Buick is a famous brand in American automobile history but most people outside the USA probably don’t know about it since its products are not exported in any notable numbers. Like many of the brands owned by General Motors, Buick has been generally regarded as conservative so the stylists have put in some effort to show that Buick can also offer something that appeals to the younger generation.
Their latest concept model is the Bengal, a sleekly sculpted roadster with a convertible top and featuring a high-performance powertrain that includes a 6-speed automatic transmission, state-of-the-art voice-activated controls and a next-generation audio system.
“The Bengal is a car with sensual elegance and versatility,” said Dave Lyon, the 31-year old Buick brand character chief designer. “We think this car will catch the attention of younger customers.”
The Bengal owes its beautiful proportions to the powertrain that enables its “wheels forward” architecture, permitting a long dashboard-to-axle ratio. The look is enhanced by 20-inch wheels. “We wanted a design that’s drop-dead gorgeous, and I think we achieved that,” he said. The Bengal’s 2794 mm wheelbase is fully exploited as the wheels are at the extreme corners.
With the seats folded, the Bengal gives the impression of being in a hot two-seat roadster. However, looks are deceiving – a small third door behind the driver’s door and a retractable tonneau cover reveal storage space for custom golfbags or seating for two additional passengers. Inside, the leather upholstery gives driver and passengers the feel of comfortable club chairs. Also, leather inserts grace the wood steering wheel.
Exceptional handling is promised by what is claimed to be an innovative powertrain. Its supercharged, 3.4-liter V6 engine, which generates 250 bhp, is transversely-mounted with the 6-speed automatic transmission in front, rather than behind. This new drivetrain creates a shorter front overhang and a more rearward centre of gravity that should give the Bengal great handling on curves.
‘Quiet Servant’, first shown on Buick’s LaCrosse and Cielo concepts, features voice- activated controls from Visteon Corporation and a reconfigurable, colour head-up display that shows gauges on demand. This enables the driver to control the car and its systems with voice commands or a 4-position joystick on the steering wheel. As a result, the dashboard is simple and elegant and the driver operates the car with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
The driver can issue more than 118 commands to the car, operating the headlights, wipers, heating system, sound system, convertible top, on-board navigation, seat adjustments and cruise control. The Quiet Servant will confirm each choice with a verbal reply in either a female or male voice. One of the main benefits of the Quiet Servant package is to reduce the number of distractions to the driver.
Freed of the usual gauges and knobs, the entire dashboard can be one large flat-panel speaker for the high-quality audio system fitted. Altogether, there are five of unobtrusive speakers which envelope the interior in audiophile-quality sound.
In designing the Bengal, Buick is aiming at customers who are young and affluent and have families. They would desire a fun vehicle to complement a more practical vehicle in the garage.