Restrained extravagance. Two seemingly incompatible words that nonetheless convey the spirit of the Buick Velite – a four-seat convertible that envelops its passengers in a rich, elegant environment while forging new ground in the exclusive territory of expressive, upscale rear-drive mid-size automobiles.
The Velite is the first American demonstration of GM’s all-new Zeta global vehicle architecture, featuring a premium rear-wheel-drive chassis. Buick will unveil the Velite concept at the New York Auto Show.
Named for an elite class of quick-moving soldiers in Napoleon’s army, the Velite was designed at GM’s Advanced Studio in Warren, Mich. and assembled at renowned coachbuilder Stile Bertone’s studio in Italy. Its sister car, the Opel Insignia, debuted the Zeta architecture at the Frankfurt International Auto Show last year.
“Velite is a new expression of Buick’s longstanding heritage in understated yet sophisticated design,” said Anne Asensio, executive director – GM Advanced Design. “While certainly an expression of premium American style, the Velite’s impressive stance and overall presence emphasize a sumptuous driving experience that further pushes Buick on to the center of the world stage of luxurious touring cars.”
Indeed, Buick’s global presence is widening, particularly in Asia. Recently introduced products in China, for example, have been warmly received with demand exceeding supply. The upscale aura of these vehicles is enhanced with the rear-drive Velite – its athletic proportions and aggressive stance emphasizing a bold, contemporary design, while readily identifiable heritage cues are worn with an international flair and understated elegance.
Designers pored over Buick’s extremely rich design history while also studying trends in global cultures and contemporary design. Modern furniture and even the atmosphere of trend-setting lounges influenced the color, mood and shape of the Velite’s exterior and interior. Heritage cues can be found in the Velite’s long dash-to-axle proportions, which convey power and a sporting elegance – a theme reinforced by 20-inch front wheels, 21-inch rear wheels and short overhangs. Its long, sculpted clamshell hood introduces a bold new look for Buick’s signature waterfall grille design. It is finished in a jewel-like luster and creates a three-dimension visual effect that blends seamlessly with the body when viewed from different angles.
The hood integrates portholes – three per side – in a romantic, yet contemporary nod to Buick’s heritage. The hood tilts forward when opened, creating a dramatic look that evokes a bygone era of touring cars. A complementing clamshell deck lid opens in the opposite direction to swallow the Velite’s folding soft top. When retracted, the top is completely covered by the rear deck for an integrated, contoured look reminiscent of Buick’s dramatic boattail designs of the 1930s.
Decidedly upscale yet subtle appointments underscore the Velite’s aura of refined sophistication, including its Dark Tarnished Bronze Metallic exterior color. The rich-looking hue complements the vehicle’s relaxed, sophisticated mood, and is a reflection of the color’s emergence in modern design around the globe. The color contrasts with crystalline headlamp lenses, which combine with X-Beam technology to create a distinct, superior lighting system. Using the same halogen light source, X-Beam enables the use of a smaller lens while creating 44 percent greater luminous intensity than traditional reflector headlamps. Cooling vents for the lights are slotted next to the lenses, creating a unique and purposeful styling element. X-beam technology also is used in the taillamps, which blend into rearward sheetmetal designed with a nod to the 1938 Y-Job – Buick’s first concept vehicle and first convertible.
“The Velite has a presence that conveys confident power,” said Sang Yup Lee, exterior designer. “It’s a fresh, contemporary design that not only hints at Buick’s design direction, but speaks the language of modern design trends around the globe – a statement of strength through elegance, not extravagance.”
Contemporary design also is reflected in the Velite’s passenger compartment, which uses sumptuous materials and the warm glow of indirect lighting to harmonize with the vehicle’s exterior design voice. It’s a tangible expression of a jazz lounge atmosphere, including an inviting rear seat that wraps around the interior like a comfortable lounge loveseat. Rear HVAC controls allow rear-seat passengers to adjust the climate to suit their moods.
Subdued lighting radiates a warm glow throughout the cabin, and is complemented by leather of three shades: Bronze Pearl, Iceberg Blue, and Woven Tan. The look of Gold Leaf Lacquer, in place of wood, is a statement of richness in many Asian cultures; it accents the interior, including the door handles and shift knob. All seating is leather-covered and the materials used throughout the interior were selected for their reassuring tactile feel.
“Everything from the colors to the shape and feel of the upholstery was designed to provide a rich, relaxing and romantic environment,” said Bryan Priebe, interior designer. “The Velite is a respite from the outside world and invites human interaction.”
The Velite’s warm interior lighting glows from the backs of instrument panel controls and gauges. The subdued look includes a panel over the XM Satellite Radio and OnStar controls, allowing a smooth, uninterrupted appearance of the dashboard and center console.
An “E-lock” security system allows the Velite’s driver to unlock or lock the vehicle without fumbling for a key fob. The system, which uses a proximity signal for vehicle function commands, allows starting and driving without the need for a traditional ignition key.
Power to move the Velite comes from Buick’s experimental twin-turbocharged, intercooled global V-6 engine. Four hundred horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque are derived from its DOHC design and 3.6-liter displacement. The engine features fuel-saving variable valve timing technology, which is available on some of GM’s four-, five-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. Through the use of variable engine valve timing, valve lift and duration is continuously varied to improve fuel economy, horsepower and torque, while reducing emissions.
The V-6 is backed by a Hydra-Matic 6L80-E six-speed, rear-wheel-drive automatic transmission equipped with manual tap-shift gear selection. A pair of large, oval exhaust outlets provides an aural reminder that performance is very much a part of the vehicle’s character.
“The strength of the powertrain is the necessary complement to the Velite’s powerful design statement,” said Tom Peters, Buick Velite’s chief designer. “It’s premium performance to go with a contemporary, muscular presence.”
Although a concept, the Velite affirms GM’s vision for Buick as a global manufacturer of premium, elegant vehicles. It shows the exciting possibilities of the all-new Zeta vehicle architecture and an expressive new direction for Buick.
“There’s an edge to the vehicle, more than is reflected in its sculpted bodywork,” said Peters. “It’s a forward-looking vehicle that not only stands for Buick in America, but how American style, performance and prestige resonates in a contemporary, global form.”