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2017 Buick Envision First Drive

Global Ambitions

Gary Witzenburg
Feb 27, 2017
Photographers: Courtesy of Manufacturer
GM's premium Buick brand is on a major global roll. Continuing to sell strongly in China while substantially growing in the U.S., Buick has enjoyed four straight years of global sales records. No international brand has grown faster.
Not long ago, Buick was known for small (Verano), medium (Regal), and large (LaCrosse) sedans, all well-equipped, quiet, pleasant to drive, and affordably priced given its premium positioning between value Chevrolet and luxury Cadillac.
Then it launched the Encore subcompact CUV, which stimulated that fledgling segment and soon became Buick's bestseller. And now it has brought in the midsize European Opel-based Cascada convertible, completely redesigned LaCrosse, and added the all-new Envision compact CUV.
Photo 2/16   |   2017 Buick Envision First Drive Side View
So let's talk about the new Envision. Launched for ’16 into the midsize-crossover segment, offering only premium trims with a turbocharged 252 hp 2.0L four-cylinder and all-wheel-drive, Buick says it is already the brand's fastest-selling vehicle.
For ’17, its lineup expands to include base Envision and mid-range Preferred and Essence trims, all powered by a 197hp 2.5L naturally aspirated, direct-injected I-4 engine with front-wheel drive, starting at $34,990. The turbo engine remains standard on top-level Premium I and Premium II models, and both engines drive through six-speed automatic transmissions. EPA fuel economy is 20 mpg city, 26 highway with the 2.0L turbo/AWD and 22 mpg city, 29 highway with the 2.5L and FWD.
Photo 3/16   |   2017 Buick Envision First Drive Side
At 183.7 inches on a 107.9-inch wheelbase, its sits directly between the big Enclave and the little Encore, which is exactly what Buick needed to complete its CUV lineup at a time when American buyers are moving en masse from sedans to crossovers. It accommodates 27 cubic feet of stuff behind its 60/40-split second-row seats and 57 cubic feet, more than rivals Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC, with them folded flat. Curb weights range from roughly 3,500 to 4,000 pounds, depending on trim and powertrain, and towing capacity is 1,500 pounds with either engine.
Suspension is MacPherson front (HiPer struts with the turbo) and four-link independent rear with stabilizer bars at both ends. Steering is electric power rack-and-pinion with crosswind and road-shake stabilization, and the brakes are four-wheel discs managed by four-channel ABS. The sum total is surprisingly precise steering and handling, good performance, and strong fade-free braking, adding up to very un-CUV-like driving pleasure.
Photo 4/16   |   2017 Buick Envision First Drive Interior
Standard equipment includes Buick IntelliLink with an 8-inch touchscreen, push-button start with passive entry and remote start, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, programmable hands-free power liftgate, active noise cancelation, LED daytime running and rear accent lamps and efficiency-enhancing active grille shutters. Eight-way power front seats with four-way-adjustable lumbar are optional. Standard safety features include 10 air bags (including knee bags), rear-view camera, and Rear Park Assist.
The Essence trim adds heated rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone climate control with rear-seat controls, blind spot and lane monitoring, and an optional panoramic moonroof. Premium I offers active Twin Clutch AWD, a heads-up display, Bose premium audio, and a suite of safety and driver assistance systems including Surround Vision, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Front Automatic Braking, Following Distance Indicator, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a Safety Alert driver's seat that vibrates directionally to warn of impending danger. The top-level Premium II trim piles on IntelliLink with navigation (optional on Premium I), ventilated front seats, and an available Driver Confidence Package that includes Adaptive Cruise Control.
Photo 5/16   |   2017 Buick Envision First Drive Sun Roof
We drove a $37K standard ’17 Envision with the 2.5L four and FWD and a loaded near-$50K Premium II with the turbo 2.0L and AWD, and we found the former almost as nice as the latter. The base engine gets it done, at least when lightly loaded, while the turbo comes on stronger on demand. Both are smooth, quiet, and refined even at wide-open throttle. The touchscreen infotainment system is complimented by some handy hard buttons and proper radio volume and tuning knobs. Even the base model is trimmed in quality materials and quiet at freeway speeds, and the sliding rear seat gives more-than-ample legroom.
Buick is smartly playing in a near-luxury sweet spot that dips into the upper range of value brands while reaching upward into the lower tiers of luxury, and it’s doing a better job of it than direct competitors Acura, Infiniti, and Lincoln, if you believe experts touting the brand’s sales momentum. It is introducing new vehicles that motivate potential buyers to re-evaluate the brand, and Buick has seen nearly half of its buyers moving over from other brands in 2016, versus 27 percent in 2007.
Photo 6/16   |   2017 Buick Envision First Drive
We haven't talked about exterior or interior design because that's subjective. But to our eyes, it's not only the right size but also the right Buick look, fitting neatly between Encore and Enclave. It offers state of the art connectivity with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, plus a new Teen Driver feature that allows parents to set controls, review driving habits, and encourage safe driving even when they are not in the vehicle. And it will soon launch a new ultra-lux sub-brand called "Avenir" (named after Buick's stunning 2015 concept sedan) that will top off the Envision, Enclave, and LaCrosse lines like Denali does for GMC.
Just seven years ago, Buick came close to extinction, but now it's on a major roll. This all-new Envision completes its CUV line, and we're looking forward to what comes next.

2017 Buick Envision

Vehicle type: Compact CUV
Base price: $34,990
Price as tested: $37,000 and $50,000
Engine: 2.5L 4-cylinder / 2.0L Turbocharged 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 197/252
Torque: 192/260 lb-ft
Curb weight: 3,755 to 4,083 lbs
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined (2.0L turbo/AWD)

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