GM is showcasing the Buick Wildcat EV concept across the Canadian Auto Show circuit to establish that an all-electric future will include a brand that’s seen brighter days in the past.
If pushing the envelope on design is part of the story, then Buick hasn’t been synonymous with that sort of thing — at least not lately. Once a brand leaning toward luxury, Buick escaped the proverbial scrap heap in the 2009 bailout and subsequent restructuring that flatlined the likes of Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer. But like Hummer, EVs are an opportunity to revisit a brand’s purpose and reintroduce it to new drivers.
The Wildcat is still a concept, yet it looks like a radical departure for Buick, including the new tri-shield logo adorned at the front. The pickings have been slim for a while now. Up to February 2023, there are only three models available in Canada: Encore, Enclave and Envision — all of them crossovers or SUVs. There are other models, but only in overseas markets, like China. The Wildcat is a sedan, perhaps marking a change in strategy.
It’s funny because “Buick” and “sedan” went together for a long time. The market shift to crossovers and SUVs has been a boon to keeping Buick alive in North America, but the Wildcat is supposed to be a nod to the brand’s legacy with a focus on its all-electric future. Beauty is subjective, but I think this vehicle looks pretty slick, and it apparently influenced the design for the new 2024 Encore GX, and will do so for others too.
This EV concept is itself inspired by the Wildcat of old, when Buick first unveiled a concept under the name in 1953. Its history in muscle performance also plays a role here, given the power this concept is supposed to have, though those details are still unclear because it’s not meant to sell to consumers. The 2 x 2 coupe design features a lower centre of gravity thanks to a sloped roofline that appears to merge with the windshield and windows.
From the headlights to the tail lights, even down to charging indicators in the hatchback glass and the turbine-looking wheels, everything just looks flashy.
I didn’t get to sit inside, but Buick chose to try a few things in the cabin as well. The translucent steering wheel is one of them, as is the aluminum trim that seems to be everywhere. The centre console “floats” from the front to the rear seats, while a 30.4-inch touchscreen cuts across the driver’s side over to the infotainment screen in the middle of the dash.
Buick says the interior was “built to be a platform for futuristic features such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and aromatherapy.” That means it would theoretically be able to monitor a driver’s heart rate and adjust vehicle settings to calm any nerves, like dimming cabin lights, activating the massage feature in the seat or releasing an aromatic fragrance. No surprise, it’s calling this “Zen Mode.”
All in on electric
GM’s stated goal is to be fully electric by 2035, while Cadillac will lead the charge (no pun intended) by pulling that off five years earlier. It’s also been confirmed technologies in the Wildcat EV concept will make their way to upcoming Buicks. We just don’t know what and when.
Since Buick is keeping the electrification specs and features closer to the chest, company reps didn’t reveal anything about range, charging or performance. It’s a fully drivable vehicle, that much is clear, except there’s nothing official about the powertrain or even how driver autonomy might figure into the whole thing.
Going forward, Buick EVs will fall under a common name, Electra, fitting right in with the existing models that all start with the letter ‘E’. The company was also mum on whether it is testing specific electric driving features or even swapping out parts. It was built with GM’s Ultium battery platform, the underside housing the cells and forming the basis for the chassis.
Buick knows it needs to cater to a younger crowd to compete long-term, and isn’t really hiding that. The design all but confirms it, as it bears so little resemblance to anything in the current lineup. The words “dynamic,” “fresh” and “bold” came up often in conversations I had with reps at the show.
Over the next 18 months, Buick plans to release about five new vehicles “that will have a lot of cues” taken from the Wildcat EV. We’ll have to see when they roll out.