Following its recent global success, Buick is plugging the holes in its lineup. The LaCrosse has emerged as a real premium sedan, and now between the small Encore and big Enclave comes the new just-right-sized Envision crossover.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 252 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.8 city, 9.2 highway, 10.6 combined
Price (USD): Starts at $35,020
Price (CAD): Starts at $41,795
Price as tested (USD): Loaded up to $49,320
Price as tested (CAD): Loaded comes to $54,780
The thing is, there are already a lot of premium crossovers, and many of them are extremely popular. Buick knows this and made a number of key decisions in designing the Envision so the small compact crossover has a serious chance of earning your money.
It starts mostly with the exterior of the Envision, which is handsome and approachable. There are no sharp angles or polarizing lines. Instead, it’s smooth and bubbly, with subtle chrome accents that act like accessory jewelry on a clean suit or dress. The only part that feels out of place is on the hood — the Envision can definitely do without the outdated looking chrome port holes. Standard exterior equipment on the Envision includes 18-inch wheels, halogen headlamps and LED daytime running lights. Mid-trim models get roof racks and models equipped with the turbocharged engine feature chrome dual exhaust exits.
Under the hood of base models is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making just around 200 horsepower. This engine is found on the lower three trim levels of the car, while the two higher trim levels of the car feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In the U.S., the 2.5-liter engine can be equipped with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the turbocharged engine is only available with all-wheel drive. In Canada, the Envision is only available with all-wheel drive. All models use a six-speed automatic transmission. On hand to test were all-wheel-drive Premium turbocharged models.
What You Get For Your Money
Starting at $35,020 ($41,795 Canadian) for the base 2.5-liter, front-wheel-drive model, our turbocharged, all-wheel drive Premium I tester came in at $45,235 with navigation and a moonroof. This trim level included equipment like heated seats all around, a heated steering wheel, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, back-up camera and power liftgate. The interior features leather seating, and there’s some nice looking wood trim to be found as well.
Sadly, the interior layout and design of the Envision is a step backwards from Buick’s latest eye-catching product, the LaCrosse sedan. The crossover feels old-world in comparison to the sedan. Instead of attractive button layout and a premium feeling cabin, the Envision has a seemingly random setup. For example, the buttons to turn off lane departure warning and the parking sensors are about the same size as the analog clock, and placed awkwardly on the dash. It feels like there’s wasted space on the dashboard, and some of the HVAC buttons seem unnecessarily small.
On a more positive note regarding the Envision’s interior, there’s plenty of storage space. There’s an enclosed cubby to the left of the steering wheel for things like change, while the center console features another bin with a cover for other things, like cellphones, wallets or snacks. On the dash in front of the passenger is a deep shelf that was able to swallow up a phone with a big 5.5-inch screen. Of course, there’s also the usual stuff like a glove box and armrest storage area.
Headroom is excellent up front and your six-foot tall writer didn’t come close bumping his noggin on the headliner in the back. Rear seat passengers aren’t treated like second-class citizens either. They have automatic climate control, heated seats and even a pair of USB charging ports just like folks riding in the front. Cargo space is 26.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats, although the liftover height seems a bit high. When you fold the rear seats, you get 57.3 cubic feet of space to use.
Buick offers a ton of tech for its buyers, too. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment, and there’s active noise cancellation that keeps the cabin quiet. Like many other GM vehicles, the Buick Envision is offered with OnStar 4G LTE and internet connection. Standard equipment is the solid IntelliLink infotainment system, which is responsive and easy to use. Navigation is an add-on, although not necessary if you plan on using Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Adaptive cruise control is also offered along with forward collision alert with automatic braking, a head-up display and a surround-view camera.
On the road, the turbocharged Envision is plenty capable. The engine pulls nicely and the buzz of the four-cylinder is hardly noticeable thanks to excellent sound insulation. The six-speed automatic wasn’t an obstacle in reaching highway speeds and responded nicely as well. Automotive enthusiasts will be interested to learn that the all-wheel drive system in the turbocharged Envision is a new twin-clutch setup supplied by GKN.
This system is also featured on the hot new Focus RS, although GM is putting it to good use as well in cars like the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XT5. About 50 percent of the engine’s torque can be sent rearward, and about half of that can be sent to each individual wheel as needed. It does this through the use of mechanical clutches rather than individual braking or a complicated stability control system.
I drove the Envision through rural Alberta and soft-roaded it in some fields, but I also had a chance to drive it through a more hardcore off-road course. The all-wheel-drive system could still move the car forward while one wheel was in the air, and it handled the whole challenge like a champ.
The steering of the Envision is fairly light and numb, and there’s not much feedback here, but that’s OK because it’s a Buick crossover after all. The soft suspension was noticeable, dealing with imperfections on the road but not exactly ironing it all out. Instead, the crossover felt floaty on the road like a boat, a trait that emerged again when cornering. Sure, crossovers are prone to body roll due to their high center of gravity, but the Envision feels a bit too eager to lean. Where this crossover excelled was in straight line, like highway drives. It’s comfortable in that way, but don’t expect any driving enjoyment out of it.
Visibility is good and blind spots aren’t egregious. Similarly, placing this car into parking spots isn’t a chore at all, as low-speed maneuverability of the car is solid. The various safety technologies help you keep a good grasp of the space around the car. It makes a lot of sense as a daily driver, handling commuting and grocery-getting duties with no frustration.
An important part of the Envision lies in the fact that it was built and designed with a global mindset. All Envisions arrive from China, which is a new strategy for General Motors. This could have a major part in why the Envision has such an accommodating rear seat, as the customers in China are typically chauffered. Buick has a strong share in the Asian country and is more popular there than it is in North America, but some may have concerns about the build quality of the vehicle. For the most part, the Envision is built well, but there were a few creaks and squeaks that could be heard when handling the passenger side door of our test vehicle, which is a bit disturbing for a brand new car. With that said, that’s not unusual for cars built here to display those same traits either.
The Verdict: 2017 Buick Envision Premium Review
In general, the Envision is a solid, inoffensive competitor in the mid-size luxury crossover segment. Is it better than the Acura RDX? Absolutely. But the new Lincoln MKC is a bit of a tougher fight, if you can get past the Ford bones of the Lincoln. Upon first impression, the Buick feels like the better drive; smoother and with a more impressive all-wheel-drive system. However, the Buick can run up in price. Fully loaded models come in at nearly $50,000, which means it has to compete with the likes of the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5 and BMW X3, not to mention popular favorites like the Lexus RX350. Simply put, the Envision interior is holding it back from truly competing with the likes of those cars, but the Buick crossover fills a much-needed role in Buick’s lineup.
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