Preview concept of a China-focused plug-in hybrid that doesn’t tell us much

With the possible exception of the Riviera Concept from 2013, Buick has never been the type to go over-the-top with its concept cars. Knowing that, it comes as no surprise that Buick’s latest concept, the Velite Plug-In Hybrid, made its debut at the 2016 Auto Guangzhou show to minimal buzz and fanfare.

Not that it deserved the hype because the Velite Plug-In Hybrid Concept doesn’t even strike us as a buzz-worthy prototype, at least in the traditional sense of how these concepts are generally received by the auto industry. There are no ridiculous physical attributes, no obnoxious features. It doesn’t even have a headline-worthy engine.

What it does have is a crossover profile, which tells you what Buick’s plans for the concept are if a production model ends up being made. The concept was even co-developed by General Motors and SAIC, its Chinese state-owned auto partner and the fact that it made its debut at a Chinese auto show instead of the recently concluded show in Los Angeles tells you that Buick’s plans for model will be catered largely towards the Chinese market.

So, are there reasons to get excited about the Velite Concept? Depends on who you ask, really. For most people, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, although the fact that the model was developed with an unspecified plug-in hybrid “high-performance” powertrain is a bit of a tease.

Other than that, the Velite Concept is as it is. Even Buick didn’t have too much information about the car - no interior details to speak of - and that usually points to a concept that’s more of a showpiece of what’s to come than an actual soon-to-be production model.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Buick Velite Plug-In Hybrid Concept.

Exterior

Buick says that the Velite has the profile of a crossover, which is fine except that if this is a really crossover, it’s a really short one. That or it’s actually just a big hatchback. The latter makes more sense but I’m not going to get too caught up in the physical stature of the car.

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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The Velite Concept’s body is confusing, and that may even be putting it lightly.

The car’s overall design is the main point here and, as far as first impressions go, it is a little bit confusing. Sure, it comes with an innovative feature in the intelligent matrix LED headlights, but the rest of the car’s styling isn’t very inspiring. The front bumper set-up compares to that of the current version of the Toyota Prius, although to be fair the Velite’s bumper extends out a little bit more, presumably to create a more sporting look for the concept. The lip spoiler also accomplishes that to a certain extent while the Buick badge and the automaker’s traditional waterfall radiator grille helps to emphasize its Buick character.

The side profile is a little bit more confusing. I get that Buick prepared this model as a concept vehicle and that largely explains the number of body lines running along the sides of the hatchback/crossover. The lines above the rear wheels, for example, serve a purpose in making the car look wider than it really is, but overall, even for a concept, there are too many of them that they start clashing against each other, instead of creating a harmonious design that emphasizes the sleekness of the sides.

Somewhat surprisingly, there are no photos of the Velite Concept’s rear section, although given the stylings of the front and sides of the car, I don’t expect anything there to be without its share of confusing combinations.

Overall, the Velite Concept’s body is confusing, and that may even be putting it lightly. It’s a concept by name and there are design traits that are of concept value, but there are also production-style qualities in the body, which makes it difficult to point out what design direction Buick is going for here.

Interior

In yet another odd twist, Buick was vague on what is going on inside, opting only to say that its “elegant” and has an “integrated design” that includes, among other things, recycled materials. Evidently, the company wants to leave those descriptions to our imaginations, although to its credit, it did say that the cabin also includes a panoramic sunroof and induction ambient lighting.

Thinking of what the cabin looks like isn’t made easier if we use other Buick concepts as a sample. That Riviera Concept’s cabin is unlikely since that was unveiled in 2013. Same thing with the Avenir Concept, which not only made its debut in 2015, but was also presented as a full-sized luxury concept.

2015 Buick Avenir Concept High Resolution Interior
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Note: Avenir Concept interior pictured here.

Thinking of what the cabin looks like isn’t made easier if we use other Buick concepts as a sample.

So let’s get creative and assume that since they fall under the same Buick brand, there are some similarities with the cabin of the Velite with that of the Encore Sport Touring. I know it’s a little bit of a stretch that is made more complicated by the fact that the Velite is a concept and the Encore Sport Touring is an actual production model. But it’s not impossible to assume that the Velite will have a similar interior layout with an integrated center console and a single-piece dashboard that’s covered with the aforementioned “recycled materials” that Buick referred to in the press release. It’s even possible that it has a floating center console, similar to that found on the Chevrolet Bolt. A part of the “elegant” element that Buick also alluded to could be about the leather seats and the panoramic sunroof, although the Velite could also have some wonky interior design characteristic that complements the confusing exterior look of the car.

On a more positive note, the induction ambient lighting is a nice touch, as is the 360-degree intelligent traffic induction system that works in concert the body-mounted sensors planted in various locations around the concept’s body. The system is more functional than anything else as it enables the implementation of some pretty interesting and important functions like high-speed adaptive cruise control, lane and safety distance keep assist, hazard warning, as well as night vision, and low-speed autonomous driving.

Drivetrain

We wish Buick had been more specific about this section of the Velite, but once again, the company opted to be vague about the details of the concept’s engine. It did say that the car has a high-performance, plug-in hybrid, electric engine, and that it carries a high-performance modular lithium-ion battery pack and General Motors’ new-generation modular intelligent electric drive system. It’s an admittedly sophisticated technology and it could also point us in the direction of the latest-generation Chevrolet Volt.

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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It’s an admittedly sophisticated technology and it could also point us in the direction of the latest-generation Chevrolet Volt.

Remember, the Volt makes use of a 1.5-liter that produces 101 horsepower, a battery pack made up of 192 cells, and is capable of producing as much as 149 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque. There’s a reasonable scenario wherein the Velite has a modified version of this powertrain, or it’s got something entirely different in store for its would-be future customers.

It’s important to note too that since a production version of the Velite Concept is likely earmarked for the Chinese market, expect the engine to put a premium on range over anything else.

Conclusion

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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The Buick Velite is a very polarizing concept. On one hand, I’m not a fan of the confusing body style of the car. Is it a hatchback or a crossover? The lack of details about the interior is also weird considering that as a concept, the cabin should be one of its highlights. After all, concept interiors are usually the section that provides plenty of room for experimentation and, while Buick did say some interesting things about it, we don’t know what it looks like.

The good news is that for as vague as Buick also was with the Velite’s powertrain, the fact that it’s got a plug-in hybrid electric engine points to the direction of what the car really is all about. Here’s to hoping that at some point in the near future, we get more details about the Velite Concept than what Buick has already told us about it.

  • Leave it
    • * No clear identity with the exterior design
    • * No specific announcements about production
    • * Will it arrive in the US?

Press Release

The Buick Velite Concept made its global debut today at Auto Guangzhou 2016. The new model serves as a template for future new energy vehicles under the brand’s Buick Blue strategy.

The development of the Velite Concept was led by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), GM’s engineering and design joint venture with SAIC, leveraging GM’s global resources. The Shanghai-based team drew inspiration from water and traditional Chinese culture to create a vehicle that is efficient, intelligent and green.

The model has an innovative crossover body that combines a sporty design with practical space. Flowing lines and rippling, sculpted curves reflect Buick’s all-new design language while improving aerodynamics. Its wing-shaped front grille is matched with intelligent matrix LED headlights, giving a hint of Buick’s styling for future new energy vehicles.

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Like all Buick models, the Velite Concept has an elegant interior. Its integrated design includes recycled materials, a panoramic sunroof and induction ambient lighting, again pointing to design trends for upcoming new energy vehicles.

The Velite Concept is characterized by its high-performance plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain with GM’s new-generation modular intelligent electric drive system at its core. It incorporates a high-performance modular lithium-ion battery pack.

An enhanced electric drive unit and intelligent controls help maximize performance and fuel savings under different driving conditions. The sophisticated technology will be applied in Buick’s upcoming PHEV model.

The Velite Concept serves as a mobile network. Users can enjoy an interactive human-machine experience thanks to its efficient and convenient connection with their intelligent devices as well as the application of innovative technologies such as cloud-based connection and storage, customized service and remote operation.

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Another notable feature of the Velite Concept is its 360-degree intelligent traffic induction system supported by sensors on the car body, which enables multiple functions such as hazard warning, lane and safety distance keep assist, high-speed adaptive cruise control, low-speed automatic driving and night vision.

The introduction of the Velite Concept follows August’s global debut of the Buick LaCrosse Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and demonstrates Buick’s effort to speed up the implementation of its Buick Blue new energy vehicle strategy.

Based on various platforms, additional products featuring HEV, PHEV, extended-range electric vehicle (EREV), and all-electric powertrains are on the way from Buick to provide diverse, intelligent solutions for green mobility.

2016 Buick Velite Concept High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Besides the Velite Concept, Buick is also showcasing the recently launched new-generation Buick GL8 and GL8 Avenir at Auto Guangzhou 2016. Based on its breakthroughs and innovations in terms of design, comfort, safety, quality and technology, the new-generation GL8 has set a new benchmark for large luxury MPVs. The first model under Buick’s Avenir sub-brand, the GL8 Avenir fully expresses Buick’s design aesthetics of “go beyond the classics” and the customer-oriented Buick Care customer service program.

Buick is an international brand offering vehicles with sculpted designs, luxurious interiors and thoughtful personal technologies, along with responsive-yet-efficient performance. Buick is attracting new customers with its portfolio of award-winning models in North America and China. Buick has sold over 7 illion vehicles in China since its introduction by SAIC-GM in 1998. More information on the Buick brand in China can be found at Buick Media Online.

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