Review of: 2017 Buick Envision AWD 4dr Premium II
2017 Buick Envision: The new kid in town
By David Miller
Oct. 2, 2017
It seems like every second Monday, a new crossover is added to the marketplace, as if it were a software upgrade. It’s been a steady trend from sedans to crossovers and SUVs, with no sign of letting up.
One of the newest kids on the block is the Buick Envision: a mid-sized crossover, built on an all-new platform, that will enter the market in North America after establishing itself as a big-volume seller in China since its introduction in 2014. The Envision may have been conceived in Michigan, but it’s manufactured in Yantai, China, making it the first Chinese-built vehicle sold in North America by a U.S. company.
Buick has high hopes for its latest addition, slotting in between the subcompact Encore and the full-size Enclave. Perhaps that confidence comes from competing in Canada’s strongest sales segment. But although Buick enjoys luxury status in China, not all Canadians perceive it as a full luxury brand.
That uncertain brand status creates some confusion about what the Envision will actually compete against: the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, or upper-tier models like the Audi Q5, Acura RDX and Lexus RX?
Perhaps it’s somewhere in between, so let’s have a look.
Pros & Cons
- + Ride comfort
- + Quiet, serene cabin
- + Good fit for Buick
- - Price
- - A few cheap interior touches
- - Made-in-China stigma
From the front, the Envision’s sharp, all-chrome waterfall grille gives it a bold appearance, exuding monochromatic luxury with no addition of colour to its revised tri-shield logo. Complementing this look are swept-back headlights and LED daytime running lights, as well as fog lights situated between another smooth chrome styling flourish.
Unfortunately, that’s where the excitement ends. The rest of the body looks a bit too similar to other vehicles in the field. With an all-new platform, Buick had an opportunity to continue that bold and sharp look from its front fascia to the rest of the body; instead, the back and side views lose one’s attention, and it can’t be saved by the single horizontal chrome line that runs from one mundane LED accent taillight to the next. Also, I actively disliked the hood portholes. Yes, they add another touch of chrome, but for me, they diminish the luxury feel.
In general, Buick toes the line between luxury and mainstream, something that’s clearly demonstrated by the Envision’s mixed-bag interior. To be fair, Buick is more of a luxury brand, but it can’t measure up to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Audi, and that’s most evident in the amount of faux wood surrounding the Envision’s cockpit. That sort of thing might make mainstream buyers happy, but the same cannot be said for luxury shoppers, including Lexus and Infiniti buyers.
At a starting price of $39,995, the faux-wood treatment is understandable, but Buick Canada are the ones pitting Envision against the Audi Q5, so we’re forced to compare them. Regardless, there’s more to the interior than fake wood, and the best part is its clean and modern set-up. The Envision has a well-organized eight-inch touchscreen with climate control buttons situated below. It’s easy to understand and responsive, with knobs and buttons in key spots.
Occupants are treated to plenty of leather from its comfortable and cushy eight-way power adjustable leather seats that have standard heating in the front (ventilated seats are available) to a strikingly thick steering wheel. Ample headroom and legroom is found in both the first and second rows, easily accommodating a third passenger in the back , where they can play around with the dedicated second-row climate control system.
As for cargo space, the Envision possesses plenty of room in the trunk at 761 litres, which expands to 1,622 litres when the second-row seats are folded flat.
Over the past few years, General Motors has added affordable and, in many cases, standard modern technology to its vehicles. That’s true of the Buick Envision, which comes with standard LG 4TE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and OnStar assistance. These technologies are geared towards connectivity, tapping into consumer demand.
More optional safety technology becomes available as one moves up trim levels. A rear-view camera and rear park assist come standard, but upper trims and packages offer lane-keep assist and forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, side blind-zone alert and lane-change alert, adaptive cruise control, front automatic braking and surround vision.
Two engine choices are offered with the Envision: a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that produces 197 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque, and a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder rated at 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Both are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (AWD).
For this test drive, I was provided with the more powerful turbo unit, with plenty of power for both highway and city driving. The Envision delivered power smoothly as it got up to speed, with seamless gear shifting. However, when pushed for immediate maneuvers, its 1,852 kg (4,083 lbs.) curb weight can really be felt, but balance is kept stable with assistance from its twin-clutch AWD system. Aside from those brisk moments of necessity, the Envision will not be the most electrifying ride. However, it is an adequate companion on errands, commutes to work, or road trips.
One of the Envision’s best driving attributes is its quiet cockpit. Doors close without a bang, and the ride is smooth and peaceful, thanks to the use of acoustic absorbers on the engine compartment, interior trim and door panels. In addition, Buick has installed an acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass to block out noise.
Over the course of the week, I was able to achieve a combined 12.1 L/100 km in mostly city driving. Those fuel numbers aren’t earth-shattering to say the least, with the official ratings for its more powerful engine set at 11.8 L/100 km in the city and 9.2 L/100 km on the highway.
There’s no doubt that Buick is banking on a starting price of $39,995 to bring in new customers. The Envision’s price is set low at a time when crossovers are all the rage, so it’s a great strategy.
The 2.0-litre turbo stretches the price to $46,155—the territory where Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz tend to start. This Envision doesn’t match up just yet with those big players, especially considering my test vehicle with add-ons totaled $51,880 before taxes, which includes the addition of a $1,695 moon roof. However, the base engine could be a perfect starting point for some.
When it comes to luxury, decisions often come down to the badge and interior styling. The Envision can’t control its badge, but it can continue to up its style game to go along with its smooth and comfortable drive.
The new for North America 2017 Buick Envision crossover comes into the market at a most opportune time. With sales in crossover segments at an all-time high, the Envision should capture some market share, but being new typically brings some trepidation.
The Envision fills a void with its utilitarian nature, offering a great combination of luxury touches, smooth driving abilities and generous space. What might hold it back is trying to compete against some of the luxury heavy hitters such as the Acura RDX, Lincoln MKC, or the premium-inspired Nissan Murano.
But with plenty of buyers shopping in the crossover market, the value proposition offered by the Envision will make it a solid option for many.