Introduced to the North American market for the 2016 model year, the Buick Envision was met with a certain amount of controversy due to the fact it’s built in China – by far Buick’s largest market. However, it has proven itself quite popular here as the right-sized crossover in the brand’s lineup.
Having received a bit of a styling refresh for 2019, the Envision features sharpened front and rear styling, including new head- and taillights. In upper trim models, the styling tweaks are backed up by a new nine-speed automatic transmission – which replaces the previous six-speed – and a big boost in torque from the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The Envision is a nicely proportioned crossover, and the 2019 styling tweaks help keep it looking fresh and modern. A couple of the details are perhaps a little kitschy – we’re talking here about the vestigial faux “Ventiports” on the hood, which recall Buick’s 1940s heritage – but it’s a handsome-if-conservative-looking machine nonetheless.
Inside, the Envision uses sweeping organic curves and soft-touch materials to good effect, but it’s likely to be a matter of opinion whether you find the highly varnished faux-wood dash insert to be luxurious-looking or gaudy.
The basic structure of the Envision is solid enough to earn it a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and good marks across the board from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). On the downside, the child seat latch system isn’t as easy to use as it should be, and many of the active safety features desired by today’s buyers are only available in the upper trim levels, with my test vehicle’s adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and surround-vision camera being part of the $1,975 Driver Confidence Package available exclusively with the Premium II trim.
The Envision also suffers on the safety side due to its thicker-than-average A-pillars, which can significantly obstruct forward visibility – especially when turning corners and when pedestrians or cyclists are approaching from an angle.
In my tester’s Premium II trim, the Envision comes well-kitted-out with all the expected luxury accoutrement, including three-zone climate control, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power front seats with memory, heated rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, configurable digital instruments, head-up display, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, interior ambient lighting, inductive wireless charging slot, power liftgate and active noise cancellation. The standard audio system is also upgraded in Premium models to a great-sounding seven-speaker Bose audio system with 8.0-inch touchscreen, four USB plugs, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
In addition to all this standard gear, my test car added a panoramic sunroof ($1,685), the aforementioned Driver Confidence Package ($1,975), and an Appearance Package ($3,710) with moulded assist steps and bright aluminum 19-inch wheels. I’d certainly want the panoramic roof, and the Driver Confidence package is good value, but I’d probably skip the appearance package given that the Envision isn’t so tall as to really need assist steps and the Premium II trim already comes with 19-inch aluminum wheels.
With comfortable seating for five in two rows of seats, a reasonable 762 L luggage capacity (expanding to 1,623 L if you fold the rear seats), and just-right sizing for both highway touring and city navigation, the Envision is a thoroughly practical conveyance that’ll fill almost all SUV requirements – provided those requirements don’t include hauling more than five people around.
The sophisticated twin-clutch all-wheel drive system in the Premium and Premium II models adds to the Envision’s practicality with sure-footed winter driving confidence.
User Friendliness: 8/10
The Envision earns good marks for user-friendliness. Some of the control placement is a little quirky, but it’s logical enough that it doesn’t take much getting used to, and everything falls easily to hand. The infotainment interface is simple and logical, with nice big icons and touchpoints. The rear seats are a cinch to fold and redeploy, and I appreciated little details like the safety alert driver’s seat (which communicates the presence of nearby obstacles with quiet vibrations rather than loud, annoying beeps) and the fact that the power liftgate warning is muted enough not to wake the neighbours after a late-night shopping run.
The only quibbles I had were with the split, sideways-opening console bin lid, which makes it difficult to see and retrieve items from inside, and the capacitive touch temperature controls, which are so slow to respond that I’d invariably press them a second time thinking the system hadn’t registered the first touch.
Supportive heated and ventilated seats, automatic air conditioning, and a nice audio system all go a long way towards making a long drive comfortable, and the Envision checks all the boxes here. Often overlooked is the role that cabin noise and ride quality play in driver and passenger comfort, and here the Envision stands out in its field. It’s exceptionally smooth and quiet on the highway, so after a 3.5-hour drive, I arrived at my destination feeling as fresh as when I left. That earns high marks from me.
For 2019 the turbo 2.0L engine in the upper-trim Envision Premium and Premium II gets a torque boost – from 260 lb-ft to 295 lb-ft. Combined with a new nine-speed automatic that boasts almost clairvoyant shift responses, it provides smoothly powerful acceleration (0–100 km/h is dispatched in just under seven seconds) and decent if not exactly stellar fuel economy. The engine auto-stop/start now has an off switch, but I found the transitions smooth, quiet, and quick enough that I felt no need to defeat the system.
Lower-trim models continue with a naturally aspirated 2.5L engine and six-speed automatic.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Rated consumption for the turbo 2.0L Envision is 11.7 L/100 km city and 9.4 highway, and I got close to this over the course of my week with the Envision, using 95.6 L to travel 953 mostly highway kilometres for an average of almost exactly 10 L/100 km. In practice, I found it easy to match the rated highway number, but around town I was using closer to 14 L/100 km.
Driving Feel: 6/10
While the Envision is exceptionally quiet and smooth, especially on the highway, it isn’t a particularly engaging crossover to drive. Bumps are well-controlled and muted, and handling is reasonably assured, but the Envision works better at isolating the driver from the vagaries of the outside world than it does at engaging the driver with the road. Those seeking an engaging driving experience should look to the BMW X3, Audi Q5, or Mazda CX-5.
Buick markets itself as a premium brand, and with the 2019 base model starting at $38,300 the Envision straddles the middle ground somewhere between mass-market crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 (starting at $27,850) and more upmarket offerings like the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class (starting at $48,800).
The Premium II trim, starting at $49,300, moves the Envision more clearly over to the luxury side of the equation, and with my test car’s $7,370 worth of options (the panoramic roof, Driver Confidence Package, and Appearance Package), it checked at $56,670 before destination fees and taxes. At that price, the Buick is playing in pretty heady territory, and while it’s certainly a well-featured and comfortable crossover, it carries over some details that give away its middle-ground roots.
Interestingly, as of the time this review went live, the Buick Canada website was advertising a significantly lower price for the 2020 Envision – starting at $36,298 versus $38,300 for the 2019 – for every trim offered, improving the value proposition significantly. A 2020 model comparable to my tester rings in at a far more reasonable $51,758, thanks to a lower sticker price and Buick ditching the Appearance Package.
In Premium and Premium II trims, the 2019 Envision is a powerful, quiet, and comfortable premium crossover that has a lot going for it. When optioned out, its pricing can be well into luxury territory, but it’s an interesting alternative with enough positive attributes to make it worth a serious look. Considering the 2020 version is virtually unchanged and far more affordable, it might be just what it takes to tip the value proposition from a “maybe” to a “yes”.
|Peak Horsepower||252 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.7/9.4/10.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||762 / 1,623 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2019 Buick Envision Premium II|
|Price as Tested||$58,665|
$7,370 – Panoramic roof, $1,685; Driver Confidence Package, $1,975; Appearance Package, $3,710