Buick Envision — Relaxed luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Buick in an effort to cover all its SUV bases filled the gap between the diminutive and hot-selling Encore and the established mid-sized three-row Enclave with the compact Envision in 2016. The big news at the time was that the Envision was the first Chinese-built mainstream vehicle to be sold in the United States. Despite its Chinese origins the Envision enjoyed decent sales ranging from more than 40,000 in 2017 to 35,000 in the pandemic year of 2020.

Buick has become a totally SUV brand, dropping the excellent Regal — the last sedan left in the lineup — and adding the Encore GX in 2020, a slightly bigger Encore, to give buyers a more complete crossover lineup, now with four sizes to choose from.

And for 2021 Buick has introduced the second-generation Envision — based on the Cadillac XT4 platform — with more attractive styling, a revised and handsome interior, more standard driver-assist features, a bigger touchscreen, and a new turbocharged engine standard across the lineup. The 2021 Envision is a bit more polished than popular compact mainstream SUVs, with a near-luxury persona, but falls short when compared to similarly sized luxury nameplates such as the Acura RDX, BMW X3 or Mercedes GLC.

The thing here is that the Envision, starting at around $35,000, is generally more affordable than the aforementioned luxury brands with the same amount of equipment. While competing vehicles are generally more athletic, the Envision is what we classify as relaxed luxury with a plush ride quality and more than adequate performance, but with only average handling traits. This is not the car you would pick for carving up winding back roads.

All Envisions come with a turbocharged 228-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 258 pound-feet of torque paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. That's 24 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque less than last year's top engine. Seems like a step backward, but published times show that both engines have nearly identical times measured from 0 to 60 in about 7.0 seconds. What has been improved is gas mileage rated at 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 combined with all-wheel drive. The outgoing engine with AWD is rated at 20/25/22. Gas mileage improves to 26 mpg combined with front drive.

The power is delivered via a push-and-pull button transmission, which we found a bit slow to respond. Lacking the usual transmission shifter, the Buick gains some useful storage space under the center console.

While we were a little disappointed in performance considering our test car's nearly $42,000 price tag and its luxury intentions, we think Buick has missed an opportunity to lure buyers of same-sized European and Japanese SUV crossovers with a more potent optional engine.

The interior of our mid-level trim Essence displayed good fit and finish with competitive materials. Either a standard 8-inch, or available 10-inch Buick infotainment touchscreen is smoothly integrated into the dash, tilted towards the driver. Our test car came with the larger screen and we found the system operation very intuitive and easy. The audio system comes with a useful volume knob, but like most GM products it lacked a tuning knob. Setting favorite stations, however, is easy and pre-sets can easily be accessed on the touchscreen.

We found front seating to be acceptable and we think the Envision would hold up well for long-trip passenger comfort. Two adults can live in harmony in the second row with decent leg and head room.  A power lift-gate is standard on all but the base trim and although cargo space has shrunk slightly from the outgoing model, it's still a competitive 25.2 cubic feet behind the seats and 52.7 cubic feet with seatbacks folded.

Safety is a big concern for most buyers these days, and Buick provides numerous safety features bundled into what is called the Buick Driver Confidence suite. It includes forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a safety alert driver's seat that vibrates the seat cushion when a safety warning is triggered.

The Envision comes in three trim levels — Preferred, Essence and Avenir — starting at $34,830 including $1,195 destination charge. While the Preferred trim brings a decent amount of standard equipment, we think the Essence, which starts at $39,770 offers the most features for the price adding a power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, a 10-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The top Avenir carries a base price of $41,395. All-wheel drive is an option on all trims.

Our $41,790 AWD Essence edition included a $2,500 Technology Package that brought several things we like such as high definition surround cameras, premium Bose 9-speaker audio system, navigation, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and a universal home remote. GM seems to trail most competition in making adaptive cruise control available — a feature we think should be on all cars over 30 grand. The only way to get the feature on the Envision is to move to the more expensive Avenir.

2021 Buick Envision


Base price: $34,830; as driven, 41,790
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 228 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 258 pound-feet @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: AWD
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches
Length: 182.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,904 pounds
Turning circle: 38 feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 25.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 52.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.1 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 city, 29 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 7 seconds (observed)
Also consider: Mercedes GLC, Acura RDX, Volvo XC60

The Good
• Striking good looks
• Smooth, pleasing ride
• Nice selection of premium features

The Bad
• Smallish engine for segment

The Ugly

• Dull driving behavior