The Buick Envision is a midsize/compact crossover, bigger than the popular Encore hatchback, smaller than the three-row Enclave wagon. Envision is narrow for its class and a couple of inches shorter than its front-wheel-drive crossover cousins, the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.
Envision is built in China and the vast majority of them are sold there.
It’s well-assembled and has a sweet ride, but the driving dynamics are average. It lacks features seen on the Lexus RX, Acura RDX, and Nissan Murano. It weighs 3800 pounds and can tow 1500 pounds when properly equipped.
All-wheel drive is available. Front-wheel drive is standard.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter four cylinder making 197 horsepower. The fun and confident engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four making 252 horsepower, all-wheel-drive only. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The all-wheel drive is a twin-clutch system that splits power between the rear wheels, called torque vectoring, for better control in corners, not for better traction in mud or snow. The 2.0 turbo also uses Buick’s sophisticated HiPer strut front suspension that counters torque steer, mainly on front-wheel-drive models.
The 2.5-liter engine’s available all-wheel drive is a basic system.
The 2.5-liter with front-wheel drive gets an EPA-rated 22 miles per gallon City, 29 Highway, and 25 Combined, nothing to brag about. The 2.0 turbo with all-wheel drive gets 20/26/22 mpg.
In crash testing, the Envision gets five stars from NHTSA. It gets all top scores from the IIHS, and with the optional automatic emergency braking system, gets Top Safety Pick+. By then you’re pushing $50k.
The 2018 Buick Envision ($34,015) comes standard with power and heated cloth seats and rearview camera. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) The 2.5-liter engine comes on base, Preferred ($35,870) and Essence ($37,720) models. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with twin-clutch torque-vectoring all-wheel drive comes as Preferred ($37,720), Essence ($39,570), Premium ($42,320) and Premium II ($44,960). Premium versions get air conditioned leather seats, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The Driver Confidence Package, with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, is available only on the Premium II.
Envision is eye-pleasing but not double-taking. A deep shoulder line and rear roof pillar are vaguely European, with a line of thin chrome trim around the windows that’s suggestive of the BMW 3. At the front, a petite waterfall grille is flanked by LED daytime running lamps that flow upward into fenders with iconic faux portholes.
The rear taillamps are like blobs floating in space. LED accent lights are connected by a wide metallic bar studded with a Buick logo. It’s inoffensive but uninteresting.
The instrument panel is a dramatic asymmetric sweep of controls, and a mish-mash of GM-generic switchgear. The sporty three-spoke steering wheel looks cool, too bad the handling doesn’t back it up. Fabric upholstery comes on the two lower models, with faux wood trim, while the others get leather in brown, black or tan, which doesn’t feel particularly nice. Big swaths of real wood trim and ambient lighting beautify the cabin on the Premium models. A climate control panel uses capacitive touch switches.
The 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, with busy graphics, sits high on the dash. Buick’s IntelliLink is one of our favorite systems, for its simple menus and plug-and-go Apple CarPlay.
The Envision is a bit narrow, which you can feel in the rear seat. The rear seat slides on a track for legroom. The rear seat will hold three adults, squeezed but with good headroom, and reclining.
There’s an excellent 26.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, and 57.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded, numbers that belie its exterior size.
It’s very quiet inside. We pushed it over some of the worst asphalt we’ve seen in a while, and didn’t hear one creak or rattle. Its doors slammed with the solid thunk we’ve come to expect from GM.
We found the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter feels confident and competent. The exhaust note is muffled and distant, releasing a light thrum under hard acceleration. There’s some turbo lag before the power hits, but when it does it’s smooth. This engine is used in other GM cars from the Chevy Malibu to Cadillac CT6. The 6-speed automatic transmission is always smooth.
We haven’t driven the 2.5-liter in the Envision but we have experience with this engine in other GM cars and weren’t impressed. Its 197 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque doesn’t sound like a lot for a 3800-pound crossover.
Envision’s strength is its excellent ride, its composure on choppy roads. Even with the bigger 19-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, there’s not much road noise.
We drove an all-wheel-drive Premium on gravel roads, and had no problems with grip. The system is front-wheel-drive based, but sends power to the rear when traction is needed there. And then splits that power between rear wheels to help cornering and control.
Never mind the inviting steering wheel, the Envision isn’t into spirited cornering. However there’s not much body lean, and the electric power steering is steady, whether in a sweeper or switchback The system can counter-steer in crosswinds..
Nice cabin, good ride, solid 2.0-liter turbo, smooth six-speed automatic, average handling, forgettable styling, unimpressive fuel mileage, eyebrow-raising price. Made in China.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.