Buick is on a bit of an En-run at the moment. You may not have noticed, but all three utility vehicles currently in the model range start with the letters “E” and “N” as in Encore, Enclave and the just launched Envision. At a recent first drive event for their newest CUV held at Azuridge Estate Hotel located 45 minutes outside of Calgary, I casually suggested a few additional EN versions of my own, so if the names Enlist and Enchilada make the list someday, you know who to blame. Support our troops and spice things up; I wasn’t really being serious, but I will take the credit.
At a press conference for the event, Mark Alger, Brand Manager, Buick Canada stated the 2017 Buick Envision is the first Chinese-built CUV to be imported into North American. This represents a significant shift in the market and one that General Motors may soon get a little push back on what with a newly minted “Make America Great Again” President elect.
If, along with the changing geography in automobile production, Chinese build quality is a concern when looking for your next vehicle, rest assured I experienced a high level of fit and finish, ride quality and a surprising lack of rattles and squeaks during my initial drive of the new Buick Envision. Only time will tell, however, if my first impressions have lasting value.
Power comes in the form of a 2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. It delivers a robust 252 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes driver shift control, plus all-wheel drive with active twin clutch, the Envision darts ahead when pushed hard offering little to no complaint even under extreme acceleration. Quiet Tuning, a feature in the new Envision, keeps noise in check for the most part. Overall the balance of power to weight seems appropriate for this midsize luxury CUV.
Stopping is easy with suitably-sized 4-wheel disc brakes and 4-wheel ABS. StabiliTrak stability control keeps the vehicle pointed in the right direction, something we appreciate when stepping away from asphalt covered roads to explore a few of the many dirt roads scattered throughout Alberta cattle country. Potholes have a surprising way of popping out when least expected and the Envision seemed to always put its best foot forward.
Off-road capabilities are equally impressive given the new Envision will rarely see trails marked with signs other than the line-up for Black Friday sales starts here. Let’s face it, few buyers will take the road less travelled, but should the need arise or the desire to take the family off-road present itself, this Buick will get you there and back with relative ease.
Exterior design ques are all Buick. In the past, this may have been a bad thing if you were younger than 65 years old. But now, the Envision embraces a new Buick face and an elegant, dare I say stylish, side profile.
Chrome is featured on the classic Buick front grille, surrounding the foglights, windows and the roof rails. But it isn’t overstated; even the obligatory hood vents look good. Manoogian Silver Finish 10-spoke 19” wheels are standard adding an extra layer of flair. I can’t get over how un-Buick this new Buick actually is.
It gets even better when you step inside and close the door. The windshield is made of acoustic laminated glass and the side windows feature deep tinting for added privacy and comfort. A 3-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel highlights cruise and audio controls. Bose provides the audio sound with a standard premium 7-speaker system accessed via a center-mounted IntelliLink 8” colour touch screen. There is even a single slot CD player for those who have yet to embrace a fully digital world- I see that hand!
HVAC controls are placed low on the center dash and while it looks aesthetically pleasing, I find it a little cumbersome to reach around the gear shift knob to adjust airflow, heat and cooling. That said, I do like where the center vents are located, they deliver air to both the front and rear seat passengers with efficiency. Large white on black gauges are easy on the eyes; our test vehicle is also equipped with head-up display.
Seats are comfortable in the front with standard 8-way power driver and passenger side power and lumbar adjustment. Perforated leather allows the seat to breathe adding an extra layer of comfort for both front seat occupants. Rear seat comfort is more than adequate left to right and front to back for average size passengers. Head room is definitely at a premium as the glass sunroof dramatically restricts anyone over 6 ft from getting truly comfortable. This is the typical downside of driving a midsize CUV; it is designed for kids and teens, not full-size adults. Rear cargo space behind the seat is excellent.
Safety is paramount in the 2017 Buick Envision with forward collision alert, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rear view camera and a full complement of airbags; just some of the many features today’s consumer is looking for. The optional Drivers Confidence Package adds adaptive cruise control, surround vision (bird’s eye view) and front automatic braking.
First impressions of the Envision are positive with only a few minor concerns. Drivability is excellent given this is a people-mover and not a fun-to-drive sport sedan. It is stylish, quiet, well-engineered and capable. Concerns come into play for me when it comes to quality of materials. The wood accents feel cheap and while I find the overall look appealing, I can’t help but wonder how it will look 5 years down the road. This is not a reflection on the origin of manufacture, but rather the quality of materials chosen.
The midsize CUV is one of the fastest growing and most competitive segments in the market. Buick hopes to envision a bright future with their latest creation. I think they have a good chance of doing just that. At dinner on the final evening of the event, I mentioned a third name for a new vehicle keeping with the “EN” nomenclature Buick currently offers. A fully-capable, off-road champion called the Buick Entrail. For some reason it didn’t seem as popular as my other suggestions, maybe it sounds too much like roadkill. Go figure.
2017 Buick Envision 2.0L Turbo
Trim level: Premium 1 AWD
Base Price: $47,955.00
Configuration: front-engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cylinder/ 6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 252 hp/ 260 lb-ft
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): not yet rated
Competitors: Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Hyundai Santa Fe, Lincoln MKX,Lexus RX 350, Volvo XC60
- Quiet interior, comfortable dash layout
- Turbo engine has plenty of power on and off-road
- Stylish exterior very un-Buick like
- Back seat passengers should be less than 6’ tall
- Plastic dash accents look cheap
- Highly competitive market segment with established players