typical Honda fashion, the 2.4L engine screams like a banshee on its way to its 7,000 RPM redline and matching 7,000 RPM power peak. 170 lb-ft come into play at 4,400 RPM and the engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual. Yes, you heard that right, Acura is trying to get a larger share of the premium compact market with a high-revving engine four-cylinder and a slick shifting stick. Although the manual-only policy is an obvious impediment to sales success, if you have outgrown your Civic Si, or if you think the Honda looks a little too “boy racer”, you can get a classier, leather coated version at the Acura dealer.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Once out on the road the ILX’s powertrain deficiencies become obvious. The base 2.0L engine may be smoother and more refined than the 1.8 in the Civic, but compared to Buick’s modern 2.4L direct injection mill, it is rough around the edges and anemic. How about the 111 horsepower ILX hybrid? It is quite possibly the only car that can make Lexus’s underpowered CT 200h seem quick. But we’re not here to talk about those ILX models, this is TTAC and we’re interested in MOAR POWARR.

The 2.4L four-cylinder is an entirely different animal. With 33% more power than the base model our 0-60 run clocked in at a respectable 7.29 seconds. That slots the ILX between the regular Verano and the Verano Turbo that accomplished the same task in 6.5 (Verano Turbo with the 6-speed manual). The time was closer than I thought it would be considering the 90 lb-ft of torque that separate the two but the driving experience couldn’t be more different. The Verano’s turbo engine provides an extremely broad torque curve which negates the need for frequent downshifting on winging mountain roads while the ILX’s engine needs to scream like a leaf blower to deliver the maximum thrust. While I found the Verano’s power delivery more liveable, the ILX at 7,000 RPM made me giggle. (Yes, I said that out loud.) As you would expect from the “luxury Civic Si,” the ILX’s shifter action is precise, clutch engagement is nearly perfect and the shifts are short. In contrast, the Verano’s clutch is rubbery, vague and the shift throw is lengthy.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006

Instead of lifting the Civic Si’s suspension as is, Acura decided to tweak the design with dual-valve damper technology lifted from the RLX and MDX. The two valves allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large road imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains most of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride that more composed than the Verano. Similarly the lightly revised steering setup is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the baby Buick. Despite incorporating laminated glass and an active noise cancellation system, the ILX manages to be several decibels louder than the eerily quiet cabin of the Verano.

At $29,200, our ILX was about $6,500 more than a Civic Si. When you factor in the additional equipment you find in the ILX and the expanded warranty coverage, the difference between the Honda and the Acura drops to about $2,000. When you look at the ILX in this light, the sales proposition makes perfect sense. While the Civic Si is a great compact car, it looks just like a regular Civic. The ILX on the other hand nets you a better brand name, longer warranty, an improved ride and car that won’t make your boss question your maturity. Like the Integra of yesteryear, this is the sort of “gateway” product Acura needs.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009

There are just a few problems however. The ILX’s option list and spec sheet is a mess. Despite getting better fuel economy than the Verano in every trim, Acura needs to drop their 6-speed tranny into their base model for spec-sheet-shoppers to give it a second look. Likewise the 2.4L engine needs a 6-speed auto and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do. The ILX’s driving dynamics may be superior, but taken as a package the only reason to avoid buying the Verano is if you still associate Buicks with the blue-haired set.

 

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 7.29 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 89.9 MPG

Interior sound level: 74db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 26 MPG over 345 miles

 

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-011 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-008 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-008 . 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-004 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-015 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-014 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-003 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-011 ]]>
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Buick Will Likely Offer Diesel Verano, Considering More Powerful Encore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/buick-will-likely-offer-diesel-verano-considering-more-powerful-encore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/buick-will-likely-offer-diesel-verano-considering-more-powerful-encore/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 11:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=630930  

 

gmdiesel_r

 

Chevrolet will not be the sole brand in GM’s stable to offer a diesel passenger car. According to reports, Buick is next up for a diesel engine. It’s not known which Buick would get an oil burner but the likely candidate is the Verano, which shares a platform with Chevy’s Cruze, which is now available with a four cylinder turbo diesel in the U.S. The Opel Astra, even more closely related to the Verano, already offers a 1.9 liter CTDI diesel in Europe.

The European companies that Buick sees at its competitors are increasing the number of their vehicles offered in the U.S. with diesel power as more consumers look for better fuel economy.

While Buick is looking of ways to improve the fuel economy of the Verano with a diesel, the brand is considering options for what will likely be a more powerful of the Encore. While the company sold more than 3,200 of the small crossovers in September, according to GM sources the primary reason why people who had shopped the Encore didn’t buy it was because of a lack of power. The only available engine in the Encore is GM’s  1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that puts out 138 horsepower. The GM Ecotec 2.0 and 2.4 liter engines used in other Buick models won’t fit in the Encore’s engine compartment so GM will likely use their new 1.6 liter four.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Buick Riviera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1973-buick-riviera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1973-buick-riviera/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=580337 07 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinJust about everybody likes the “Boat-Tail” Riviera, and you’d think that would make even battered examples valuable enough to avoid the cold jaws of The Crusher. Think again!
06 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis car is very rough, with a lot of three-dimensional patina, but it doesn’t seem to have much super-cancerous rust.
17 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinWhen the 1973 oil crisis hit, the value of these big fuel-sucking personal luxury coupes plummeted. That meant that a lot of these cars descended into beater status during the middle and later parts of the 1970s.
11 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis car clearly spent many years sitting outdoors in Colorado, so the interior is pretty much toast.
12 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinStill, you can see remnants of the luxury that once was.
14 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinSomebody got the intake, but there’s still most of a super-torquey Buick 455 here.
15 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinLook, Buick Rally wheels!
10 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinLooks like the traditional GM rear-window rust was repaired at some point, with copious quantities of Bondo used to smooth things out.
22 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis glass must be getting hard to find these days.

There it is— America’s dream car!

07 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 04 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 06 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 20 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 19 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 18 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 17 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 16 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 21 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 22 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 23 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 01 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin ]]>
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A Tale of Two Buicks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/a-tale-of-two-buicks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/a-tale-of-two-buicks/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=521009 vojtabuick

Malaise era. Supposedly the time when cars were the worst, and especially the American ones. Compared to the glory days of the 1960s, when the gas was cheap, horsepower plentiful and cars the most beautiful ever, the 1970s are considered to be dark ages. Emission-strangled engines with pathetic power-to-weight ratio, huge and hideous bumpers, as well as floaty suspensions with not even a pretention of “sportiness” or “handling”, traits so popular with modern car enthusiasts.

But, was it really that bad? I had a chance to find out.

Recently, I offered a friend of mine, who makes a living by importing classic American cars and parts, to write some advertising copy for his website. This means I have to check out his new arrivals, and to get a feel for them, I have to drive them, at least a little. And since we’re in Czech Republic, which is not exactly the richest of European countries, most of the cars are classic landbarges from 60s or 70s – it’s not like no one wants muscle cars over here. Just the big ones have more of a novelty (imagine driving a 18-feet long car in our narrow streets) and, what is maybe more important, even people who would like to have a muscle car usually can’t afford one and have to settle for a four door fullsize sedan. You have to bear in mind that average late 60s – early 70s landbarge in nice shape, the kind of car that can be had in US for, say, three to seven grand, will cost more like twelve to eighteen thousand bucks, after shipping, handling, custom duties and, most of all, the dreaded VAT, are counted in.

IMAG0659

But I digress. The first new arrivals I got to check out and write about were, by luck, two Buicks. Both in extremely nice shape for their age, and both great examples of their respective eras. Let’s begin with older one – a dark green 1965 Electra four-door hardtop, with a 401 Nailhead engine and not much else when it comes to options. A typical old man’s car, kept by original owner until 2008, when it still had under 30 thousand miles on the odo. After the second owner daily drove it for a while, it has 31 thousand, but it still looks pretty much like new, and even very drives so for the most part. Basically, the thing needs just a new set of whitewall tires instead of the worn and unbalanced winter ones, fixing the upholstery on the driver’s part of the front bench, and some suspension work.

1965 Buick Electra 01

The second one is a 1972 LeSabre, also a four-door pillarless hardtop, but this time powered by emission-choked 350, offering just 160 horsepower (although if we count in the difference between post-1972 SAE net horsepower and older SAE gross horsepower, it may be much less a difference than it seems). Also a one owner for much of its life (until 2011), this one is a bit less original, with the rear of the car having a respray after an accident a few years ago, but mechanically, it works just like new. No play in the steering, taut suspension… I imagine that the sucker drove just like this when it drove out of the Taylor Motor Company in Waynesville, NC about 40 years ago.

1972 Buick LeSabre 01

Although I drove them in opposite order, I will start with the older car first. the Electra was one of my first experiences with 1960s GM fullsize cars, with the other being just a really short drive in a much more “muscle car like” 1968 Catalina. But I owned 1960s US cars, and in my days as independent car importer, I got behind the wheels of about a dozen more, so I kind of knew what to expect. As I mentioned in my earlier review of 1988 Caprice, these things are just wonderful as toys – driving really brings you back in time – but as a real-world cars, they tend to suck quite a bit. While the comfort and style of a 1960s land barge can be hardly matched by anything else, all the prejudices about the old US metal come true here – with some more added to the mix. The cabin is not only extremely light any airy, but also wonderful to look at. But the instant you try to reach for anything on that beautiful, flat, jet-age designed dashboard, you realize why modern cars do not have flat dashboards. The suspension will have the car gliding over the railway crossing like there’s nothing there and over-assisted steering lets you drive with just a finger. But once you have to change your direction swiftly, the whole thing starts to wallow and keeping it on the narrow road at quicker pace is quite a challenge. You know nothing about what’s going on with the front wheels, everything is imprecise and you can feel that once you would start pushing a bit, the tires’ would lose traction and the front end with heavy engine would wash wide. And some hub caps would probably fall of, like in an old time movie. In short, it’s everything you expect from 1960s American car. Comfortable, torquey and fast in a straight line, but lacking even the slightest notion of road feel or handling.

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And if the car from the heyday of American carmaking, the height of the performance era, is lovely to cruise, but terrible for any other kind of driving, how bad must the Malaise era beast be? Every time we read about Malaise era American cars, we hear about absurd outside dimensions, mushy suspensions, comatose steering and terrible, castrated engines. I didn’t have much experience with 1970s American cars before, although I have driven more than my share of earlier and later ones.

IMAG0658

So I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to find out how they really were with this gold LeSabre. Being a ’72, it represents the very beginning of the Malaise era cars – it’s already built on the new generation of ´GM’s B-body platform, which lasted until 1976, and it’s the first model after the biggest horsepower drop (or perceived drop), but it still retains sleek shapes, unmolested by large, federal mandated 5 mph bumpers. In fact, it looks surprisingly sleek and elegant from the outside – and it seems quite a bit smaller than it actually is (especially parked next to the humongous Electra). And the line flowing from the hood to the rear quarter panels is just amazing.

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But maybe even bigger difference can be seen, and felt, when you sit inside. Unlike the Electra, with its flat dashboard, full glittery bits and with controls laid out with design in mind, instead of ergonomy, the LeSabre has a then-modern “cockpit” style dash, wrapping around the driver, a little bit like in the 1990s BMWs. These’s much less shiny stuff and on first glance, the interior looks quite a bit less interesting for it, but it has its advantages. Like the fact you can actually reach things without leaning forward in your seat.

1972 Buick LeSabre 04

But enough with interior, however beautiful it may look after just a little over 30 thousand miles. Let’s see what that 350, fed with measly two-barrel carburetor and choke with the first round of emission standards, can really do. While the Electra offered 325 SAE gross horsepower (which should be something between 250 and 300 of “modern” horses), the LeSabre must make do with just 160 hp (SAE net). Which seems like awfully little, considering that this car is about a foot longer than current S-class Mercedes. In the LWB version at that. But it’s lighter than you would think – probably under two tonnes – and with the kind of driving its handling inspires, the power is in fact quite adequate. It won’t win any drag races, it will probably have a hard time doing a burnout, but it’s powerful enough for overtaking and it chirps the tires under acceleration, which is enough to make you feel like you’re Clint Eastwood or Telly Savalas.

1965 Buick Electra 03

But back to the handling. Because, surprisingly, here lies the biggest difference from the previous generation of the B-body and, in fact, most 1960s American cars I have ever driven. While part of it may be caused by the fact that this car is in unbelievable shape and really drives “like new” (and it should, with 36 thousand miles on the clock…), it’s still surprising how stable and even taut the thing felt on the road. While the big Buick is definitely not a sports car, and it still glides over the road surface, instead of following it, there’s something very different to the older Electra. The steering wheel still has no feel, but it’s much firmer, and the suspension seemed to have much better balance between comfort and handling than the older car. I drove about 20 miles, mostly on tight European back roads, and the LeSabre dealt with it was surprisingly similar to the way my friend’s old Mercedes W124 does. There’s the same, strange same of stability and control on top of the dominating suppleness – like car was stiff, but gliding just above the road, or the soft springs were underneath the stiffer ones. It’s surprisingly vast difference compared to the older car, and it makes the newer LeSabre actually quite useable on twisty roads. You still won’t break any records, but the suspension will keep up in any speed you may reasonably expect from a land yacht – or, in fact, at any normal speed at which people usually drive.

1965 Buick Electra 02

So, what does it all mean to us, classic US car enthusiasts? What I took away from this wonderful afternoon is that we shouldn’t underestimate tha Malaise Era cars just because they’re low on power and maybe a bit bloated. Between the suspension improvements, better soundproofing and more ergonomic interiors, they can, in fact, be much nicer to drive in any other way besides the engine. The ’72 Buick was much closer to the ’88 Caprice I tested recently than to the ’65 just eight years before it. Both the improved handling and comfort (important to take it as combination – 1960s cars can be made to handle, but you will sacrifice any comfort they had before), and those little details, like easy-to-reach controls, make driving experience much more bearable. While I would absolutely love to have the Electra as a weekend cruiser, I would probably start to hate it after more than a few thousand miles a year in it. The LeSabre I would be happy to drive daily from spring until fall. And, since the shortage of horsepower is probably the easiest fault to remedy in old American cars, I may even prefer it as a toy.

Now, please excuse me. I’m off to search the ‘net for some GM Colonnade car and a big block engine…

 

Both cars, and a gallon or two of gasoline, were kindly provided by www.ameriky-hk.cz

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GM May Sell Next Generation Opel Adam in U.S. as a Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/gm-may-sell-next-generation-opel-adam-in-u-s-as-a-buick-will-develop-opels-and-buicks-together/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/gm-may-sell-next-generation-opel-adam-in-u-s-as-a-buick-will-develop-opels-and-buicks-together/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=516577 7548744648_4c32209e21_o

Illustration by Thilophilus Chin

Opel Chairman Karl-Thomas Neumann told reporters gathered at the Frankfurt Motor Show that General Motors is considering selling the Opel Adam subcompact in the United States as a Buick. ”We are looking at it,” Neumann told Automotive News. “Nothing is decided. But it’s an example of some of the Opel product being used elsewhere in the world.”

Opel and Buick already share some product. The Opel Insignia is sold as the Buick Regal and the small Opel Mokka crossover is marketed as the Buick Encore. The Encore has been selling at about double the rate that GM expected, proving that GM’s near-luxury brand Buick can sell small cars.

The Adam, a sporty hatchback, competes with cars like the Fiat 500 and the Mini on the continent. If GM does bring the car to the States, it won’t be until the next generation Adam arrives. When asked, GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky said that the current Adam “cannot” be federalized, so if the car is sold in America it will be after the Adam is redesigned for its second generation, 2015 or 2016 at the earliest. Neumann concurred, saying, ”We have to work on the car. “That’s one of the issues that we have to look at.”

In June, GM CEO Dan Akerson said that he thought the Adam would be a good fit for Buick’s U.S. lineup. Neumann confirmed that GM’s ultimate goal is to develop Opel and Buick products together so they can sold in both Europe and North America with equal ease. ”Maybe that can be done better in the future, if we design the product so that it would fit into other markets,” Nuemann said. “That’s exactly what we’re aiming at.”

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One Man’s Tribute To The Buick Roadmaster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/one-mans-tribute-to-the-buick-roadmaster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/one-mans-tribute-to-the-buick-roadmaster/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 15:20:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499880 Buick_Roadmaster_--_04-22-2010

While TTAC is known for Panther Love above all else, there are some of us here who possess an iconoclastic streak and long for a General Motors B-Body. The LT1 powered Buick Roadmaster is arguably the finest of the bunch, and an essay in today’s edition of The Globe and Mail illustrates why.

Reader Mark Harding, who admittedly uses his bicycle more than his car, professes his love for his 1993 Buick Roadmaster in this essay. While Harding primarily enjoys the Roadmaster on long highway trips, he also seems to take a certain delight in the Roadmaster’s imposing presence, small block V8 engine and overall character, which is at odds with the general ethos of Toronto’s left-leaning downtown neighborhoods, where Harding apparently resides.

It’s nice to know that in a city where car ownership is not always easy thanks to limited parking and high gas prices, one man is keeping the B-Body flame alive.

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What’s Bigger Than A Bentley And Twice As Cool? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/whats-bigger-than-a-bentley-and-twice-as-cool/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/whats-bigger-than-a-bentley-and-twice-as-cool/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 03:08:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498948 ls2

Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play. But if you want to ride on those streets like ev-er-y day, your ride has arrived. Which leads to a question:

Full-sized coupes disappeared a long time ago. I’m sure many TTAC readers don’t remember ever seeing one in a new-car showroom. Conventional wisdom says the market for them is long gone. And yet… people still buy ‘em. They just insist on paying six figures for them. The Phaeton Turbo Fish-Face Edition Continental GT, the Mercedes CL, the Rolls-Royce Drophead Koo-Pay And Non-Drophead Koo-Pay. The appeal of rolling in a monstrous automobile with limited access to the rear seats still sells. It just doesn’t sell to the little people out there. The question is: why? Why are regular people willing to buy horrifying crap like the BMW X6, a vehicle which is designed to be as offensive as humanly possible and seemingly exists solely to convey the message that you can afford it, but they aren’t interested in the plush ride and placid demeanor of a proper coupe?

The hell with ‘em. If you want to get more house on the boulevard than any Conti GT around, pay this guy eighty-five hundred bucks and you can roll in style, with my full approval. And probably the approval of Andre 3000, as well.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Buick Skyhawk Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494869 22 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Skyhawk started out as a badge-engineered upscale version of the wretched Chevy Monza, took 1981 off, then returned as a front-wheel-drive J-body in 1982. This car is largely forgotten today, and the station wagon version manages to be even more forgotten. Still, a few remain, and this ’85 hung on for nearly 30 years before washing up in The Crusher’s waiting room.


Put a little Skyhawk in your life!
12 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is about as used up as it gets.
08 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo, this isn’t an Iron Duke, nor is it the Opel pushrod four used in the Chevette. This is the overhead-cam 1.8 liter version of the GM 122 engine, which produced a not-so-zippy 84 horsepower in 1985.
04 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHowever, the 5-speed vampired fewer horses than the slushbox.
06 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGM used five-digit odometers well into the 1990s, so we can’t tell whether this car did 35,000 miles, 135,000 miles, or 735,000 miles. My money is on the second guess.
10 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOverhead cams and fuel injection were still semi-futuristic in 1985, at least for Detroit. Bragging rights for Skyhawk drivers!

01 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Neumann: Bringing Opel To China “Utter Nonsense” – Badged As Buick Better http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/neumann-bringing-opel-to-china-utter-nonsense-badged-as-buick-better/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/neumann-bringing-opel-to-china-utter-nonsense-badged-as-buick-better/#comments Fri, 05 Jul 2013 11:53:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494277 IMG_9800

GM’s ailing Opel hopes to enter the American and Chinese markets, and through that for a speedier recuperation. It wants to do that under cover: Made in Europe Opels, sold abroad as Buicks. This according to a report in Opel’s hometown paper Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung.

For Opel to look for salvation in China would be “utter nonsense,” Opel’s CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann told the paper. He knows that an entry in to the Chinese market is costly and risky. It would be less so with an established brand. Therefore, Opel’s management is looking into “exporting more cars to China and the U.S.A., where they would be sold under the Buick brand through Buick distribution channels – if the decision is positive,” Neumann said.

Neumann has plenty China experience from his former job as Volkswagen’s China chief. Whether Buick managers in the U.S. and China will be happy about the idea is a different question. Imported cars carry a 25 percent tariff in China, which makes them a hard sell unless they are in the high luxury segments – where some cars can’t be expensive enough for Chinese tastes.

The European car market is going through a brutal downturn, which is only survivable with strong exports and successful engagements in growth markets: Opel, PSA, and Fiat suffer while Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler thrive. Opel has for long been kept out of most of these markets, whereas Opel platforms underpin many cars sold there by GM.

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Oshawa’s Future Looks Bleak As The Clock Runs Out On GM’s Vitality Commitment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/oshawas-future-looks-bleak-as-the-clock-runs-out-on-gms-vitality-commitment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/oshawas-future-looks-bleak-as-the-clock-runs-out-on-gms-vitality-commitment/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493097 450x270x001-2014-buick-regal-opt-450x270.jpg.pagespeed.ic.RilyP5jxqe

Ontario is home to a number of auto plants, both import and domestic, union and non-union, as well as numerous suppliers. None of them are so tightly intertwined as General Motors is with the town of Oshawa, about 40 miles from Toronto (though, as any area resident will tell you, it’s really 2 hours away, thanks to our horrendously inadequate infrastructure). For nearly a century, GM has been building cars in Oshawa in one form or another, as the plant has established a reputation as one of GM’s best, consistently building high quality cars, trucks and crossovers over the decades. But that tradition may be coming to a close by 2016.

A report by The Globe and Mail comes to the same conclusion that TTAC has reached since last year: Oshawa’s future is looking bleak in the face of unfavorable exchange rates, high labor costs and an exodus of product, with no plans to replenish the factory with any new vehicles. Since the bailout era, Oshawa has seen a glut of product leave for other destinations. First to go were the full-size trucks, followed by the Chevrolet Impala (now split with Hamtramck, along with the Cadillac XTS) and then the Chevrolet Camaro.

Now, The Globe is reporting that the Buick Regal, which is currently built at Oshawa, may not be replaced after 2016, while another report by Ward’s Auto says otherwise. With sales of the smaller Verano cannibalizing Regal sales, Buick has a good reason not to replace the Regal. The Regal, based on the Opel Insignia, may also be a victim of rapidly declining D-segment car sales in Europe. Opel may not see a reason to replace a car that competes in one of the weakest segments, especially in light of Opel’s declining fortunes.

With the potential loss of the Regal and the confirmed exit of the Camaro, also that’s left is the Impala and XTS (which is in danger of leaving altogether for Hamtramck) and overflow production of the Theta crossovers, which are built in Ingersoll, Ontario, halfway between Oshawa and Windsor, Ontario, at a modern facility of their own, as well as the newly re-opened Spring Hill, Tennessee plant where workers are paid on the lower end of the UAW’s two-tier wage scale.  Even the CAW has expressed their concerns that Oshawa will wither and die if new product is not brought over.

Product aside, two other factors are likely weighing on GM. The first is the expiration of the “Vitality Commitment” in 2016, which was made as a condition of GM receiving bailout funds from the Canadian and Ontario governments. While the exact terms have never been spelled out, it’s been widely reported that the terms require GM to maintain a minimum of 16 percent of its production in Canada until it repays its loan obligations or until December 31, 2016, whichever comes first. It’s also not known what the penalty would be if GM violated these conditions. Not even the original document, publicly released by GM and the Canadian government, delves into these specifics.

The second factor, according to The Globe, is the billions of dollars in financial obligations that will be due for GM at the end of the decade, including rapidly rising pension costs, interest free loan payments and payments for a note issued by GM to help cover health care costs. The timing of these obligations and the lack of product for Oshawa is almost certainly coincidental, but they represent an extremely unfortunate convergence of poor circumstances for GM’s Canadian operations.

The loss of Oshawa would not only be a blow for GM, but a massive one for Canada’s manufacturing sector as well. Despite possessing an educated, productive and conscientious workforce, the auto industry is on a massive drive to cut costs across the board, while the CAW has repeatedly taken a tough line on any concessions, as they seek to get the best deal possible. The best case scenario would be if GM uses the threat of leaving Oshawa to help get some government “assistance”, similar to how both levels of government helped chip in to revitalize Ford’s Oakville plant. More ominously, this is the model followed by Holden and Ford Australia for many years. Australia, which has many things in common with Canada (population, an abundance of resources, a strong currency) is currently experiencing a severe decline in its own auto manufacturing sector, in part due to high labor costs.

On the other hand, December 31, 2016 is a long way away; GM’s planners may be looking that far down the road, but one Robert Anthony Lutz would be the first to tell them that it’s impossible to predict what will happen months from now, let alone that far away.

 

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Buick To Share Even More Resources With Opel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/buick-to-share-even-more-resources-with-opel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/buick-to-share-even-more-resources-with-opel/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 13:41:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492391 Opel_Cascada_Front

Opel and Buick are going to get a lot cozier in the coming years if Dan Akerson has his way. The GM CEO wants the two companies to align their product portfolios even further, so that the high R&D costs of Opel products can be absorbed further.

Speaking to Automotive News at an investor conference last week, Akerson told the paper

“What we’re trying to do is bring together the product development teams much more closely,” Akerson said, so that “there will be all sorts of synergies, I believe, between Opel-Vauxhall and Buick….We think we can take costs out that way,” he said. “You’ve got to change the rules of the game in Europe — we do — because of where we are today.”

Opel has been a consistent money loser in Europe, but the firm has provided Buick with the kind of product that has revitalized its lineup. The Buick Verano, Encore and Regal are all derived from Opel products, and the upcoming Opel Cascada convertible (above) is also rumored to be making its way Stateside. The big challenge now will be engineered cars that can appeal to consumers in Europe, America and China, three markets with varying tastes.

 

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The Holden That Almost Became A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-holden-that-almost-became-a-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-holden-that-almost-became-a-buick/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 15:08:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490080 Concept Car Buick XP2000   (2000)

The most famous Holden product to ever wear a Buick badge is the Chinese-market Park Avenue, a car that Buick dealers inexplicably rejected. But back in the mid-1990s, GM apparently planned to use the VT Commodore architecture as the basis for a new Buick sedan, previewed in the XP2000 concept above.

Squint really hard and you can see a resemblance in the basic shapes of the two cars. Since the XP2000 was a concept, it’s likely that the Buick production version would have stuck closer to the Holden design, hardpoints and all. The concept used a 5.0L small-block V8 and GM’s 4-speed transmission, but a smaller displacement V8 was rumored at the time.

The XP2000 had a lot of features that were considering cutting edge for its 1995 debut but are relatively mundane today; a crude version of a lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control  as well as a vehicle key that could automatically adjust things like seat position, mirrors and climate control based on driver preferences. None of these would be earth-shattering today but they were pie-in-the-sky ideas nearly 20 years ago.

The biggest payoff may have been the readiness of the VT chassis to adapt left-hand drive. Without it, we would never have gotten the Pontiac GTO, and other export markets would have missed out on the Chevrolet Lumina.  If anything, the XP2000 is another footnote in the stilted story of GM’s attempts to bring the Holden Commodore to North America.

 

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