"Restrained extravagance" were the words that described the landmark Buick Velite concept nearly four years ago and they still apply today. With a sweeping, stylized exterior and a globally influenced passenger compartment, the Velite – a four-seat convertible – continues to characterize Buick vehicles of today.
The Velite’s design influence can be seen in current production vehicles in North America, including the new Enclave, Lucerne and LaCrosse. Cues such as the vertical waterfall grille, portholes, subtle use of chrome and other rich materials continue to influence Buick’s current product renaissance and growth into a premium, international brand.
“With its classic proportions and timeless beauty, the Velite looks as fresh today as it did when it was originally introduced,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, GM Global Design. “It remains an excellent example of Buick’s design legacy.”
Named for an elite class of quick-moving soldiers in Napoleon’s army, the Velite was designed at GM’s Advanced Studio in Warren, Mich., and assembled at renowned coachbuilder Stile Bertone’s studio in Italy. It has athletic proportions and an aggressive stance that emphasize a bold, contemporary design, with identifiable heritage cues worn with an international flair and understated elegance.
Heritage cues, international expression
Designers pored over Buick’s rich design history while also studying trends in global cultures and contemporary design. Modern furniture and even the atmosphere of trend-setting lounges influenced the color, mood and shape of the Velite’s exterior and interior.
Heritage cues can be found in the Velite’s long dash-to-axle proportions, which convey power and a sporting elegance – a theme reinforced by 20-inch front wheels, 21-inch rear wheels and short overhangs. Its long, sculpted clamshell hood introduces a bold new look for Buick’s signature waterfall grille design. It is finished in a jewel-like luster and creates a three-dimension visual effect that blends seamlessly with the body when viewed from different angles.
The hood integrates portholes – three per side – in a romantic, yet contemporary nod to Buick’s heritage. The hood tilts forward when opened, creating a dramatic look that evokes a bygone era of touring cars. A complementing clamshell deck lid opens in the opposite direction to swallow the Velite’s folding soft top. When retracted, the top is completely covered by the rear deck for an integrated, contoured look reminiscent of Buick’s dramatic boattail designs of the 1930s.
Decidedly upscale yet subtle appointments underscore the Velite’s aura of refined sophistication, including its Dark Tarnished Bronze Metallic exterior color. The rich-looking hue complements the vehicle’s relaxed, sophisticated mood, and is a reflection of the color’s emergence in modern design around the globe.
The color contrasts with crystalline headlamp lenses, which combine with X-Beam technology to create a distinct lighting system. Using the same halogen light source, X-Beam enables the use of a smaller lens while creating 44-percent greater luminous intensity than traditional reflector headlamps. Cooling vents for the lights are slotted next to the lenses, creating a unique and purposeful styling element. X-Beam technology also is used in the taillamps, which blend into rearward sheetmetal designed with a nod to the 1938 Y-Job – Buick’s first concept vehicle and first convertible.
Contemporary design also is reflected in the Velite’s passenger compartment, which uses sumptuous materials and the warm glow of indirect lighting to harmonize with the vehicle’s exterior design voice. It’s a tangible expression of a jazz lounge atmosphere, including an inviting rear seat that wraps around the interior like a comfortable lounge loveseat. Rear HVAC controls allow rear-seat passengers to adjust the climate to suit their moods.
Subdued lighting radiates a warm glow throughout the cabin, and is complemented by leather of three shades: Bronze Pearl, Iceberg Blue and Woven Tan. The look of Gold Leaf Lacquer, in place of wood, is a statement of richness in many Asian cultures; it accents the interior, including the door handles and shift knob. All seating is leather-covered and the materials used throughout the interior were selected for their reassuring tactile feel.
The Velite’s warm interior lighting glows from the backs of instrument panel controls and gauges. The subdued look includes a panel over the XM Satellite Radio and OnStar controls, allowing a smooth, uninterrupted appearance of the dashboard and center console. An “E-lock” security system allows the Velite’s driver to unlock or lock the vehicle without fumbling for a key fob. The system, which uses a proximity signal for vehicle function commands, allows starting and driving without the need for a traditional ignition key.
Power to move the Velite comes from Buick’s experimental, 3.6L DOHC, twin-turbocharged and intercooled global V-6 engine. The engine features fuel-saving variable valve timing technology, which is available on some of GM’s four-, five-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. Through the use of variable engine valve timing, valve lift and duration is continuously varied to improve fuel economy, horsepower and torque, while reducing emissions.
The V-6 is backed by a Hydra-Matic 6L80-E six-speed, rear-wheel-drive automatic transmission equipped with manual tap-shift gear selection. A pair of large, oval exhaust outlets provides an aural reminder that performance is very much a part of the vehicle’s character.
In the four years since its debut, the Velite has come to symbolize Buick design ethic. It affirms Buick’s position as an international manufacturer of premium, elegant vehicles that are contemporary yet cognizant of the brand’s 105-year history.