Following the whittle work General Motors has done to its vehicle lineups, the existing brands are going to have to get some fresh new product to keep customers coming to showrooms. Case in point, Buick was a fine luxury accent to Pontiac and GMC dealerships, but with the closure of Pontiac, Buick is going to be getting some new models not only to keep people coming to the dealers, but also to make the division a younger brand with fresher products. In addition to a small, new sedan possibly named the Regal, Buick is also planning to offer a sub-Enclave crossover based on the current Saturn VUE and Cadillac SRX. In addition to adding a compact luxury crossover to the ever-growing number of competitors, GM expects to use the yet-to-be-named Buick crossover to launch the first mainstream commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2011.
With Saturn likely to be sold off to Penske Automotive Group without GM's Two-Mode Hybrid system, the new Buick crossover will get the get the PHEV setup rather than the Saturn VUE. GM expects the new Buick crossover to get double the fuel economy of a comparably sized crossover thanks to an advanced powertrain that combines aspects of through GM's Two-Mode Hybrid system (used on the full-size pickups and SUVs) and the Voltec technology (which will make its debut later next year on the Chevrolet Volt). Unlike the Volt, which is capable of electric-only driving for 40 miles, GM said that in initial testing, the Buick crossover PHEV only has an electric-only range of 10 miles at low speeds before filing up the gasoline engine.
GM says that LG Chem will supply the 8 kWh lithium ion battery pack and should have a recharge time of around four or five hours from a standard 110-volt home electrical outlet. Like the battery system of the Volt, the Buick PHEV will have its battery pack mounted beneath the cargo floor so as not to intrude on the utility and versatility of the crossover. PHEVs operate as full electric vehicles until the battery charge drops to a certain level, switching to a more conventional parallel hybrid system relying on both the engine and electric systems that consist of two electric motors and the Li-ion batteries. As for the gasoline engine, Buick's PHEV will be powered by GM's 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6, which is capable of 304 horsepower in the Cadillac CTS, and should provide for an exciting ride in this compact crossover.
Like Buick's current lineup, we're expecting non-PHEV models of the new crossover to come in three different trim levels: CX, CXL and CXS. The CX and CXL models will offer GM's 2.4-liter direct-injected Ecotec inline-4, while the top-of-the-line CXS will come with the more powerful 3.0-liter direct-injected V-6. Based on numbers of the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, a vehicle that should be fairly similar to the new Buick, the base engine produces 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque and gets up to 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. As for the V-6, this engine should be good for 264 horsepower and 222 lb-ft of torque with fuel economy estimates close to 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Both engines will be paired up to six-speed automatic transmissions which come in a front-wheel drive setup in the standard configuration with the option of all-wheel drive.
Teased in a picture released by GM, the new Buick crossover will not stray too much from the design of the current Saturn VUE, and it will be noticeably different from other Theta crossovers like the 2010 Chevy Equinox, Cadillac SRX and GMC Terrain. Badge engineering was a major problem for GM in the 1980s and 1990s, but this quartet of crossovers proves that it can offer the same platform to all of its divisions without making them all clones. Like the Buick Enclave, the new crossover will prominently feature the company's trademark waterfall grille and a slightly pointed front end. PHEV models will get large, green badges on the front fenders, one of which is certain to house the recharging port.
No word yet as to where the new Buick crossover will be produced or whether the PHEV technology will spread to other Buick or GM products in the near future. All of the details including the vehicle's name, pricing and official specs will all be announced closer to its introduction later next year.