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In the Chinese market, Buick is kind of a big deal. Driven by emperors in pre-Communist times, the brand has carved itself a nice as a premium automaker that’s still accessible to the middle class. Most of their products are carried over from the American market (though built locally), but some, like the GL8 minivan are the kind of oddities that could only exist offshore.
The GL8, despite its minivan layout, is marketed as an executive transport vehicle. Think “livery car” but with lots of room to stretch out and do work, or transport clients from their airports and hotels to various factories and job sites throughout the country. Yes, the minivan bodystyle is a little strange, but there’s also no “suburban mom/emasculated dad” image to contend with in China.
At nearly 207 inches long, the GL8 is a beast of a car – about 10 inches longer than a Chrysler 300C. Power comes from GM’s 3.0L direct injection V6 or a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder backed by a 6-speed automatic. GM will continue to sell the previous model GL8, though the van will also get a refresh, as it moves to target a more mainstream demographic.
In China Buick sells several models we don’t get here, including the GL8 van. Recently, a replacement for the current GL8 was spotted camoed-up and testing in China, looking a lot like the Buick Business Concept first shown at the Shanghai Auto Show last year.
The current GL8 is based off the tremendously old Pontiac Trans Sport and so it’s nice to see that Buick is planning to move significantly forward with the next generation of this minivan/mpv. With Buick established as a full luxury brand in China, the GL8 can almost be considered to be the Buick version of the Mercedes R-Class here.
It’s unclear if the GL8 badge will stay intact when Buick launches the production model, but based on the concept we do expect to be impressed with the overall package.
Several years ago GM got out of the minivan business in North America and has made no hint that it ever intends to get back into it here – even cutting the Chevy Orlando from its U.S. product lineup. Still, a new GL8 might be just the thing to rival Ford’s Flex – especially with AWD and GM’s rumored twin-turbo V6.
GALLERY: Buick Business Concept