Tuesday, November 21, 2006

GM seeks quiet riot for Enclave

Friday, November 10, 2006
GM seeks quiet riot for Enclave
2008 crossover boasts soundproofing features in a bid to compete with Lexus, Mercedes-Benz.
Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News

MILFORD -- General Motors Corp. will employ an arsenal of soundproofing technology in hopes of making its upcoming Buick Enclave crossover one of the quietest rides on the road.

Buick officials said Thursday that the brand will face off with the likes of Lexus and Mercedes-Benz when the five-door luxury crossover debuts next year as a 2008 model. The Enclave will be built at GM's new $1 billion plant in Delta Township near Lansing.

GM hopes a sleek exterior, laminated steel and perforated leather seats that absorb sound will quiet critics and sell the Enclave to a younger, more affluent crowd. The features are the latest incarnation of Buick's QuietTuning technology, used in such models as the Lucerne and LaCrosse sedans.

"This technology is very powerful and very simple," Buick general manager Steve Shannon said Thursday at the GM Proving Grounds, where the Enclave underwent sound testing in high-tech wind tunnels and on low-tech bumpy roads. "This is basically a luxury car that just happens to seat seven or eight people."

A quiet ride is not a perk, but an expectation in the luxury market, and it's an area where Buick has fallen short in the past, said Brian Moody, road test editor for Edmunds.com. "People who are purchasing luxury vehicles expect a certain serenity or quietness with a vehicle," Moody said. "If they don't get that, it seems cheap."

GM has been on a mission to reincarnate Buick as an American version of Lexus, Toyota Motor Co.'s popular luxury line.

Buick, while still profitable, has continued to lose longtime customers. U.S. sales dropped 15 percent in the first 10 months of 2006 from the same period last year.

Among the Enclave's soundproofing features:

Acoustically laminated windshield glass that sandwiches a sound-absorbing glass panel between inner and outer panels.

Soundproofing foam in 28 places that expands to seal openings that could let noise in.

Tires with specially designed tread to avoid the noise associated with larger tires.

A team of engineers worked to ensure the Enclave absorbs sounds, reduces noise made by the vehicle and drowns out noise from the outside. One person's full-time job, for example, was to create the most pleasing sounds for functions such as shutting a door or rolling down a window, said Roger Barlow, a noise vibration team leader at Buick. "We're talking about excruciating detail," he said.

Edmund's Moody said the QuietTuning technology should help the Enclave compete when it goes on sale next summer, But it won't be enough to sell the vehicle in the crowded luxury market.

"There's more to a car," he said, "than making it sound quiet"

You can reach Sharon Terlep at (313) 223-4686 or sterlep@detnews.com.

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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