Buick was quicker than most car companies to realize that shoppers were moving away from sedans to SUVs. Although it still makes a number of good cars — including two verions of the new Regal — it was the first American company to add a subcompact crossover SUV, the Encore, which attracted a lot of attention.
Because Buick is considered a luxury company, the Encore is considered a luxury subcompact crossover, a niche category that has grown in recent years as other luxury companies have begun producing similar models. But if you think a subcompact is too small for your needs (like a family that includes at least one teenager), don't worry, Buick has two other crossovers for you, the midsize, three-row Enclave and the compact Envision, the subject of this review.
In a week of daily driving, our 2019 Envision proved itself to be a comfortable, well-made and peppy performer, with impeccible road manners and enough room for five adults, at least on short trips. But, unlike the Encore, which competes in a category it practically invented, the Envision faces stiff challenges at both ends of the price range — there are a number of very good affordable compact crossover SUVs that can ordered with luxury features, and some excellent genuine luxury ones, too.
Buick's response is basically to offer several different versions of the Envision, a base Preferred model, a mid-level Essence version, and two top-of-the line models, the Premium and the Premium II. The Preferred model comes standard with a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission, while the Essence and Premium ones feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and nine-speed automatic. Both Premium versions comes standard with AWD, which is optional on the lower trim levels.
With this strategy, prices range from about $32,000 for a front-wheel-drive Preferred model to nearly $50,000 for the fully-loaded Premium II we drove. If you think that's a big difference, you're right. But it shows the how hard manufacturers are working to compete in the luxury compract crossover field, which is especially hot now.
We can't comment on the 2.5, but the turbo 2.0 was well suited to our vehicle. Such engines are used by several manufacturers these days because they can produce good power while still delivering decent mileage. The Envision's is smoother than some but not as powerful as others, making it a good choice for a compact crossover than values refinement over sportiness. The nine-speed automatic was good match and always seemed to be in the right gear, no matter the driving conditions.
As expected, our Premium II model offered a wide range of comfort, infotainment and safety features, inlcuding lane departure and rear cross traffic alert systems that vibrated the driver's seat as warnings. An optional Drivers Confidence Package added Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Automatic braking and Surround Vision, which replaced the standard rear vision camera — meaning just about every automotive safety system currently known to man is available on the Envision.
The Envision was slightly restyled for 2019 with a bolder front end and new taillights. The looks are still restrained, however, which is also true of the tasteful interior. Buick clearly doesn't think its customers are looking for flashy. The most ostentatious feature is small silver trim pieces on both sides of the upper hood, apparently means to evoke the chrome portholes on the flanks of older Buicks.
There was some question whether Buick would survive the Great Recession, when General Motors declared bankruptcy and got a government bailout. But GM sacrified its Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn brands instead, then set about remaking Buick as a youth-oriented innovator. The 2019 Envision Premium II is proof they've succeeded.
2019 Buick Envision AWD Premium II
Base price: $32,990
Price as tested: $49,295
Type: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: 2.5-liter 4 (197, 192 lbs-ft hp); turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 (252 hp, 295 lbs-ft - as tested)
Transmissions: 6-speed automatic; 9-speed automatic (as tested)
EPA estimated mileage: 22/29; 20/25 (as tested)
Overall length: 183.7 inches
Base curb weight: 3,755 to 4,083 pounds
Final assembly: Yantai Etdz, P.R. China
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