After Darth Vader’s return in Rogue One this winter, he’s likely searching for a new set of wheels. Since his vehicle of choice last rolled off the assembly line in 1987, the Grand National has been absent from Buick’s lineup for nearly three decades. Without a doubt, Lord Vader will be upset and want his car back. And he will take it in black.
Ask Luke Skywalker, and he’ll tell you it’s better to keep the peace. While the Regal GS is no slouch and lives up to its luxury sport sedan aspirations, it’s hardly the tire-scorching Corvette-killing Grand National that reigned supreme in the 1980s. Fans of Buick performance have been anxiously awaiting the Grand National’s return for years, only to be disappointed by the latest false gossip on the rumor mill. But it’s time to stop teasing us, Buick. For a manufacturer desperately looking to reenergize the brand, resurrecting the Grand National (and the hotter GNX) would be the equivalent of a 200-milligram dose of Viagra.
Such a move would tremendously speed up the brand’s transition from senile to sporty and help recapture Buick’s performance heritage. Younger buyers would flock to Buick dealerships like moths drawn to the light. As Field of Dreams serves to remind us, “If you build it, they will come.”
With a sedan heavy lineup that already includes the Regal, Verano and Lacrosse, we’d hope that the Grand National would return as a two-door. This is preferable, as passenger comfort isn’t very high on Vader’s wish list. At this point, if you’re wondering what the next Grand National could look like, look no further than the gorgeous Avista concept. This car debuted in 2016, but sadly isn’t slated for production. That’s a shame, because it was built on GM’s impressive Alpha platform. Shared with the Cadillac ATS, CTS, and sixth generation Camaro, the light and compact architecture features near 50/50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive architecture. It would’ve made for the perfect Grand National.
But if Buick does change its mind, we figure the Avista design will stay current looking for at least the next few years.
What about under the hood? While the 6.2 liter LT1 V8 and supercharged LT4 remain viable options, they don’t seem to fit with the character of the car. The throaty, crackling thunder that explodes under full-throttle would all but ruin the sleeper status that previous Grand Nationals became famous for.
The 3.6-liter LF4 twin-turbocharged V6 definitely fits the bill as a potent power plant with more than enough sleeper potential. Let’s not forget the added bonus points for nostalgia — the previous Grand National’s 3.8 liter turbo-V6 is nothing short of legendary.
Despite its cylinder disadvantage, the LF4 churns out 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet in the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V. While equipped with several new performance oriented features, GM Authority believes the LF4’s secret lies within the turbochargers’ low-inertia titanium-aluminide turbines that tremendously reduce spooling time, allowing the 18 PSI of boost to be available almost instantaneously.
With the Alpha platform and LF4 engine, the skeleton and heart of the next Grand National could already be in place. They simply have to put the rest of the pieces together. With an edgy, muscular appearance and a sporty interior featuring styling cues from the Grand Nationals of old, it would extremely difficult for Buick to go wrong.
A new Grand National would likely compete head-to-head with the Lexus RC F, Audi RS 5 and BMW M4. Unfortunately, it may never make it that far due to the competition that exists in-house. The Cadillac ATS-V is currently GM’s premiere luxury sports coupe offering, and it’s unlikely they would consider building the Grand National to attract the same type of buyers. With an MSRP starting at $62,665, the ATS-V certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. But if Buick can achieve comparable performance at the expense of a few frills and other high-end luxury features, then the Grand National is left with a fighting chance. After 30 years of waiting, that’s all Darth Vader can really ask for.