Electra is a name from Buick’s past and it has been affixed to four show cars over the years. So when GM trademarked the Buick Electra name recently and started applying it to electric concepts unveiled in China, we figured it would not be long until an electric Electra production model was announced. We were only sorta right. GM likes the name so much that it will be used for ALL electric Buicks in the future, followed by an alphanumeric. Buick also solidifies its plans, saying the first EV for North America will hit the market in 2024, and by 2030, the entire Buick lineup will be electric vehicles—or rather Electras.
The first EV is an SUV. In 2020 GM showed us a pair of compact SUVs, same wheelbase, but one crossover was lower, more athletic, and sedan-like, geared to singles and couples. The second SUV sits higher with more cargo room for families. We think the taller SUV will be the first to hit the market. In the interim, we will still see some new Buicks with internal combustion engines—think at least one small crossover.
And all of the above, regardless of powertrain, will adopt a new look shaped by the Buick Wildcat EV Concept, a luscious 2+2 coupe unveiled today with the new face and form of Electras to come. It is quite stunning, which pains us because it is a design study, not a precursor to a production car. Buick has teased us with many beautiful concepts over the years.
Two Conventional Buicks Coming Next Year with New Look
The first two new production SUVs with a combustion engine and Electra styling will be shown later this year and be in dealerships next year as 2024 models. Officials would not say if both will be new nameplates. So, while the Wildcat itself is unlikely to make it to production, the concept is considered one of Buick’s most important unveils, ushering in the brand’s design and style transformation going forward.
Updating the Buick Tri-Shield Logo
The Wildcat wears a new tri-colored and illuminated Buick badge—the first significant change to the emblem since 1990—and the tri-shield leaves the grille and is now body-mounted on the front fascia. It is a practical move as grilles evolve or may go away completely on EVs, says Therese Pinazzo, design manager for the Wildcat’s exterior and interior. A second logo adorns the back.
The horizontal headlights are also mounted higher and the LED lights have a wake-up/greeting sequence which has become a modern trend, but in the Buick the dynamic light dance is a more conservative welcome than the dramatic light shows on other vehicles, such as the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq.
The Wildcat has a low mouth and forward-leaning nose. The concept has a long hood for dramatic proportions, a welcome sight as automakers shorten hoods on EVs for better aerodynamics: a prime example is the Mercedes EQS electric sedan which abandons the classic long hoods Mercedes is known for. Pinazzo says keeping long hoods on electric Buicks will be depend on the vehicle. With a focus on SUVs, the point may be moot.
The Wildcat has a long, fluid body (no door handles on the concept) with convex haunches, concave sides, and a sloping roofline that draws the eye to the taillights. The large, tinted glass hatch and fast roofline give it a sports car mystique. The coupe rides on 22-inch wheels with 18 spokes—turbine style—evoking the spirit of the 1954 Wildcat show car.
Across the top of the roof “Buick” is spelled out in a new, more sophisticated font. On the lower fascia is another badge: Ultra Cruise, in anticipation of future models have GM’s latest hands-free driver assist system.
Step Inside the Buick Wildcat EV Concept
The two elongated doors open conventionally, but the portion of the roof above them also lifts for more headroom and ease of entry. Remember, this is a concept. Which is why it also has rearview cameras for side mirrors. Inside there are floating elements, including the oval instrument panel, two-thirds of which is a single touchscreen. It ends in front of the passenger, who is faced with open cargo room for greater cabin airflow and comfort. The center console also floats from the instrument panel to the rear seats.
The Wildcat has four sculpted seats that cradle occupants. There is a nice use of acrylic trim in the futuristic headrests and throughout the cabin, as well as brushed and polished aluminum throughout the cabin. The floor is Legato Green carpet, contrasting the vivid orange seatbelts.
The design team had been looking at pictures of previous Wildcats for inspiration; the first Wildcat show car was introduced in 1953 followed by concepts in 1954, 1955, and 1985. The General Motors Heritage Center loaned them an actual ’54 Wildcat, designed under the legendary Harley Earl, for a couple weeks to soak it in. The Buick team took the ’54 Wildcat outside and placed it beside the clay model of the emerging concept.
There was something about the optimism of that early model that inspired the team, Pinazzo said. It inspired the sketch that led to the Wildcat coupe, even thought that is not a body style for the brand going forward. With its dramatic proportions, the coupe was deemed a perfect canvass for the future design language, she says.
We don’t expect the coupe to make it to market. In North America, Buick has been reduced to an SUV-only brand and that will extend into the electric age. But execs say not to rule out additional body types in the future—just not the near future.
Reinventing Buick For the Electric Age
It all amounts to the reinvention of Buick for the electric age, which Brand Marketing Manager Rob Peterson says is a perfect transition for a premium brand that already has “quiet” as a selling point. The EVs to come will have tech designed to create a calm interior where biometric sensors in the car can detect the driver’s elevated heart rate and heightened stress level and the vehicle can automatically respond with Zen Mode, which dims the cabin lights, activates the massaging seats, disperses aromatherapy scents, and plays soothing music.
Buick will continue to follow slightly different paths in China and North America. China has its own unique products on the market including the Velite 5, 6, and 7 EVs, and the Buick GL8 electric multipurpose vehicle which is adding the GL8 Century with the new design language showcased by the Wildcat.
Also freshly revealed for China: the more production-ready Electra-X Concept, a crossover with the new styling cues and which uses GM’s Ultium battery management system. At the 2020 Beijing auto show, Buick showed an Electra concept that is not a precursor to the Electras of the future.
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