A globally-competitive personal luxury sedan

1992 Buick Sceptre conceptYou know how a song will sometimes get stuck playing over and over in your head? It’s not always a bad thing.

Similarly, the Buick Sceptre had been on my mind recently. So, it’s the car I’m going to take a look at today. It’s got some real surprises to it so I hope you enjoy.



Future interpretation of premium American heritage
By the early 1990s in America, Buick was feeling the pinch of import brands. Around the time of Sceptre’s debut, Buick’s General Manager Edward Mertz described the domestic automobile market as a microcosm of the world market. “Today Buick and all other domestic manufacturers are competing in a global market right here in the United States.” As a counter to the problem, he optimistically continued, “Sceptre is a design statement that could attract those purchasers who have been drawn to the international brands.”

1992 Buick SceptreAround this time, General Motors was stepping up its design game. Within a decade they had gone from exhibiting an almost overt effort at design uniformity amongst its brands, to the other end of the spectrum. So far that, in some cases, they appeared to strive a little too hard.

In my opinion Buick’s seventh-generation Skylark, which had been redesigned for the 1992 model year, is an example of GM’s different-at-all-costs approach to design. But the pendulum seemed to be centering itself, at least behind the scenes.

In hindsight, Buick’s concepts were becoming more rooted in the possible and began to allude to svelte shapes of cars to come. For example, whereas the 1992 Skylark had origami-like creases and razor-sharp detailing, the Sceptre concept showed off the softer side of Buick’s design talent. That softer side (and Sceptre cues) would be evident on cars like the sixth-generation Century/fourth-generation Regal that was released for 1997 (for that generation the two models were essentially merged into the same car with the names mostly representing equipment and trim variations).

1992 Buick Sceptre conceptThe pearlescent white-colored Sceptre is 193.3 well-proportioned inches long and sits on a 111.8-inch wheelbase. The cleanly-integrated head light assemblies feature high-intensity projection lamps and are augmented by high-intensity strobe/hazard flashers.

It rolls on 245ZR40 tires designed by Buick and custom-made by Michelin. The wide rubber shoes are wrapped around 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with flush fin-like intakes designed to ventilate the four-wheel disc brakes. The braking system is anti-lock-equipped, a feature that was still only optional on many cars at the time.

Enhancing the ride is a computer controlled and automated active four-wheel independent suspension system.

What surprised me most about this concept was to learn it is rear-wheel-drive. Yeah, you read that right, the rear wheels on this car do the motivating. Talk about cool.

1992 Buick Sceptre concept engineThe Sceptre is powered by a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine. It produces a surprising 250 HP and genuinely impressive 280 pound-feet of torque. It is designed with high-flow cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds.

With five automatically-shifted gears for the engine to choose from, Sceptre is estimated to deliver 30 MPG on the highway. With its automatic traction control system it is estimated to achieve sub-eight-second sprints from 0 to 60 MPH.

As can be seen in the underhood picture, the design team put a strong emphasis on serviceability. All fluids are clearly marked and conveniently accessed, and key components are reported by GM to be “easy to reach by quickly removing panels.”

Wondering what that inside of Sceptre is like? Chuck Jordan, GM’s then vice president of design, had this to say, “The feel of the interior reflects the aerodynamic exterior. The lines tend to flow and provide the occupants with the ultimate in safety, security, comfort, ease of operation and entertainment.” Quite a mouthful but he was justified on all fronts.

To begin with, the cabin is lined with leather and soft materials colored in warm earth tones and complimented by gray and brown accents. The instrument panel and center console feature what Buick described as “jewel-like graphics.” Crisp, clear lighting is delivered via cool-to-the-touch fiber optics.

1992 Buick Sceptre concept interior

To facilitate visibility, the gauge cluster tilts and telescopes in the instrument panel along with the steering wheel. To stay connected, Sceptre is equipped with a “cellular telephone.” The phone’s keypad is mounted on the center console but, since many car phones still included cords in 1992, hands-free talking was part of the forward-thinking feature.

Sceptre is also equipped with an entertainment system referred to as Concert Sound IV that has not only the ability to play cassette tapes but also CDs. The concept has a four-zone ComforTemp climate control system allowing front and both outboard rear passengers to select individual temperatures with air delivered via door-mounted outlets.

For safety, there are dash-mounted airbags for front occupants and more installed in the front seat backs for rear passengers. Further, front seat safety belts are mounted directly to the structural seat frames.

Mr. Mertz was quoted as saying, “Sceptre represents a standard that is substantial in its presence, distinctive in its styling, powerful in its road capabilities, and mature in its amenities and interior design.” I agree with that statement Mr. Mertz.

[Thanks to General Motors Company for the facts, quotes and photos, and permission to display the photos in this post.]


Continue below to the photo gallery which includes a couple of sketches not shown above.

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