Posts from ‘Buick’
Through their logos, many automakers have created a dazzling world of wonder. In logo land, you’ll discover roman gods, prancing horses, and mystical beasts—as well as religious themes such as the Holy Trinity and the Christian Crusades. It’s a universe of stars and planets, ships and rockets, diamonds and domination. One emblem, which is simply a crooked letter, symbolizes a trustworthy handshake.
Disappointingly, such companies as Volkswagen (whose symbol is VW) and Ford (Ford) have refused to join in the fun. But many of the other logos have fascinating meanings. Let’s explore. . . .
The Acura logo plays with our minds a little. Most observers think the logo is a stylized letter A, for Acura, just like Honda’s logo is a stylized H for Honda. But according to Honda (Acura’s parent company), the image is a caliper, a design instrument used for measuring thickness.
The Alfa Romeo badge pays tribute to its home city, Milan, Italy. It features the city’s coat of arms, which symbolizes Milan’s two ruling families during medieval times. On the left is a red cross, a Christian symbol of heraldry that represents the right of a person to bear arms. On the right, a serpent devours a human being, interpreted by some as a Muslim—that is, the enemy of the Christians during the Crusades.
In today’s media-saturated world, it can be especially difficult for automakers to grab the attention of new-car buyers. Traditional advertising can’t always break through the clutter, so some manufacturers have taken to creating soft-sell “lifestyle events” to showcase their products. Buick is one such manufacturer. With its annual Discovery Tour, the venerable GM division is attempting to connect with potential buyers via their taste buds.
Buick has teamed up with Food & Wine magazine and other partner companies to create a culinary “discovery experience.” Participants attend cooking demonstrations/tasting sessions with celebrity chefs and wine experts, and are given the opportunity to kick a few tires and take some quick test drives in Buick’s complete model lineup.
The Discovery Tour is an annual “road show” that hits 10 cities over the summer season. We recently attended this year’s Chicago event, the third annual at Kendall College’s impressive culinary-arts facilities. The tour typically runs through about 1,000 to 1,500 people over the course of a weekend, in three-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday. The event is free to participants, but it is invite-only. The invitation list consists primarily of Food & Wine subscribers and potential “in-market” new-vehicle shoppers as determined by Buick’s demographic research.
With new-car prices ever on the rise, the average new-car buyer might find it nigh on impossible to enter the luxury market. Hold on to that dream, dear readers, because here are five vehicles you can buy right now that allow you to have that premium feel without too much of a hit to your bank accounts.
While some examples in this list are from mainstream brands, their ambiance and driving experiences are decidedly more upscale. As such, we at Consumer Guide place them into our “Premium” categories. The only other “rule” is that these vehicles must carry a sticker price of less than $40,000, including destination fee. The figures listed here do not include options, but several of these vehicles can be equipped with extra-cost items and still come in under the above-mentioned threshold.
Acura TL Base
Its look remains polarizing, but under its skin is a premium-midsize sedan that’s powerful, has a solid ride/handling balance, and comes with a lot of features for the money. While I would have loved to use the sportier TL SH-AWD model, its price creeps just past our self-imposed $40,000 barrier. Still, the Base model is no slouch, thanks to its 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and slick 6-speed automatic transmission. As a final bonus, TL benefits from parent company Honda’s reputation for reliability and strong resale value.
My colleagues probably didn’t expect me to jump in on this thread, but I couldn’t resist. You see, I was lucky enough to be a car-crazy high-school senior in 1965, a year so packed with cool cars that it’s still tough picking just five personal favorites.
Some of you will be pleased to note that my choices are American. Two reasons: Back then, import brands weren’t much of a factor in the U.S. market, and Detroit was unquestionably the center of the automotive universe. American automakers sold some 9.3 million cars in calendar 1965, the highest 12-month tally since record-setting 1955. That performance was impressive but not surprising in retrospect. The economy was booming, and Detroit styling, performance, innovation, and workmanship were never better. No wonder so many ’65 American cars have become prized collectibles—not least those listed below.
It was only a third-year restyle of the matchless 1963 original, but Buick’s elegant personal-luxury hardtop acquired hidden headlamps, way cool for ’65. Outboard vertical parking lamps and side-by-side quad headlamps gave way to horizontally split “clamshell” doors fronting stacked quad lamps in the fenders. Simple, eh? The doors winked open and closed when the lights switched on and off. But they were vacuum-operated, as I recall, so they inevitably gave trouble, sometimes leaving the car with one eye open or partly open, like a flirtatious drunk. I also liked the taillamps moved down into the bumper. They were more vulnerable there, but I thought they looked neat.
Rather than hold individual launches for each of its divisions at the 2013 New York Auto Show, General Motors rolled them together into a 1-2 combo from Buick followed by an uppercut from Cadillac.
The oldest product in Buick’s lineup is the LaCrosse, which bowed in its current form for the 2010 model year. For 2014, GM is giving the car a substantial freshening. A new front fascia brings LaCrosse’s appearance up to date with more recent Buicks, including the compact Verano sedan and midsize Enclave SUV. Powertrains are unchanged and include GM’s eAssist gas/electric 4-cylinder and conventional 3.6-liter V6 engines, each mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Newly available safety features include lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, and pre-collision braking. Most models will also include the latest generation of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system. The 2014 Buick LaCrosse goes on sale this summer.
Similarly updated for 2014 is the smaller Buick Regal. Like its bigger brother, Regal gets Verano/Enclave-inspired styling cues. The eAssist 4-cylinder engine remains standard. Sporty versions, including the top-line Regal GS, get a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 259 horsepower. From 2014 onward, the GS will be the only Regal model to offer a manual transmission. All others will come only with a 6-speed automatic. For the first time, Regal will be available with the choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
Those of us who were already car nuts by the 1970s lived through a dismal era in which our faith was badly shaken. Prior to that time, the combined effects of annual styling changes and the unbridled running of the horsepower race ensured that every fall brought another wave of automotive excitement. And then came 1971.
At first, it was sort of justified: Okay, we can’t continue to poison our young with the lead in gasoline, and if taking it out necessitates slightly lower compression ratios—with a commensurate drop in horsepower (sob)—then so be it. But then came 1972.
This time, it was exhaust emission standards that were to blame; well, that and the decision to go from “gross” to “net” horsepower ratings. (Some manufacturers tried to soften the blow by including both, but in most cases, those of us who’d memorized them all knew that even the bigger number was down.) Furthermore, many cars were unaccustomed “reruns” that looked nearly identical to those of the year before. The downward spiral had begun.
The following article, written by Consumer Guide Publisher Tom Appel, first appeared in the “2013 Chicago Auto Show Official Show Guide.” Thanks to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, producers of the Auto Show, for allowing us to share the text again here.
Per any number of reporting agencies, some time in the last year the average transaction price of a new vehicle crossed the $30,000 line.
Thirty years ago, the average price of a new vehicle was about $11,000, which works out to roughly $21,000, inflation adjusted.
So, why do cars and trucks cost so much more, in constant dollars, than they used to? The easy answer is this: We’re buying a lot more vehicle than we used to.
Not only is every car and crossover we now buy packed with airbags, side-impact and rollover protection, and countless other safety features, we as a nation have gotten used to luxury.
In 1983, most new vehicles weren’t equipped with power windows and door locks, not to mention leather seats, premium audio systems, and navigation systems. Plus, the mix of vehicles in the U.S. now includes a heavy dose of crossovers and SUVs, which typically cost more than the simpler sedans that they replaced.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and few periods in American automotive history were more desperate than the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Arriving just in time for a double-dip recession and an unprecedented spike in gas prices was the General Motors LC4 V6, a spin-off of Buick’s already ubiquitous 3.8-liter V6.
By this time, American shoppers had largely acquiesced to the then-brutal realities of automotive downsizing and emissions-related under-hood power shortages. Yet, while most drivers were content to accept the V6 as the new-era V8, there were still cars that screamed for something more than standard-engine fare—something, well, bigger.
Enter the LC4. While the Buick-sourced LD5 3.8-liter V6 was already the standard engine in almost half of everything General Motors was building at the time, the 4.1-liter LC4 would be cast in the special role of standard engine in the maker’s more upscale vehicles.
As such, the bigger engine—made bigger by extending the stroke of the 3.8—found a position as the standard mill in such near-luxury and luxury rides as the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. At 125 horsepower, that 4.1 represented a decent step up from the 100 horses the 3.8 was cranking out in most applications.
The “Two Left Foot Ballerina Award for Most Missteps”
Let’s move away from the actual product and talk for a bit about the companies that make them. This “prize” goes to the firm that had the roughest 2012, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.
And the “winner” is . . . Hyundai
From 2008 to 2011, it seemed like nothing could stop Hyundai. With a focus on design and quality, the Korean automaker started churning out hit after hit. The company truly found its stride with the debut of the 2011 Sonata.
Then the wheels fell off, so to speak. It was an inauspicious start for Hyundai when it debuted the face-lifted 2013 Genesis Coupe at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. Dynamically, the car was much better, with more power, a better ride, and a more upscale interior. But when I saw the revised front end in person, I was nearly brought to tears. Hyundai had taken one of the most gorgeous cars on the road and turned it into a rolling joke.
It’s all about execution.
There’s all sorts of new technology coming out of Detroit right now, and all of it merits some level of admiration. But technology means little if the car it’s fitted in doesn’t follow through on the promise.
The list here has been under consideration for a while. Nothing here is flashy or especially fun to drive. What these vehicles are, however, are ideal representations of what their makers are capable of building when engineering and design stars align just right.
I’m a sucker for refinement. I’m impressed by clean, smooth shifts, quiet cabins, and build quality. For different reasons, all three vehicles here can lay claim to levels of refinement above other vehicles in their respective classes.
So are these really the best vehicles that Detroit builds? To answer that, I quote a Consumer Guide colleague who, while discussing a previous generation of the Honda Accord, noted, “It’s great at nothing, but very good at everything.”
So, yes, by my estimation these vehicles are the best. They may not do any one thing exceedingly well, but they do everything really well. That’s execution.