Buick Bengal Concept

From GM press: Sporty Bengal is poised to become a prized possession

The Buick Bengal concept vehicle, a sleekly sculpted roadster with a convertible top and featuring a high performance powertrain, state-of-the-art voice- activated controls and a next-generation audio system, is making its debut at 2001 auto shows.

Bengal owes its beautiful proportions to its "wheels forward" architecture, which permits a long dash-to-axle ratio, said Lyon. The look is enhanced by 20-inch wheels. "We wanted a design that's drop-dead gorgeous, and I think we achieved that."

Bengal's 110-inch wheelbase is only two inches shorter than the Buick LeSabre - but that's somewhat misleading. Because its wheels are at the corners, the overall length of the Bengal is actually 25 inches less than the 200-inch-long LeSabre.

"When you're driving with the seats folded, you're in a hot two-seat roadster," Lyon said. But looks are deceiving. A small third door behind the driver's door and a retractable tonneau cover reveal storage space for custom golf bags or seating for two additional passengers.

Inside, Bengal's leather seating gives driver and passengers the feel of comfortable club chairs, said Lyon. Also, leather inserts grace the wood steering wheel.

Bengal owes some of its exceptional handling and sculptural exterior appearance to an innovative powertrain. Its supercharged, 3.4-liter V6 engine, which generates 250 horsepower, is transverse-mounted with the six-speed automatic transmission in front of it, rather than behind. This new drivetrain creates a shorter front overhang and a more rearward center of gravity that gives Bengal great handling on curves.

The smooth power of the engine and precisefront-wheel-drive handling give this roadster self-assurance and control in all kinds of driving situations, Lyon said.

Quiet Servant, first shown on Buick's LaCrosse and Cielo concepts, is back -- featuring voice- activated controls from Visteon Corporation and a reconfigurable, color head-up display that shows gauges on demand. This enables the driver to control the car and its systems with voice commands or a four-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.

Freed of the usual gauges and knobs, the entire dashboard is in fact one large flat-panel speaker from NXT Audio, anchoring Bengal's premium audio system. Altogether, there are five of these unobtrusive speakers which envelop the interior in audiophile-quality sound.

Gallery: Buick Bengal Concept