Buick Electra EV concept ain’t your grandfather’s land yacht

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For Electra, one body style isn’t enough. It’s more of a sedan-crossover mix.


Buick

Buick rolled out a surprise concept at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show that kicked off this weekend. This is the Buick Electra concept, and it is nothing like the Electra you may know from the past. While the Electra that comes to mind for most Buick fans is the elongated land yacht from the mid-to-late 20th century, Buick reborn Electra concept takes inspiration from a space capsule.

Truly, it’s a futuristic-looking machine, though it’s hard to say where the vehicle falls on the body style spectrum. Buick calls it a crossover, but it looks more like a high-riding edgy sedan, not unlike the Nissan IMS concept shown in 2019. The Polestar 2 also rocks a similar formula. Nevertheless, it’s a striking design from Buick, which in the past 10 years or so, rolled out some of the best concept cars from the General Motors design department. Remember Avenir? Or Avista? Yeah.

Perhaps more importantly than the metal that wraps the internals is the fact this concept includes GM’s Ultium battery technology. Essentially, this is a somewhat dramatic look at how Buick plans to design its future electric cars. With the Ultium battery onboard, and GM’s BEV3 platform, Buick designers went for a ethos they call “potential energy.” While the front looks somewhat traditional with a squarish fascia, the car starts to taper through the greenhouse and begins to create a bit of a tip-like shape at the rear. Buick said the idea was to mimic an arrow ready for release. That’s the “potential energy” thing again.

The greenhouse is essentially one big glass canopy that extends from the hood to the rear, and if that’s not enough retro-futurism for you, the Electra concept sports butterfly-style doors with facial recognition for easy ingress/egress. Want another mobility option? Pop the “floating skateboard” out from under the rear bumper.

Back to why the Ultium battery is so important to GM, it helps start to change the way designers can “package” interiors. In this case, the Electra imagines a world where A- and B-pillars are irrelevant, and I am 100% here for that future. Not only does the car look more spacious, it is more spacious with a flat floor and oodles of legroom between the Electra’s four seats. Speaking of the seats, they “float.” A new structure GM designers implemented gives the impression of “zero gravity” to tag along with the space capsule sort of look for the cabin. Everything is super-futuristic, including the one-piece digital dashboard and a retractable steering wheel. Buick didn’t talk about self-driving capabilities, but clearly, it envisions this concept car as autonomous in some way.

What isn’t so farfetched are the performance specifications, which seems to underscore that this sort of car could be a reality sooner rather than later, minus the far-out dashboard and autonomous capabilities. Buick said the Electra concept will do 404 miles on a single charge and features a whopping 583 horsepower. Based on what GM’s said in the past about its Ultium battery and Ultium Drive powertrains, this sounds realistic.

To be clear, there’s no solid confirmation Buick will put this concept car into production. What seems like a no-brainer is to call a future EV from the brand the “Electra” whether it looks like this or not.

For Electra, one body style isn't enough. It's more of a sedan-crossover mix.


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