In North America, the largest Buick money can buy is the Enclave crossover, but that isn’t the case in China. Buyers seeking a premium people mover in the brand’s most successful market can instead spring for the GL8 minivan, which has been completely redesigned from the ground up for 2011.
Since its debut in 2000, the previous GL8 was little more than a tarted-up version of General Motors’ aging U-van. The new GL8, however, completely abandons those roots. Although Opel engineers may have had some influence in the van’s design (it does bear a striking resemblance to the next-generation Zafira, which launches in 2011), we hear Shanghai-GM’s own engineering staff is responsible for the majority of the vehicle’s development.
If nothing else, they certainly had a hand in developing the GL8′s exterior shape. In fact, the new van is almost a carbon copy of the Buick Business Concept, which was shown at the 2009 Shanghai Motor Show. Although the interior appears to have been stripped of the fancy electroluminescent dashboard and the wild LED headlamps, the majority of the design — including the odd step-down character line borrowed from Opel and Honda — remains intact.
The production GL8 does stray from the show car in terms of powertrain. While the Business Concept was reportedly fitted with GM’s next-generation mild-hybrid system, GM has only revealed two powertrain choices for the production van. Buyers can have their pick of either the 2.4-liter Ecotec I-4, or the direct-injection 3.0-liter V-6. Regardless, power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift controls.
At this point, GM hasn’t released a full press kit on the van, but expect more photos and details to emerge by November 28, when the GL8 rolls into Buick showrooms across China.