Among the Avenir version's upgrades are a camera-equipped rearview mirror, power folding third-row seats, pearl nickel 20-inch aluminum wheels and an ionizer that Buick says cleans the cabin air while helping to keep the driver alert. It also features a bolder grille and additional chrome features, among other Avenir-specific details.
Buick doesn't expect Avenir to produce Denali-like numbers overnight. Denali, introduced on the 1999 GMC Yukon, has exceeded expectations because it was allowed to grow slowly and organically.
"We're not going to force it," Aldred said.
Denali was offered exclusively on the Yukon for two years before expanding to the Yukon XL and Sierra full-size pickup. GM waited three model years to offer it on the Terrain, the brand's entry-level crossover, which starts at $25,990, including shipping — about $2,000 above Buick's smaller entry-level Encore crossover.
Avenir will expand to more nameplates, though Buick hasn't decided whether to include all of them as GMC does with Denali. The real decision is whether to offer it on lower-volume, lower-margin cars such as the Buick Regal. A redesigned Regal is due at the end of the year.
"Whether we make the investment for what would be a somewhat limited volume, we'll see," Aldred told Automotive News this summer. On Friday, he said the brand still hasn't made a final decision, but he believes Avenir could "play well in a midsize car."
Avenir's prospects are far greater in China, where Buick has a strong reputation and higher market share. Sticker price for the GL8 Avenir van there is 449,900 yuan ($65,400), nearly double the base model and 13 percent more than the next-highest trim.
The Avenir name — it means "future" in French — first appeared on a widely praised concept car at the 2015 Detroit auto show.