We found the Envision to be planted and confident, maintaining good body control in all environments.
CALGARY, ALBERTA – With premium crossovers from nearly every manufacturer selling like hotcakes right now, it was important for Buick to get in on some of this market share. The Encore (reviewed here) is a decently popular choice for Canadians, and at the time of this writing, the Enclave is getting ready for a serious update. We were flown to Calgary, AB for a drive through the stunning Rocky Mountains to sample the latest entry to Buick’s crossover line, the 2017 Buick Envision. The observant will note that the Envision has already been on sale in China for a while now, and in North America for a few months. A few subtle changes for the 2017 model year expand the Canadian Envision lineup considerably.
Built in China, the new Envision is a midsized crossover that will compete with the likes of the Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Lincoln MKC. GM’s reasoning for production overseas is that for every Envision sold in North America, they will sell four to five in China. Regardless, the car looks good, with nice proportions and classy touches on the traditional two-box crossover look. It looks notably more upscale than its cousins, the Chevrolet Equinox (reviewed here) and GMC Acadia, though differentiated enough from the more-substantial Cadillac XT5 (reviewed here).
The new winged Buick grille that’s also seen on the new LaCrosse is present here, and there are distinctive portholes on the outside edges of the hood. We paid careful attention to build quality on the Envision, because the fact that it’s Chinese-built may cause some alarm amongst the Canadian public. Things seem very nicely put together, and Buick’s attention to detail is meticulous. We saw no visible panel gaps, and overall fit and finish is stellar. Whether looking at it from near or far, it’s a very handsome crossover and has a conservative elegance sort of appeal.
Canadian Envision models will be equipped with a choice of two engines, the most important being a new 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, good for 252 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 260 lb-ft of torque at 2,000RPM. The standard engine (new for 2017) is a 2.5L direct-injected four-cylinder with 197 horsepower at 6,300RPM and 192 lb-ft of torque at 4,400RPM. Our neighbours to the south will get a front-drive model, but Canadian cars will be all-wheel-drive only. This power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, a GM Hydra-Matic 6T70 unit.
The Twin Clutch all-wheel-drive system on the 2.0L turbo model is different from the one on the base 2.5L car. This setup is very similar to the one used in the XT5 (reviewed here) and can send up to 100% of torque to either axle, and uses two clutches in the rear diff to distribute torque from left to right accordingly. The 2.5L’s AWD can only send up to 70% of available torque to the front or rear. 2.0T models also get GM’s HiPer Strut front suspension, minimizing torque steer. If you can’t tell already, the 2.0T is, even despite being a bit more expensive, the one to have.
The biggest thing about the Envision is how quiet it is. Thanks to GM’s “QuietTuning”, a process implemented to ensure the cabin as relaxing and library-quiet as possible, the vehicle is almost blissful when cruising comfortably on our drive route. The Envision has sound shields and Active Noise Cancellation to reduce wind, tire, and engine noise in the cabin. Adding to this quietness is the serenity of the smooth ride – the suspension does a decent job of soaking up potholes, and adds to the overall comfort level of the vehicle. This doesn’t come at the expense of body roll either – we found the Envision to be planted and confident, maintaining good body control in all environments.
Buick rates the 2.5L Envision at 11.1L/100km city and 8.4L/100km highway on regular fuel, and the turbo 2.0L at 11.8L/100km city and 9.2L/100km highway. We foresee the typical driver seeing about 11.0L/100km combined, and it’s worth mentioning that the Envision can accept regular fuel, though premium is recommended. Vehicles with both engines have a 65L fuel tank capacity, right on par for the class (though the Audi Q5 has an absurdly large 75L tank). Fuel-saving idle start/stop technology is even standard on 2.5L models, and intriguingly, it can’t be disabled.
Safety is high up on GM’s priority list, and the Envision includes ten standard airbags, incorporating knee and side curtain airbags. All trim levels have a rear-view camera with park assist as well. Other driving aids that are available includes Lane Keep Assist with lane departure warning, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Alert, forward collision warning, Following Distance indicator, and GM’s Safety Alert Seat. There’s also a Driver Confidence Package on the Premium II trim that adds adaptive cruise control, surround vision, and automatic braking.
Interior quality is quite nice, and right up to par with what we have come to expect from Buick. We found visibility to be decent, though the A-pillars were thicker than expected. The power seats are quick and easy to get used to, and I had my ideal driving position set up in no time at all. Rear seat headroom and legroom is plentiful, though the size of this crossover must be remembered and three adults will be visibly snug, especially if the front seat occupants are taller. There is no third row seating offered on the Envision.
Something that particularly surprised me about the Envision is the infotainment – this car uses the latest version of Buick’s IntelliLink system with 8″ touchscreen. It incorporates the usual Bluetooth, USB, and ease of use that we’ve now become accustomed to, but they have added capability for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It’s extremely easy to use and very responsive – we made use of Android Auto during our drive and my colleagues back home have previewed Apple Car Play on a LaCrosse we have on test at the time of this writing. Bluetooth connectivity is also seamless, though we observed some lag when browsing the proprietary Buick system rather than the smartphone link.
Pricing for the Envision starts at an aggressive $39,995 for the 2.5L AWD “Preferred” model, and stepping up to the “Essence” trim will cost $43,695. The boosted 2.0L engine starts at the “Premium I” trim, which starts at $46,155, and the top-tier “Premium II” trim comes in at $49,565. The Driver Confidence Package costs $2,000 extra and is a standalone option. A fully-loaded Envision Premium II with all of the goodies is considerably more expensive and will set buyers back about $54,000, but we figure most buyers will choose a model in the mid to high $40,000 range. Available features on higher trim models include ventilated seats, heated front and rear (outboard) seats, triple-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and Bose sound system.
The 2017 Buick Envision may have entered the Canadian market rather quietly, but it’s a very important entry. The Envision’s subtle entry and overall presence in the industry reminds us of the Volvo XC60 (reviewed here), which despite its age is still a favourite of ours. With its sophisticated personality, smart styling, and aggressive 2.0T powertrain, the Envision certainly has a lot going for it. Buick is going a long way to try and bring younger buyers into the brand, and a nice crossover might just be the ticket. It’s worth envisioning (pun intended) what the future may bring for the brand – right now it looks promising!