Buick Envision — Quality crossover

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Every automotive brand these days needs a full range of crossovers to fully compete with rivals. For more than a decade the resurgent Buick brand enjoyed robust sales with its near-full-sized Enclave. In 2013 it added the diminutive Encore — to rousing success. And to round out its lineup Buick introduced the compact Envision in 2016. For 2019, the Envision has been refreshed with added torque to its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, a new 9-speed automatic transmission and front and rear restyling.

Note — don't be put off by the fact that General Motors imports the Envision from China and that 96 percent of the parts are sourced from China including the engines and transmissions. This is a well-built vehicle deserving of the Buick emblem.

Inside, Buick quality shines through with soft-touch surfaces, leather seats with contrast stitching, and a wide array of infotainment options. Envision’s interior features a “floating,” wraparound instrument panel that sweeps into the door panels, for a graceful, organic and inviting appearance that complements the exterior. The large center console storage bin features damped dual wing-type doors that provide easier, less-obstructed access and allow the driver or passengers — even those in the rear — to access the storage bin without disturbing the other. And there's a handy storage shelf situated under the glovebox.

We enjoyed the performance of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to the 9-speed that makes 252 horsepower and a stout 295 pound-feet of torque — 35 more pound-feet than last year. Buick says the addition of more torque and the new 9-speed, replacing the long-running 6-speed, has shaved about a half second off the vehicle's 0-to-60 time putting it in the mid-six-second range.

Gas mileage is average for the segment measured at 20 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 overall with premium gas recommended. The 2.0-liter is only available in the top two trim levels, which start at $41,695. All-wheel drive is available across the lineup and standard on the top two trims.

The base engine and transmission — a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 197 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque mated to the old 6-speed transmission, is adequate, but not up to Buick standards. It's considerably slower than and not nearly as refined as the turbocharged engine. On the plus side, gas mileage is EPA-measured at 22 city and 29 highway on regular gas. 

The Envision comes in five trim levels — 1SV (Envision), Preferred, Essence, Premium and Premium II — starting at $32,900, which is actually $2,000 less than 2018. Despite the price drop, Buick has added some refinements including a stop-start deactivation switch, the flexibility to switch between adaptive cruise and conventional cruise control, next-generation wireless charging with iPhone 8 and iPhoneX compatibility, enhanced visibility on the rearview camera, an in-vehicle air ionizer that helps eliminate odors and reduce bacteria, and a tire fill alert.

Standard features for the base price include a revised-for-2019 waterfall grille, chrome accents that add a little flair,18-inch wheels (19-inch wheels are optional), xenon headlights, hands-free liftgate, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, four USB ports, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

To get a full range of safety features, however, you will have to move up to the top trim level. Most of the advanced systems that now come either standard or are available as options throughout the lineup on many vehicles regardless of price, are reserved for the $1,545 Driver Confidence package that includes adaptive cruise control, a surround view camera, and forward collision mitigation with automatic braking.

Passenger space is plentiful for a vehicle its size — 183.7 inches in length with a 108.3-inch wheelbase — with well-cushioned and supportive seats. Rear-seat passengers will find adequate leg room and seats that slide fore and aft and recline for long-distance comfort.

The Envision exemplifies what Buick does best — provide a whisper-soft ride — even with the panoramic sunroof open. Whether driving through the suburbs or cruising the freeway, the ride is pleasant from a suspension that does a good job of soaking up road imperfections. Steering is easy, but don’t expect sport-like performance.

Where the Envision may disappoint is in cargo space with the rear seats folded measuring 57.3 cubic feet, smaller than average for the segment. But the Envision does have a very adequate 26.9 cubic feet available behind the seats. Towing capability is rated at a modest 1,500 pounds.

Our Premium II test vehicle carried a base price of $44,595 and an as-tested price of $48,235 with options.

Base price: $32,900; as driven, $48,235
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder
Horsepower: 252 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Length: 183.7 inches
Curb weight: 4,083 pounds
Turning circle: 39.5 feet
Luggage capacity: 26.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 57.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17.3 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 city, 25 highway, 22 overall
0-60: 6.5 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Lincoln MKC, Acura RDX, Volvo XC60

The Good
• Well designed and executed cabin
• New 9-speed transmission
• Large number of features for the money

The Bad
• Cargo capacity below average

The Ugly
• Weak acceleration from base engine