Dan might make fun of me for saying this, but, when I was a very young girl my dream car was a Buick. Seriously. It was the car that my grandparents owned and I always felt like a princess sitting in the large back seat when my they would pick us up and take us out. Then of course, I became a teenager and learned that Buick was not “cool”. Deep down inside though, I have always had a soft spot for this brand.
Lacey Elliott: The Buick image is changing for us here in North America. In other parts of the world, especially China, Buick is a brand that all ages of people aspire to own. And now, over here in Canada we are starting to see the reasons why.
This Envision has an athletic and clean looking exterior. The signature chrome waterfall grill and jewel-like LED accented headlamps let you know that this SUV is part of the Buick family. However, nothing about the styling really makes it stand out in this crowded segment. Young adults looking for something simple, yet luxurious will be drawn to it.
The crossover SUV segment continues to grow year after year. Buick is known for its very large Enclave and the subcompact Encore. This 2017 Envision is the middle sibling that the family has been waiting for. Not too big and not too small, even the second row has an impressive amount of room.
This inside matches the outside, nothing is flashy or overdone. Rich looking wood accents, contrast leather stitching, soft touch points and a beautiful streamlined design is very easy on the eyes. The centre stack is super intuitive with adjustable settings. There is an abundance of convenient storage and I have room for my phone, my coffee and my purse.
The incredibly comfortable driver’s seat is one of the best things about sitting behind the wheel of this crossover.
Dan Heyman: Make fun of you? Not for that, no. After all: Buick was once a bit of a jewel for GM, slotting in just below Cadillac and becoming famous for their super-chromey treatments on stuff like the ’58 Century.
The Envision, of course, is nowhere near as flashy as that, but few people are buying a compact crossover for its styling. Having said that, there are some redeeming qualities about the Envision, namely its nicely aggressive headlight lenses, waterfall grille – yes, it does get a chrome look – and dual tailpipes. Dual tailipies! On a Buick crossover! The overall stance is a good one, managing to look a little less van-like and a little more station wagon- or hot hatch-like. A brighter colour than what our tester had might be nice, but the brown-bronze finish we did have adds an air of luxury to the proceedings. They need to get rid of the “portholes” on the hood, though. I know they’re a Buick tradition and all, but they just look way too Canadian Tire tacked on here.
The big news on the styling front, however, is how it had folks seriously asking “Is that actually a Buick?” After all, as of the late the manufacturer has been better known for making uber-soft mid- and full-size sedans for the octogenarian. It inspired them to produce some very youth-centric ads for the likes of the Encore compact crossover. The Envision, however, seems to need no such thing as the styling both inside and out speaks for itself.
The interior is befitting for a Buick of late, that is to say nicely luxurious with a touch of technological flare such as a partially digitized gauge display and a big honkin’ infotainment display right there on the centre console. It houses your Buick Intellilink interface, which is slick to the eye and touch and provides both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I guess if I had one complaint it would be the unsightly plastic around the digital climate controls, as well as said controls being a little finicky and not as responsive as I’d like. Can we get some knobs and dials, for goodness sake? Same goes for the seat heater/cooling controls. I’ll take a proper button for these any day, to avoid poking the things one too many times and getting a nice set of finger callouses while I’m at it. The fan speed and manual vent controls are traditional buttons; would it have killed Buick to toss a couple more on there?
As far as interior room and the driver seating position go, Buick’s mostly right on; sure, as a taller driver I did feel that the seat may have been a touch high no matter how much I adjusted, but that’s the extent of it. It’s otherwise nicely supportive, plush and had me feeling like I was in one of the best chairs in the biz, right up there with Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.
ON THE ROAD
LE: Buick’s active noise cancellation does a good job of keeping sounds from creeping into the cabin. This makes conversations among passengers much easier and long rides more enjoyable. Not much road noise gets into the cabin, however, when I put my foot down to drive a bit more aggressively I can hear the hum of the engine working. Nothing to complain about, just on par with other vehicles in this class.
Driving this new Buick on the long stretches of highway south of Calgary, I am happy with the peppiness of the 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine. The 6-speed automatic transmission is super smooth and the 252 horses are right at home on these roads. I spent my entire time in this SUV and didn’t get a chance to try out the base 4-cylinder.
All models here in Canada come standard with AWD.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that people are not going to buy a Buick because they want an aggressive or really sporty ride. The Envision delivers exactly what Buick owners want; a ride that is relaxed and luxurious while keeping all occupants inside comfortable. This SUV floats over any bumpy surfaces, has very little body roll and delivers impressive grip.
DH: For me, the big takeaway from the Envision was the ride. Not so much the way the car absorbs bumps and the like, but more how everything is kept so well in check. Every time I hit the brakes, I was pleasantly surprised by how little the car dove under braking. Same goes for hard acceleration tests, as well as side-to-side body roll. It’s clear that Buick wants to show that a small-ish crossover can still ride with the biggest of ‘em. They’ve knocked it completely out of the park in that department.
Power-wise, the story is similar; sure, as most turbo engines tend to exhibit there is a modicum of turbo lag, but once all that’s taken care of, I found myself perfectly comfortable with the pace. You aren’t going to set many (well, any) lap records, of course, but as long as my powertrain gives me the confidence required to make that freeway pass before my exit comes, I’m happy. The small, 2.0L engine, meanwhile, is plenty efficient ‘round town, where my fuel was consumed at just over 10L per 100 km. Better still is the fact that even though it’s a turbo, regular gas is perfectly acceptable.
SAFETY & TECHNOLOGY
LE: The base Preferred trim starts at close to $40,000 and the base turbo, Premium, starts at just over $46,000. It comes with a long list of standard features like heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, and an 8inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Premium trim gives you everything you need to really enjoy driving.
Standard safety features include Forward Collision Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross traffic alert. Other features such as Surround Vision Camera and Front Automatic Braking are available as options on the Premium II trim.
DH: While I tend to find GM’s forward collision warning system a little panicky on almost every car of theirs I drive (it just seems to raise the alarm way too early), there’s no doubt it serves its purpose every time as I always found myself going to the brake quite quickly.
I’m a big fan, however, of the way the driver’s seat vibrates – left butt cheek if you indicate left, vice versa if you’re indicating right — as you begin to veer out of your lane on the freeway, or are considering a lane change with another vehicle in your blind spot. It doesn’t beep and wail, and why should it? Why should every other passenger in the car know what’s going on? It reduces the back-seat driver syndrome, that’s for darn sure.
What’s also for darn sure is that it seems, to me, that Buick has hit a bit of a sweet spot with the Envsion. It looks handsome enough, it’s well-equipped and comfortable inside and it’s got the performance a younger buying group craves. Most importantly, it’s managed to shake that professor in a tweed jacket reputation, replacing it with a sharp blazer and Serenghetti wraparound shades. Well done, here, Buick.
With the changes Buick has made over the years, I can see why this brand is so popular in other countries. With a pretty impressive package and uncomplicated style, this middle sibling is going to win a lot of people over.