DETROIT – In the design world, improving a successful product can be a bigger challenge than starting with a clean sheet. The Buick Enclave, the industry’s top-selling three-row luxury crossover, also carries the weight of being the originator of the brand’s current design philosophy.
For the new 2013 Enclave, designers evolved the vehicle’s exterior by refining details while preserving the overall identity.
The 2013 Enclave delivers a high level of craftsmanship and comfort. The sculpted exterior design evolves the sophisticated elegance of the segment-leading crossover. The new exterior includes revised front and rear fascias, LED lighting, a new hood and black-chrome waterfall grille, integrated exhaust outlets, new wheel designs, and more monochromatic design elements than the current model.
Working with the nuances of a vehicle that had its best sales in its fifth year of existence fell to lead sculptor Nick Barkley and a design team. In addition to manipulating full-scale clay models, much of Barkley’s creative work is done in the digital space with three-dimensional modeling programs.
“Buicks have been some of the toughest work I’ve done because they are so sculptural,” said Barkley, a General Motors designer for 12 years. “There are so many concave and convex forms. To make an organic, hand-shaped look show through the forms is both difficult and rewarding.”
Asked to name the most-challenging element of the Enclave’s design, Barkley immediately pointed to the traditional waterfall grille that went through countless iterations before a final form emerged that met both the design team’s standards and manufacturing capabilities. The production part remains true to the earliest clay mockups.
Barkley is most proud of what he calls the “check mark” along the bottom of each headlamp and the recessed intersection in the fascia just below. “Designers start with two-dimensional sketches where surfaces aren’t fully imagined. It’s my job, and really my signature, to add surface quality and execute form and intersections in 3D. It’s like completing a puzzle.”
In his free time, Barkley uses his skills in a home studio to create life-size clay and wood sculptures inspired by works of iconic artists like Michelangelo and Bernini.
“My work at home is completely free of constraints and lets me work with my hands more, but I’d like to think my art benefits my work on car design,” he said. “Some cars I see seem to be designed around lines and the surfaces between them feel forced. Inspired by my art, I like to create vehicles that instead have the surfaces influence the lines. The Buick Enclave is a great example of that.”
But Barkley deflects the credit for the Buick’s continued design renaissance. He had lots of help.
“A car designer is like a composer,” he said. “Sculptors like me are the first violins of the design organization. Our job is to play the music.”
Buick is a modern luxury brand offering vehicles with sculpted designs, luxurious interiors with thoughtful personal technologies, along with responsive-yet-efficient performance. Buick is attracting new customers with its portfolio of award-winning luxury models, including the Enclave crossover, LaCrosse sedan, Regal sport sedan, Buick Verano sedan and the all-new 2013 Encore crossover. Learn more about Buick cars and crossovers at www.buick.com, on Twitter @buick or at www.facebook.com/buick.