Is the Enspire concept a sneak peak at a fully electric Buick crossover?

Is the Enspire concept a sneak peak at a fully electric Buick crossover?

A series which looks at what's planned for the many divisions of General Motors out to the late 2020s now turns to Buick, having already covered Baojun, Wuling, GMC and Chevrolet. Soon to come will be analyses of future models for Cadillac and then in the last chapter of this series, Holden.

Cars

The Excelle family of C segment/Compact cars for China can be tricky to understand. On the face of it, it makes little sense for GM China to have two sedans called Excelle, supported by a wagon. In practice, it works. The Excelle GT (sedan) and slightly more expensive Excelle GX (wagon) were released in October last year and should be facelifted during the first half of 2021 before being replaced in 2024. They are manufactured by the SAIC General Motors (SGM) joint venture in the city of Wuhan.

A bit younger than the GT and GX is the third Excelle which is called, simply...Excelle. The big difference lies in the basic construction of these cars. The GT and GX use an evolution of an aged platform originally created by the former Daewoo Motor.

The Verano is another C segment/Compact model series built by SGM and sold mainly in China. Positioned above the Excelles, the Verano GS is a sedan. Its public premiere was at April 2015's Shanghai motor show. The standard engine is a 124kW turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, with a seven-speed DCT gearbox also standard. The platform is based on an existing GM architecture developed by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center.

A hatchback called Verano had its world premiere at November 2015's Guangzhou motor show. Apart from the headlights, grille and badges, the Verano is identical to the Opel Astra five-door. Both sedan and hatchback should have a facelift in 2019. The next Verano due in 2023 is likely to use either an SAIC GM or GM Korea-engineered architecture.

E2SB, the current Regal, was announced by GM on the eve of the 2017 New York auto show. Unlike the smaller Excelles and Veranos, it is available in North America, not just China, although there are some key differences. The basic model is very closely linked to the Opel Insignia.

There were at first only two bodystyles: a five-door hatchback ('Sportback') which replaced the sedan in North America, and a crossover-wagon (TourX). The latter became available in that region from February this year. Both cars are manufactured in Germany by Opel.

The Sportback is more or less the same vehicle as the Opel Insignia Grand Sport, though front and rear styling are unique to the Buick, while the TourX is fairly close to being the same car as the Insignia Country Tourer.

The standard engine for North America is a 2.0-litre turbo in combination with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive variants have an eight-speed transmission. The TourX comes only with AWD. The GS derivative has a 310hp 3.6-litre V6 and standard all-wheel drive.

North America's Regal became available from the fourth quarter of 2017, production having started in September 2017. For the 2019 model year, an Avenir model grade is added for the Sportback; one of the few changes.

Chinese market variants are manufactured by SGM. Production takes place in Shanghai at one of three plants in the Jinqiao part of Pudong. Regal build is at Jinqiao South.

China's Regal had its world premiere at the Shanghai motor show in April 2017. Sales commenced two months later. The first variants were as follows: 20T (170hp 1.5-litre turbo), 28T (261hp 2.0-litre turbo), 28T GS (same 261hp engine) and 30H (283hp hybrid: see below for more details). One very unusual fact: the model manufactured by SAIC GM is a sedan. It looks very similar to the hatchback, though.

GM may already be working on the next Regal. That is due to Opel not being keen on building the current model for many more years: it is already switching its production plants to the manufacture of Groupe PSA architecture models. The new model might be released as soon as 2021.

The LaCrosse, one size up from the Regal, is a large sedan sold in both North America and China. The car was new for North America's 2017 model year, production having commenced in July 2016. The standard engine in North America is a 227kW (305hp) 3,649cc V6 with 363Nm (268 lb.ft) of torque, and the sole transmission is an eight-speed automatic. Both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants are available.

Chinese production of the LaCrosse commenced in March 2016. There is also a hybrid (see below) which is not available in North America. However, GM added a mild hybrid to the range for the USA's 2018 model year. This became the standard powertrain, with the V6 an option. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor is termed 'eAssist' or 'light electrification'.

Other changes for the 2018MY LaCrosse included a nine-speed automatic for cars with the V6 engine. There are only minor updates for the 2019 model year, including the addition of Sport Touring model grade.

Should sales of this class of sedans continue to slide in the USA, GM will probably not replace the LaCrosse for North American markets at least. Demand is strong in China, though, with almost 50,000 sold during the first eight months of this year. A facelift is due in 2020 with any replacement pencilled in for 2023.

The Cascada is Buick's only convertible. The car became available in North America from early 2016 for the 2016 model year. It has a standard 200hp 1.6-litre turbo engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox. Since then, there have only been minor changes for each model year.

There are no changes for North America's 2019 model year, which is expected to be the car's last. As the Cascada was not a strong seller as an Opel, Vauxhall, Buick or Holden, there will not be a replacement.

MPVs/Minivans

Buick has two MPVs and both are for China. The smaller of the pair is the 4,692mm long GL6. It has three rows of seats in a 2-2-2 format and is aimed at the VW Touran L. Engine choice at the time of the Chinese market release in October 2017 was between 1.0- and 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol units.

After a facelift scheduled for 2021, the eventual replacement should use SAIC and General Motors' GEM architecture.

SGM's other Buick minivan is the GL8. The current generation, announced by GM China in October 2016, uses the same platform as the first and second generation models. This was also the first vehicle for the brand's Avenir high-end trim level.

After a facelift in 2019 or 2020, the next GL8 should appear in 2022 or 2023.

Crossovers & SUVs

The Encore, Buick's smallest SUV, has been a major success since it went on sale in North America in early 2013. It is believed to now be in its final year of production.

Build takes place at two plants: GM Korea's Bupyeong factory and the Shanghai GM joint venture's Dongyue plant in Shandong province. Chinese build began in September 2012. The Chevrolet Trax is closely related to the Encore, as is the Holden Trax and Opel-Vauxhall's Mokka X.

The Encore's replacement is expected to enter production during 2019 using an update of the current model's Global Gamma platform. Prototypes have been photographed in South Korea undergoing various tests.

The Envision is the next size up from the Encore. Inntended to be a rival for the Audi Q5 it is 4,667mm long, 1,839mm wide and 1,696mm tall. Its Chinese name is Ang Ke Wei. The model was launched with a 191kW turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as standard but the Envision 20T was added in April 2015. This is powered by a 1.5-litre Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) engine that is matched with a seven-speed DCG transmission. Like the 2.0-litre Envision 28T, it is available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

The car was revealed at the Chengdu motor show in August 2014 and went on sale in China two months later. The Envision became available in North American markets in mid 2016 for the region's 2017 model year. It is an import from China and is powered by a 252hp 2.0-litre turbo engine.

GM has just given the Envision a nine-speed automatic gearbox and a facelift for the 2019 model year. Its replacement is due in 2022.

Bigger still than the Envision is the Enclave. The current model, which is the second generation, has been available in North America since October 2017.

New for North America's 2018 model year, this big crossover has a standard 302hp 3.6-litre V6 and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. It is also available with the Avenir model grade which Buick announced in September 2016. This is the brand's equivalent of GMC's Denali.

The Enclave is manufactured alongside the related Chevrolet Traverse at the Lansing Delta Township plant in Michigan. Unlike the Chevy, which lost its third row of seats when it was replaced, the Enclave again has room for up to seven passengers.

A facelift for the Enclave should happen in 2022 with a replacement likely to appear in 2025.

Electrified models

GM is said to be developing a small crossover for Buick which uses the powertrain of the Chevrolet Bolt. The electric sub-compact might borrow the Enspire model name from an unrelated concept which debuted at this year's Beijing motor show. 

An electric crossover would in theory improve margins for the electric architecture which underpins the Chevrolet while also lifting production at the US plant which makes the Bolt and the Chevrolet Sonic/Aveo. Production could commence in August or September 2019 for the 2020 model year. There would also likely be build in China.

GM is steadily expanding the range of electrified Buick models it builds in China. The Velite 5, a plug-in hybrid, has been manufactured by SGM since March 2017. Like the Opel Ampera-E, it is a Chevrolet Volt with different front and rear styling. Sales have not been very strong so far, averaging only a few hundred cars a month. If the Velite 5 remains in production for its full life cycle that should last until 2023 after a facelift in 2020.

The Velite 6 is to be an additional model for SAIC and GM's sub-brand. Both electric and PHEV variants of this car are to be offered. For the moment, plans call for the Velite 6 to be sold only in China. The plug-in hybrid will come first, and that will be in late 2018, while the electric variant "will be introduced in China at a later date" according to a media release issued in April.

The PHEV appears to have the same powertrain as the Chevrolet Volt. According to GM China, the car has "an EVT electronically controlled variable transmission, two AC permanent-magnet synchronous motors with a high-performance lithium-ion battery, and a 1.5L naturally aspirated engine especially tuned for hybrid vehicles". The petrol engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit.

In the segment above the Velite 6, and an alternative to the Regal's 1.5- and 2.0-litre engines, GM also offers a Regal Hybrid alternative in the Chinese market. This consists of a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with one motor. A replacement might appear as soon as 2021 although that scenario could apply only to the Regal built by Opel for North American markets. SGM may instead facelift its Regal in 2020 or 2021 and replace it in 2024.

As noted above, GM's largest petrol-electric Buick sedan, the LaCrosse Hybrid, is restricted to China. Manufactured by SGM, it has been available since August 2016. The powertrain is the same as that of the Regal Hybrid. A facelift is expected for 2020 and a new model in 2023.

Recent reports for many other manufacturers' future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on the past, current and forthcoming models for General Motors brands can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

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