They have established themselves as a luxury carmaker selling larger vehicles aiming at an elder population. This is a brand that has been molded for North Americans. Since the massive shift to globalization, Buick has become very popular in the Chinese market. The Envision is one of the first vehicles to be designed for the Chinese market and was released there before being introduced to North America, two years after Chinese release. This week we have the updated 2019 Buick Envision Premium II AWD on test. Let’s take a deep dive.
The Buick Envision competes in the compact SUV market, but at first glance at the profile and proportions you will find it to be different from the rest of the pack. It’s not a radical design, moreso having a minivan-like profile. From head on, the Envision is narrow and tall. The overall shape of the vehicle looks more like a small utility van, very popular in China and Asia. It does not have the typical SUV, appearing smaller than it really is.
The front end is unmistakably Buick with the vertical grille slats and a horizontal chrome highlight emphasizing the Buick badge. The headlights are handsomely sculpted with LED daytime running lights and projector beams. The front bumper has a thick lower chin to balance the tall stance of the vehicle. The rear is finished off with an elegant looking dual exhaust that shouts sophistication.
The interior of the Envision does not totally live up to Buick’s luxury image. It appears to be a mix and match of GM parts bin bits. That being said, the leather seats are supple and excellent quality leather is lathered on the dash, armrests and door panels. The steering wheel is very handsome with a three-spoke design. The HVAC controls are the first area that falls short of expectations with hard plastic materials and a dated design. The capacitive controls for temperate setting are frustrating as it does not provide any touch feedback and is extremely unresponsive.
Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system has all the features you want including a 4G-LTE WiFi hotspot, built-in navigation, satellite radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However the infotainment felt over-designed with animated icons that are confusing. Paired with a low resolution display and pixelated graphics, the overall interface feels very dated, reminiscent of other GM vehicles from one generation ago.
Buick has done an excellent job with interior comfort. The seats is extremely comfortable and supportive, making the Envision an excellent road trip companion. The cooled seats were a bonus especially during the hot weather at the time of testing. The air conditioning blew colder than any car I have experienced, and keeping the automatic climate control cold can freeze your fingers off. Rear legroom is ample, with the ability to slide the rear bench forward and back for more cargo or legroom. A very welcome surprise was a flat floor with no transmission tunnel despite the Envision being AWD, elevating rear passenger comfort.
Rear passengers also get their own set of climate control and heated seats for maximum comfort. The cargo volume is very usable at a healthy 762-litres behind the rear seats. We were able to fit four pieces of full size luggage in the cargo area with ease. The utility of the Envision is one of the best in this segment, though it’s worth noting that it’s strictly a five-passenger configuration, with no ability to opt for a third row.
Compact SUVs in general have very dull handling and struggle with maintaining a balance between comfort and handling. However, the Envision’s handling and ride quality are both beyond expectations. The ride is compliant without any unnecessary body movement in suspension travel. Both low and high speed bumps are soaked up nicely. Buick models in general typically ride very well with excellent comfort, so no surprise here.
The handling is where the Envision really exceeds expectations. The steering is positive with the right about of weight. You never feel detached from the car and always in tuned with the road. The crossover takes on higher-speed turns and on-ramps with extreme confidence. If you happen to hit a beautiful stretch of twisty tarmac, you can still have fun in the Envision. I was thoroughly surprised how well Buick managed to strike a balance between sportiness and comfort.
To go along with such great handling, Buick has equipped a potent 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 252 horsepower at 5,500 RPM and an impressive 295 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000 RPM. It’s worth noticing that the engine does not reach peak output until higher in the RPM range. Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the Envision has a very natural power output. Turbo lag is not very evident, and at highway speeds the engine almost feels naturally aspirated with great response.
Turbocharged engines these days are said to yield good fuel consumption despite the larger size and weight of current vehicles. EnerGuide rates the Envision at 11.7L/100km city and 9.4L/100km highway for a combined 10.7L/100km. During my week of test I was able to average slightly better, at 10.4L/100km. The Envision takes just regular 87-octane fuel and makes for a great road tripper.
The Buick Envision starts at a $38,300, but our tester comes in at a whopping $56,540. The Premium II trim starts at $49,300 with $7,140 worth of options added. At this price, the tester is fully loaded with all the features, including important safety features such as forward collision alert, lane keep assist and surround vision. Interior features include heads up display, ventilated seats and Buick infotainment with navigation and eight-inch touch screen. The Envision has all the options available to ensure it is competitive with everything else on the market, but it does come at a price.
A few of the Envision’s key competitors include the Volvo XC40 and Infiniti QX50 (reviewed here). The Volvo starts at $39,750, with the loaded Inscription at $57,565. The XC40 is miles ahead of in terms of interior quality and design. However, it pales in comparison to the Envisions driving dynamics. The Infiniti starts at a much higher price point of $44,490 but also tops out at $57,990. The QX50 is more technologically advanced with more engine tech and modern interior designs, though lags behind in tech. The Envision by comparison is the best bang for buck if you are look for a solid product with great dynamics without garnishes.
After a week with the 2019 Buick Envision Premium II AWD, it managed to surprise me. The driving dynamics were a total shocker, having me fall in love the more I drove it. Unfortunately the interior design and quality of the controls fall short of what I expect from a vehicle at this price point. The Envision is a fantastic package that would appeal to many buyers, but the price point and heavy competition in that price point might make it a tough choice for many.