There is always a perpetually associated degree of inherent risk once a vehicle which has been primarily designed for a foreign market is imported into the United States.
For all those talks about observing globalism, there is no accounting for the tastes of other nations. For example, automobiles like the Pontiac GTO, which is the rebadged version of Aussie-spec Holden Monaro, did not work, whereas the Volkswagen Type I Beetle, which was designed for pre-World War II Germany, has an enormous success story. Though the sales can ultimately live the success of the new 2017 Buick Envision within the eyes of GM, the made-in-China Buick can have an associated degree of uphill battle amongst the customers in the fortified compact luxury crossover sector.
On sale within the People’s Republic of China since 2014 and out there last year in restricted quantities to the U.S, the new Buick Envision represents the tip of types to Buick’s pivot to specialize in the Chinese market, where it is staggeringly prosperous. According to Buick, the Envision was designed from the bottom up, right from the window sticker as a world vehicle within the US. However, there’s no denying that the Chinese market has heavily influenced the Envision’s style, as well as options like its huge back seat and humpless floor. That is so apparent since Buick sold an upward of a 130,000 Envisions last year in China. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Buick sold almost over 220,000 vehicles. Buick expects most of the Envision consumers in America to come from the brand by either saving from the three-row dominion or upsizing from the Encore cute-ute.
Built on the compact new D2 platform of GM, which predicates the new Chevrolet Equinox and also the Cruze, the Envision is Buick’s aspirant in the segment of the profitable and high-selling luxury compact vehicles. After being benchmarked against the Audi Q5 which is its primary competitor in China and also the Acura RDX, which is Buick’s rival in America, the Envision is almost of the same size as a Mercedes-Benz GLC, of course with a marginally smaller wheelbase.
Under the Hood
The powertrain comes with two engine variants in the United States. First, a 2.5-liter capacitated base which is naturally aspirated with I-4 that produces a modest 197 hp power and a torque of 192 lb-ft. The second engine is an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 that generates a power of 252 hp and a torque of 260 lb-ft. Both the engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive comes as a standard for the 2.5-liter, while the all-wheel drive is optional, whereas the turbocharged engine is currently running an all-wheel drive only. The 2.5-liter engine is EPA-rated offering a mileage of 22/29/25 mpg for city/highway/combined in the front-wheel-drive form and 21/28/24 mpg for city/highway/combined in the all-wheel-drive form. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine has been EPA rated at 20/26/22 mpg. With so little power which is driving the 3,700-pound crossover, the engine is pretty much working hard to keep the vehicle moving. The noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) control is lacking severely, with a loud throttle and unrefined off control that vibrates the driver’s seat.
With so little power which is driving the 3,700-pound crossover, the engine is pretty much working hard to keep the vehicle moving. The noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) control is lacking severely, with a loud throttle and unrefined off control that vibrates the driver’s seat. However, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is much better in the NVH department, owing to the fact that the turbocharger has helped in keeping the things a bit quiet. It’s still coarse above 2,500 rpm or so, but the turboed engine makes enough power down low that Envision drivers likely won’t be spending much time exploring their tachometers. The optional turboed engine, with 2,500 coarse rpm has been sampled in a loaded all-wheel-drive Envision Premium II which feels like diesel-run vehicle based on its torque characteristics, which allows the Buick to quickly get up and go by offering a lot of passing power. Whereas, with the 2.5-liter engine, the Buick deserves full credit for how smartly it has tuned the 6-speed automatic transmission as it shifts quickly apart from its ability to downshift, and it does not hunt for gears.
Unfortunately, the driving experience of the Envision does not really get any better. There is a lack of steering feedback and feel, but honestly, it is appropriately tuned for a Buick. For the first few miles of the drive, the Envision’s suspension is springs pretty softly and is even. Eventually, it quickly becomes apparent that the automobile’s suspension is still dealing with the bumps even a while after the car has gone over them. Since the tires seem to be floating over the bump, it will be ironed out by the suspension, but the Buick will actually not settle down as the impact is transferred from the suspension to the body of the car, resulting in a gentle head toss and a tummy jiggle. Though the Buick comes with all its acoustic laminate glass and active noise cancellation, there is still a surprising amount of tire and wind noise inside, especially at high speeds.
The cabin of the Envision does not do much either to distract from the laid-back driving experience, though at the first glance, it does seem to hit all the luxury crossover marks. The interiors come with nice leather coverings with an essential wood trim, a substantial infotainment system, and a huge back seat which is notably comfortable. It doozies the 6-footer-behind-6-footer test and it also folds flat with just a pull of the release lever that is mounted on the trunk, just like in the Honda CR-V. The absence of a drive train hump, even on the all-wheel-drive version is a marvelous packaging prodigy.
Other than the wrapper, the Buick is pretty disappointing. Almost all the materials beneath the armrests are made of those grainy, economy-grade plastics, which makes the scratching sounds which induce a cringe as the fingernails are run along it. Disappointingly, the same hard plastic also covers the back of the front seats instead of covering the whole seat in fabric. Though the wood trim looks stellar, it has been lacquered to a point where it feels like plastic. The cubby storage, which is the size of a tiny iPhone, placed on the passenger’s side of the dash crooks and creaks at the lightest of touches like Styrofoam. The shiny, black plastic which surrounds the infotainment screen is also mystifying, given the fact that it is surrounded by just a lot more plastic, but in a different shade of black.
The Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, power front seats, a backup camera, heated front and rear seats, blind-spot warning, passive keyless entry, rear cross-traffic alert, and a touchscreen which is 8.0 inches in size, which comes with IntelliLink of Buick equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, apart from the panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and 36-degree view camera.
The Buick Envision comes at a price which is really fine to match its quality. Starting at a price of $35,020, the whimsical interior quality probably does not look as bad as when compared to other vehicles like the BMW X1, which comes with identical interior quality but is smaller than the Buick. However, the less optioned midlevel Buick Envision Essence 2.5 FWD I comes at a price of $41,030, whereas the lightly equipped top-trim Envision Premium II 2.0 AWD costs an eye-watering $49,320. The Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4-Matic, which is equipped comparably on the same stream, comes for about $2,000 more and a similar Audi Q5 for $2,000 less than the latter Buick. Both the German-made automobiles offer better fuel economy, better driving experiences, and overall better quality than the Envision.
The Buick Envision makes sense when driven in a vacuum. A loyal Buick buyer who will never consider any other brand will probably think that the Envision is the best thing to arrive from China apart from the gunpowder. However, in a time where the luxury crossover buyers are now having a lot more choice than ever before, the Buick’s conservative pretensions will definitely not be enough to make the more informed buyers to pause from walking down and driving away with a better and complete package which offers a more luxurious experience for their buck.