No question, the sport utility segment isn’t seeing any slowdown. Consumers can’t get enough and automakers are happy to oblige, with increasingly more luxury brands stepping into the mix. The midsize SUV, particularly in Canada, is the most popular segment. And while Buick has been offering their stylish compact Encore and full-size Enclave for years, consumers never had a midway choice until now with the all-new 2017 Envision. (Well, there was the Buick Rendezvous SUV sold between 2002-2007, but let’s erase that one from our memory).
Built entirely on its own platform, and first sold in China last year as a 2016 model, the Envision now makes its way to North America with its sights set on competing directly with the popular Audi Q5. That’s a pretty ambitious benchmark playing with the Germans but it shows Buick is hitting the market guns blazing, backed with confidence in their product and a strong drive to succeed — both in terms of sales, of course, and to position themselves as a true luxury moniker here in North America, to the same level it once enjoyed many moons ago.
A global vehicle: Designed in Michigan. Built in China
The 2017 Buick Envision happens to be General Motor’s first product built entirely overseas, in China. This is, and will likely be, a sore point with many (i.e. Unions, bigots, generally closed-minded people). But the reality is, we live in global product environment where borders are diminishing and at the end of the day, the consumer is coming out ahead which more choices and better price-points, provided there’s no compromise in quality which there doesn’t seem to be with the Envision — Buick simply can’t take that risk.
For what it’s worth, American luxury brands like Buick and sibling Cadillac carry a completely different cachet in Asian markets like China, where owning an Envision or Escalade symbolize a much higher degree of prestige as it does back home in North America. And it can be argued the success overseas helps facilitate the market here. Whereas we might think the good old Buick or Caddy is fit for Grandpa, they certainly don’t see it like that outside our borders. Something to think about.
The one attribute you’ll almost always get with the larger luxury sport utilities is a quiet ride. Buick dubs this QuietTuning, to include advanced soundproofing and blocking materials in their products. Every Envision comes with standard all-wheel drive with the active twin clutch, which on the road, provides more confidence and a better connection to the vehicle. In the corners, the Envision handled well, and this twin clutch setup provides better performance during acceleration and cornering.
Two engine types are available, including the EcoTec 2.5L inline-4, and the more robust 2.0L Turbo producing 252-hp and 260 lb.ft of torque — that’s 12-hp more than the Lincoln MKC, and over 30-hp more than the Audi Q5, for those tracking numbers.
2017 Buick Envision Interior
Inside, the Envision’s midsize cabin environment feels spacious, offering more cargo space than the Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC. The huge panoramic sunroof is nice and opens up the space, but comes optional. Throughout, it’s clear Buick is stepping up their luxury game with higher quality materials and a fit-and-finish that justifies its sophisticated appeal for families seeking a medium-sized sport utility. The Buick Envision is comfortable and quiet as mentioned, while integrating lighter seat materials and employing advanced sound-proofing and blocking materials throughout the cabin.
…the Envision now makes its way to North America with its sights set on competing directly with the popular Audi Q5. That’s a pretty ambitious benchmark playing with the Germans but it shows Buick is hitting the market guns blazing, backed with confidence in their product and a strong drive to succeed
In the cockpit, everything is within reach, logically laid out, with a good dose of hard switches and buttons. Personally, not a fan of the seat temperature control sensor requiring the finger-tapping for increase/decrease; much rather prefer a button or dial but this setup does add to a cleaner, streamlined look. And, frankly, the majority of the centre console sees buttons anyways, which I believe will appeal to the larger crowd, including perhaps the more old-school buyers (i.e. your parents, or mom who can’t work an iPhone).
The 8-inch colour touchscreen with Buick IntelliLink comes standard, as well as both standard heated front and rear heated seats plus heated leather-wrapped steering on the Essence and Premium trims. In the rear, kneeling cushions in the second-row seat enables a flatter load when the seat is folded. And of course, connectivity is a big deal now, rightfully so: the 2017 Envision finds the Teen Driver setup (a separate fob for your kids that unleashes a report card of stats showing parents exactly how their kids have been driving, from exceeding speed limit warnings to others), as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
Takeaway: is the 2017 Buick Envision worth it?
The 2017 Buick Envision offers families looking to get into a luxury midsize SUV one more option, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The competition is stiff in the segment, but the Envision is real contender: it brings to the table proven luxury, progressive yet sleek styling, a comfortable and quiet ride, and all the connectivity you’d expect in today’s vehicles. But seeing as most luxury brands offers all of this today, it probably comes down to taste and personal preference. In the end, I think the Buick Envision is a differentiated type of luxury — a brand unlike what’s already out there. Most people may not think of Buick when shopping around, but I think they should. Perhaps Buick isn’t on the radar for the majority shopping around, but it should be, and the Envision is definitely worth looking into.
- Comfortable and ultra-quiet drive
- Affordable luxury
- Cabin fit-and-finish: quality materials throughout
- Sleek and sexy exterior styling
- Standard rear heated seats
- Sunroof isn’t standard
- China-built a sour point for some
- Re-branding the storied Buick brand as contemporary and hip with new consumers in N.America a challenge