Envision

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2018 Buick Envision Overview

In Buick’s increasingly crossover-heavy lineup, the compact Envision is the middle child, situated between the subcompact Encore and the full-size Enclave, and optimized to seat 5 occupants inside a reasonable footprint. The Envision was conceived primarily for China, where all Envision units are built; nevertheless, it manages to provide a well-tailored mix of all the right ingredients for a premium in North America. Aimed squarely at the Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC, the Envision hit the market in an abbreviated 2016 model year with limited configurations, followed by a full rollout of all trims in 2017. For 2018, the Envision soldiers along with no major changes.

Exterior styling for the Envision fits it neatly into the Buick family, with a tasteful blend of curves and creases, as well as prominent brand design cues like the pentagonal waterfall grille and L-shaped LED headlamp accents. That said, the exterior doesn’t exactly stand out within its class, and the Envision fails to overcome the stubby, narrow appearance of many other compact crossovers. The interior, where buyers will spend most of their time, is better executed, placing an emphasis on design that is upscale, yet approachable. Wood-veneered and stitched-leather panels flow into one another to bring controls within easy reach and swaddle occupants in serenity, dressed up in black and complemented by rich hues like plum, chestnut, or parchment.

The Envision comes in front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), and power is delivered from one of two engines, each with a 6-speed automatic and automatic stop/start. The base engine is a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder making 197 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. Buyers looking to move with more urgency can upgrade to a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four with 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and standard AWD. The AWD system for the turbocharged engine is an advanced twin-clutch variety that can send up to 100 percent of the power to either axle, versus 70 percent for the base AWD setup, and can also smartly split power between the wheels of the rear axle, as needed. The turbocharged engine also includes Buick’s tried-and-tested HiPer Strut front suspension, which minimizes torque steer and filters out unwanted road input to deliver a more linear driving experience. The powertrain upgrade transforms the Envision’s driving characteristics from indifferent to solid and buttoned-down, although the crossover is still not particularly performance-oriented in any guise. As far as fuel economy, the base 2.5-liter engine delivers a respectable 22 mpg city/29 highway with FWD or 21/28 with AWD on regular-octane fuel. Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers 20/26 on recommended premium-octane fuel. With that, the Envision bests both engines for the Lincoln MKC as well as the sole V6 for the Acura RDX.

The Envision’s marketing materials focus on comfort, and indeed that is where this crossover shines. Its solid chassis dampens most driving feel, but it also insulates occupants from all but the most potent potholes, bumps, and road noise. This isolation is supplemented by the standard active noise cancellation and acoustic laminated glass standard on every Envision. The crossover’s 108.2-inch wheelbase is class-leading and gives the compact Envision the right to compete with many midsize crossovers in terms of front and rear legroom at 40 and 40.9 inches, respectively. Further comfort and convenience largely comes from optimized utility. The Envision’s load floor is particularly low, so buyers shouldn’t have to heft a large item over a tall rear bumper, and this is paired with a standard hands-free power liftgate. Cargo capacity comes in at 26.9 cubic feet with the seats up, but 60/40-split rear seats kneel in order to make the load floor almost completely flat for a competitive 57.3 cubic feet with seats down.

For 2018, the Envision comes in a $34,990 base trim named, aptly, Base. As this is a premium crossover, it comes well-equipped, with 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, two USB ports, front fog lamps, satellite radio, keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and OnStar 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot. There isn’t much difference between the Base and the Preferred trim, the latter of which is nearly $2,000 dearer at $36,795. AWD becomes available with the Preferred trim for another $1,850, or $38,645.

The big upgrades come with the volume Essence trim at $38,645, or $40,495 with AWD, in the form of features like leather upholstery, heated sliding and reclining rear seats, a heated steering wheel, chrome roof rails, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Beyond that, the Premium I and Premium II trims form the upper end of the Envision line. The $43,245 Premium I upgrade brings with it the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and its superior AWD system and front suspension, 19-inch aluminum wheels, a 110-volt outlet, and a premium Bose 7-speaker audio system. To that, the $46,280 Premium II trim adds cooled front seats, active-swiveling HID headlamps, and automatic high-beams. Map-based navigation is standard on the Premier II and a $495 option for Premier I, while the panoramic moonroof is a $1,495 option for Essence, Premier I, and Premier II. One demerit for the Envision in any configuration is that basic white exterior paint is a no-charge option, but all other exterior colors incur a $395 charge.

The Envision has buyers covered on the safety front, with 10 standard airbags, including side-curtain and knee units. In addition to that, the crossover is bundled with a sophisticated suite of safety technology. Standard on the Base and Preferred trims are a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. The Essence trim nets buyers blind-spot monitoring with alert and rear cross-traffic alert, and Premier I and II trims finish with forward-collision alert and lane-change warning with lane-keep assist. With Good crash-test scores all around and an advanced front-crash-avoidance rating for vehicles so equipped, the Envision earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation for 2016 and 2017.

The Envision is a true premium vehicle in that its luxuries go much deeper than technology features and design; it is thoughtfully engineered throughout. For buyers that can suffice with Essence and lower trims, it offers solid value against its competitors. Above that, the Envision comes loaded to the gills where others do not, but nevertheless begins to lose the plot to similarly sized European vehicles with pedigree badges, more-expressive styling, and inherently superior driving dynamics, namely the Volvo XC60 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. To really nail the Envision’s proposition, Buick should allow buyers to add more à la carte or standard options to lesser trims.

Updated

Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.

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