The iconic Buick Electra returns as an all-electric crossover

Although General Motors is selling a couple of electric cars, none of them are coming into showrooms with a Buick badge. But this will change soon because Buick just unveiled an all-electric concept that previews at least one production model. It’s called the Electra, a name Buick used on an iconic full-size car produced from 1959 to 1990, which means it’s a very important project for the brand. Unveiled in Shanghai, it’s developed by GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in China, it debuts a new design language, and features an advanced battery system called Ultium.

The 2020 Buick Electra is a sleek electric crossover

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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While the Electra was sold as a full-size sedan and coupe for most of its life as a production car, this concept takes the nameplate into new territory. The Electra concept looks impressively sleek, but it’s basically a sporty crossover, or an SUV with a grand tourer-like roof. Yet another car name lost in the land of SUVs, I guess.

Design-wise, it debuts a new styling language called "potential energy."

Fancy words aside, it’s a sleek design with sharp features in the front and organic side and rear panels. The front fascia boasts a pointy nose with a really thin grille that reminds me of the Tesla Model X, flanked by extremely slim headlamps that flow toward the bumper at the corners. It features an illuminated badge, something you usually find on expensive Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce models.

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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The profile looks a lot like a coupe if we ignore the SUV-specific ride-height. It features a really high waistline, and the rear doors occupy about half of the rear fenders, which is a bit unusual. Speaking of the doors, they are of the butterfly variety with the rear ones opening toward the back.

The Electra also features SUV-style cladding, heavily sculpted side skirts, and rides on massive 23-inch wheels.

The rear boasts a cool vintage vibe thanks to the boat-tail-inspired decklid. Details are rather clean and simple, but the stoplight under the rear bumper hides a floating skateboard. Another cool feature is the facial recognition system integrated into the butterfly doors, meaning you don’t need a key or a smartphone to get inside the vehicle.

The 2020 Buick Electra features an elegant and spacious interior

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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The interior provides seating for four, as is traditional in all-electric concept cars. Based on the photos, there’s a lot of legroom for both front and rear passengers, and the seats seem to have been designed for premium comfort. Thanks to the electric drivetrain, there’s no center console to between the front seats. The seats also appear to float inside the cabin, especially the ones in the front, mounted on a stylish support bar that extends from the side skirt areas.

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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The dashboard is basically a massive, curved display, while the steering wheel and the pedals are retractable, showcasing the concept's fully autonomous capability.

Buick says it also features a next-generation eConnect connectivity system with over-the-air updates and a variety of connected and intelligent driving technologies.

Other highlights that are briefly mentioned include a next-generation AI Voice Assistant through which you can fully manage the vehicle’s functions.

The 2020 Buick Electra previews innovative battery technology

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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The Electra is more than just Buick’s first EV, and it’s not based on existing electric vehicles produced by GM.

Details as to what hides under the body is slim, but Buick brags about a new and advanced battery called Ultium that provides more than 410 miles of range per single charge.

While that’s below what you can get from Tesla right now, it’s still much better than most production EVs out there.

Buick also claims that it invented a wireless battery management system that reduces the number of wires within the battery 90 percent. This allows for a more compact design with improved reliability, but it also helps balance chemistry within individual battery cell groups. As far as motors go, the Electra is fitted with two units that generate a maximum output of 583 horsepower. That’s enough to send the SUV flying from 0 to 62 mph in 4.3 seconds.

Buick Electra specifications
Power two electric motors
Horsepower 583 HP
0 to 60 mph 4.3 seconds
Range 410 miles

The Buick Electra is an iconic nameplate

Buick's Future Is Looking Pretty Bright Thanks to the Electra Concept
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It’s pretty obvious that Buick picked the Electra name because this vehicle is electric, but the traditional nameplate has nothing in common with haulers.

The Electra was first introduced in 1959 as a full-size car that replaced both the Roadmaster and Super. Sold in a variety of body styles, it was related to both the Oldsmobile 98 and the Cadillac Eldorado. The original Electra survived for six generations, being redesigned in 1961, 1965, 1971, 1977, and 1984. The Electra was discontinued in 1990, when the Park Avenue, previously a trim in the Electra lineup, became a distinct nameplate.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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The Buick Electra concept vehicle made its global premiere this evening in Shanghai. The all-electric crossover offers a sneak peek at Buick’s vision for a new intelligent electric future.

“Today, Buick’s innovative thinking and imagination of future intelligent mobility have reached the next level with the Electra,” said Sam Basile, executive vice president of SAIC-GM. “I am confident that the aesthetics and technology innovations reflected on the Electra will ultimately help reset consumers’ expectations, just as all previous Buick concepts have done.”

Adopting the new “potential energy” design language, the Electra emphasizes clean and bold styling with seamless integrated technology. It comes with a new-generation electric propulsion system and the advanced Ultium battery, along with a variety of connected and intelligent driving technologies, demonstrating Buick’s ongoing evolution toward the future of personal mobility.

“Building on Buick’s proven leadership in electrification, the Electra represents the brand’s ambition to bring together beautiful styling and intelligent connectivity in the new era of zero emissions,” said Molly Peck, executive director of Buick Sales and Marketing at SAIC-GM.

“The advanced Ultium battery unlocks the exciting new possibilities for what future EVs will look like. The Electra fully leverages state-of-the-art technology to set a new standard for future EV design and personal mobility.”

The Electra is the latest global concept vehicle developed by GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) automotive engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai, backed by GM’s global resources. It is named after an iconic Buick flagship model that originally represented one of the three shields in the brand’s logo.

Forward-looking design inspired by a space capsule

Combining the athletic look of a four-seat crossover with Gran Turismo aesthetics, the Electra previews Buick’s next-generation design language for electric vehicles.

Adopting a pure design philosophy, the Electra has clean and minimalist styling inspired by a space capsule. The evolving sculptural beauty is distinguished by a spacious glass interior pod situated in an aerodynamic wing-form bodyshell. The glass canopy extends from near the front of the hood to the rear.

The Electra’s innovative “potential energy” design language is characterized by sculptural surfaces in front, along the sides, and in its wheels and lamps. It reinforces the elegant overall shape while emphasizing the dynamic stance like an arrow being released. This “moving tension” is also reflected through its gradient light silver exterior tone in the front end that progressively transitions to dark silver in back.

The illuminated Buick badge integrates a flow-through design. Along with 23-inch wheels featuring an optimal design, it helps enhance aerodynamics while contributing to the Electra’s futuristic look.

Its “breathing” front and rear Matrix LED lamps feature parametrical mathematic lighting strings with a three-dimensional effect. They are complemented by a full LED-illuminated grille and rear screen nameplate to provide dramatic digital lighting interaction.

The Electra’s butterfly wing doors support facial recognition and provide a robust opening for convenient access. There is also a hidden floating skateboard integrated with the stoplight under the rear bumper to expand users’ personal mobility options.

Zero-gravity environment with seamless technology integration

The Electra’s four-seat interior takes full advantage of the all-new electric vehicle architecture developed by GM, with an optimized battery layout. Together with the lack of traditional A/B pillars, the result is a maximum extension of the cabin with a longer wheelbase, a more efficient package and a more spacious, open interior.

The Electra interior has a sculptural spaceship-like cradle, without a traditional instrument panel. The large curved display is a central feature. A retractable steering wheel and suspended seats, supported by an all-new light-weighted armature structure, creates a visual effect of zero gravity inside the cabin.

The Electra’s color palette, including copper gold trim surrounding the cabin and dark trim on the exterior frame, replicates the atmosphere of outer space. The interior seamlessly integrates technologies such as a concealed air-conditioning system, ambient lighting and an electronic rearview mirror. The Electra provides functionality and convenience with features available when the user needs them.

Intuitive and immersive user experience

The Electra offers an intuitive and immersive user experience that rewards all the senses. Buick’s next-generation eConnect connectivity system runs on the distinctively large retina display with industry-leading freeform curved screen technology, expanding the viewing area for the driver with an immersive visual experience.

The advanced eConnect system supports remote over-the-air (OTA) updates and enables a connected experience by providing on-demand driving information, advanced driver assistant system details and infotainment control. The introduction of a large augmented reality-enhanced head-up display with advanced live-view navigation adds to the Electra’s intuitive multi-screen interactive user interface.

The Electra is also equipped with the next generation of Buick’s intelligent AI Voice Assistant. Users can fully manage the vehicle’s functions with smooth and precise human-machine voice interaction, such as controlling the air-conditioning, accessing home devices and adjusting the driving mode.

Advanced electrification technology and smart mobility

Leveraging GM’s global EV expertise, the Electra is supported by its new-generation high-performance modular electric propulsion system. Utilizing the advanced Ultium battery, the Electra has a range of more than 660 kilometers on a single charge, making it ideal for daily commutes as well as family trips.

Thanks to the industry-leading wireless battery management system, the Ultium battery reduces wires within the battery by 90%. It also helps balance chemistry within the individual battery cell groups and conduct real-time battery pack checks to safeguard battery health.

The Electra’s Ultium drive unit has high-performance motors in both the front and the rear to ensure optimized power output. It has maximum power of 435 kW, enabling 0-100 kilometer per hour acceleration of just 4.3 seconds.

Additional vehicle highlights for future mobility include GM’s next-generation intelligent driving technology with door to-door smart mobility solutions, as well as V2X technologies, to offer a safe and intelligent ride with peace of mind.

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