Buick GL8 China: May 2000 – March 2017, USA: August 1996 – July 2004
(GMT200/SGM200) China: May 2000 – December 2010
The Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette arrived in August/September 1996 in America and stood on 112-inch and 120-inch wheelbases. By February 1997 Europe got the (imported) Opel/Vauxhall Sintra on the short, and the Pontiac-based Chevrolet Trans Sport on the 20 cm longer wheelbase. After quality start-up problems, the Sintra arrived at the same time as its American regular wheelbase 4-door counterparts, that were deleted in the United States in 2003 (Olds in 1999).
A width of over 180 cm was uncommonly wide in Europe in those days, but evenly narrow in America. In autumn 1998, the Pontiac Trans Sport became Pontiac Montana, though Trans Sport models with the sporty Montana package were known as such from the start. In Europe, the Trans Sport continued after the Sintra’s early deletion in 1999.
The rear suspension was an open-section twist axle (not a compound crank torsion beam), sometimes dubbed as rigid, while the extended models were available with four-wheel-drive and independent rear suspension from 2002 model year.
The American models were also available as a 3-door with only one door at the driver’s side, both regular and extended models, the latter for two years at Chevrolet, and only one year at Pontiac, while such regular models lasted for three years, but Oldsmobile kept both 3-doors only in the first year.
All American models had standard 7 seats (mostly 2-2-3, sometimes 2-3-2), while middle and rear seats could be pulled out, as in Chevrolet’s cargo model. The second seat row was placed 1~2 inches further back in the 14 inches longer extended models. Initially, only the Pontiac could be had with 8 seats, the others from 1999 model year. A year later, Pontiac offered a 6-seater as well, Oldsmobile also from autumn 2000.
Opel/Vauxhall models with Opel-tuned suspension were available with 5 or 7, or with 8 seats (until 1999), and from autumn 1998 also 6 (with Captain’s chairs). Production was discontinued in spring 1999, when the 9 cm narrower 7-seater Astra-based Zafira took its place, that was also imported by GM China, priced in between the GL8 range.
Over 1.9 million American GMT200 models were built, plus nearly 55,000 Sintras.
Based on the 1.5 cm wider Pontiac, China built and sold the Buick GL8 (next to the Century-based Buick GL) by May 2000 with a finely meshed waterfall grille on the longer wheelbase, initially standard with 8 (2-3-3), optionally 7 (2-2-3) seats. When the 7-seater became the regular one in July 2004, and the 8-seater was deleted for the next generation, the GL8 name was retained.
From October 2001 until 2005, a 10 (3-4-3) seat model was exported to the Philippines as Chevrolet Venture, with a typical Chevrolet grille, and from 2005 to 2007, as 7-seater (2-2-3).
At the arrival of the updated SGM201 models in August 2005, the SGM200 model was retained with 7 or 8 seats, while the grille now had four horizontal bars.
(GMT201/SGM201) China: August 2005 – March 2017, USA: July 2004 – September 2008
By 2005 model year arrived in America the 7-passenger Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 (probably meaning “SUV V6”), Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay, the latter the first Saturn without polymer dent-resistant side paneling, as had the predecessors of the Chevrolet Venture (Lumina APV) and its Pontiac and Oldsmobile siblings. Buick and Saturn came extended only, while Pontiac regular wheelbase models were not offered in the United States, and similar Chevrolets only in the first year (except for the fleet market).
The Uplander ("crossover sport van") c.s. was basically the same as the Venture, but had a stubbier nose, an exposed C-pillar for the extended model, and the front transaxle was moved about an inch forward because of structural safety improvements at the suspension. The vehicles were 8~10 cm higher due to two-inch larger wheels, resulting in an equal height/width for the extended model. The four-wheel-drive models lasted until 2006. The Pontiac for the United States (called ‘Pontiac SV6’ here in its last year) and the Saturn ended in 2006, the Buick in 2007.
Over 560,000 GMT201 models were built. The 16 cm wider 2007/2008 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook 7/8-seaters became the successors of the extended GMT201 models in America.
On this slightly longer wheelbase, but with its own modernized front end and revised lower panelling and side window rear end, China built the Buick GL8 FirstLand (“Buick Business class on land”) from August 2005. Basic models had 7 or (until May 2006) 8 seats. The C-pillar remained concealed, as before.
When the second generation GL8, arrived in January 2011, the SGM201 model saw its horizontal bar grille replaced by a waterfall grille, and was renamed Business car, additionally “Business class on land”. It stood on the new model’s (SGM258) reworked platform, and remained a 7-seater (2-2-3). Retaining its body shell, the rear wheels were placed about a cm backward, using the slightly longer wheelbase of the SGM258 model.
Over the years, the SGM201 model sold marginally better than the new SGM258 Luxury Business model. Production was discontinued in December 2016, after over 550,000 SGM200/201 GL8s were built (vs 44,000 American Buick Terrazas). In total, over three million 200/201 models were made in America and China.
Buick GL8 China: January 2011 –
The second generation GL8, called Luxury Business car (as with the previous model, additionally “Business class on land”), was conceived in China, on the basis of the previous model, with an enhanced suspension with independent front-and-back sub-frames and on a slightly longer wheelbase (9 mm), and had the usual 2-2-3 seating configuration. The engines were the L850 4-cylinder 2.4 dohc, next to the Canada-built direct injection HF 3.0 V6 dohc.
By March 2013, the 2.4 engine received direct injection, and at the arrival of the new GL8 ES in November 2016, the SGM258 GL8 was removed from the portfolio, while the old SGM201 GL8 was retained until March 2017, when the SGM258 model reappeared with the brand's new flying wing family styling at the front, and the chassis system upgraded with a newly designed full-length sub-frame, while the sole engine was the 4-cylinder 2.5 dohc, available until summer 2019. It was now called GL8 Legacy to discern it from the GL8 ES, but it was advertised as Business Traveler.
In December 2018 the LTG 2-litre turbo was added, to be replaced by the tri-power LSY in May 2020, when it lost the waterfall grille, and was badged 652T, where the first number 6 represents the engine torque output range being 350 Nm or greater, the second number 5 rather casually stands for the 9-speed automatic transmission, the third number 2 means the eConnect 2.5 car networking system, and the final letter T stands for Turbo pressure models.
Year by year, the GL8 Legacy sold slightly better than the GL8 ES/Avenir, and the SGM258 model will reach the 550,000 mark within some months.
Buick GL8 ES, GL8 Avenir China: November 2016 –
While retaining the same wheelbase, the chassis (and body structure) of the 3rd generation GL8 is all-new, and includes independent 4-link rear suspension. It is advertised as Luxury Business Traveler. Top model is the new GL8 Avenir with a honeycomb grille.
The production of this GL8 (SGM358) takes place at the new Cadillac plant in Jinqiao, Shanghai, instead of Shenyang.
In May 2020, the 2 litre engine and grille change of the GL8 Legacy, happened also to the GL8 ES, but the GL8 ES, now with Chinese “Lu Zun” (FirstLand) suffix (not on the vehicle), received a 653T badge, due to its eConnect 3.0 connectivity technology, as did the GL8 Avenir, now with 4(!) or 6 (2-2-2), next to the usual 7 (2-2-3) seats.
The Avenir is equipped with Matrix LED headlamps that incorporate 18 independent high-beam control sections with up to eight adaptive driving beams.
Over 250,000 units have been sold thus far.
with thanks to www.chinacarforums.com and en.wikipedia.org
For recent specifications
on Buick cars built in China, see:
On a Global Mission: The Automobiles of General Motors International
14 November, 2020