Buick wasn't always synonymous with retirement and long naps. During the dark days of the mid-1980s, Buick was GM's sunny spot for quick cars, racing prowess, and advanced technology such as in-car cell phones and touch screens. To turn fundamentally bad V-6s into viable V-8 alternatives, Buick engineers developed sequential electronic fuel injection, distributor-less ignition, and ceramic-impeller-wheel turbos.
Feeling its oats in 1984, Buick created "We Brake for Corvettes" bumper stickers celebrating an epic intramural victory: Buick's Regal Grand National could outgun Chevy's two-seater in the quarter-mile. In 1985, Indy cars powered by turbocharged Buick V-6s qualified 1-2 at the Brickyard. To seal the deal, Buick built a run of 1987-model turbocharged and intercooled GNXs; in our May 1987 issue, one proved capable of a 4.7-second 0-to-60-mph sprint and ran the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 102 mph. (C/D's test results for a 1988 Corvette: zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds, the quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds at 95 mph.)
To put an end to the long, dull interlude that followed that era, Buick is resuscitating its two revered nameplates. The 2015 Grand National and GNX sedans will ride on GM's new rear-drive Alpha platform, which was introduced with the Cadillac ATS and is earmarked for the sixth-generation Camaro and the third-generation Cadillac CTS.
Like the ATS, Buick's GN will offer the choice of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four (currently rated at 272 horsepower) or a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 321 horses in the ATS. The wicked GNX, available only in the official shade of evil (black), will be powered by a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 that should be good for 400 horsepower. The transmission roster will include manuals for the turbo engines and automatics across the board. The eight-speed Hydra-Matic due in 2014 should serve nicely here.
Even without the V-8 engines that are reserved for Camaros and Cadillacs, these Buick sports sedans should be capable of serious performance. By that we mean tire smoke on demand, near-neutral throttle-down handling, and acceleration figures that raise eyebrows in Bavaria. In the likely event Buick throws all-wheel drive into the mix, its new warriors will take the fight to Audi.
Family dynasties in the GM org chart reveal why Buick's hot rods easily won approval: Lloyd Reuss was Buick's general manager in the early 1980s when the Grand National and GNX seeds were planted. His son, Mark Reuss, a teenager back when Buicks ruled, is now the current president of GM North America. That infusion of fresh Reuss blood is bound to revive the brand's performance arm.