A compelling tease of Buick performance that never materialized, we take a look at the Buick Avista Concept

Buick may have resigned itself to being a luxury brand that’s focusing on CUVs and SUVS these days, but it wasn’t too long ago that the brand was reigniting the flame of performance which once burned brightly during the 1980s with the Regal Grand National and its wild limited production cousin the GNX. The revived Regal GS and even the Cascada convertible and Verano Premium Group (aka the Verano Turbo) were telltale signs that perhaps performance engineering would be able to co-exist with luxury. Things escalated in 2016 when Buick unveiled the Avista concept which was supposed to be a glimpse into the pinnacle of performance for a brand that long lacked one. But despite making a splash in the auto show circuit, the Avista’s promise never materialized. We take a look at why that didn’t happen, and if the Avista did indeed leave a mark at Buick?


Elegant muscle

When you take a look at the exterior styling of the Avista you can’t help but be drawn in to its beauty. Buick designers wanted to make the Avista a very expressive Buick and they left no stone unturned when crafting it in the design studio. The front end for example is very purposeful and carries a certain degree of aggression and swagger into many aspects of the design. The headlights further enhance the serious look while the muscular rippling hood helps bring dimension and contrast to the concept.

The rear styling also builds on this and incorporates a wind swept look and sleek taillights that help round out the package quite nicely. It also didn’t hurt either that the Avista was equipped with 20-inch aluminum wheels which really added some spice to its overall profile. If the dimensions look a bit familiar that’s because the Avista was based on the Alpha platform which spawned hits such as the Cadillac ATS-V and the Chevrolet Camaro. With these impressive underpinnings, the Avista certainly had a solid blueprint for success. This was evident with its turbocharged V6 which made 400 horsepower and was mated to an eight speed automatic transmission


Avista cabin previewed the future

With the exterior having styling reminiscent of a finely pressed suit, it should come as no surprise that the interior of the Avista was also designed to appeal to the sportier side of life. The Alpha based architecture allowed Buick designers to create a driver focused cabin with the seats being adorned in Mist Gray leather and splashes of carbon fiber and aluminum trim helping to bring more focus to the drivers area.

The Avista also boasted an advanced touchscreen infotainment system that was supposed to preview a future version of Buick’s Intellilink infotainment system. Simplicity also reigned supreme in the Avista with many of the components (including the door panels) being 3D printed with advanced build techniques. The cabin’s subtle mixture of sport and luxury certainly had the potential of being something special especially when paired with certain color schemes.


What Happened?

In this instance it appeared to be a case of many interested buyers not reading the fine print. Buick revealed from the very beginning that the Avista was supposed to be a design study only with no prospect for production. However, it became readily apparent that the Avista had the potential to not follow the script, with the car receiving an avalanche of attention and praise when it made its debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

In addition to wowing show crowds, the Avista also won several industry awards during its time on the circuit. This impressive level of attention initially caused Buick to reconsider their plans for the Avista, with some in the company even considering putting it into production as some form of halo offering for the brand. Part of the plan would see the turbocharged V6 and the platform itself being retained for the production version.

However, Buick mysteriously backtracked on there initial claims and reiterated that the Avista was a design study only which extinguished any chance of the Avista ever reaching production. We suspect that GM bean counters stepped in and played their hand in permanently sidelining the project to try and keep money flowing into more profitable projects. Those include a renewed focus on utility vehicles which have rapidly become a driving force for Buick in recent years.


As for the Avista it remains a very intriguing piece of Buick history, and sadly a fantasy especially as long as consumers continue to gravitate towards CUV and SUV models.