Mountain Wheels: Imported Buick Envision provides stylish turbo power
As one of the remaining pillars of the old days of the General Motors family, Buick is still something of an outlier in the more modern world. And as the company continues to try to win business from younger drivers in America, it’s also attempting to share some of the long-term success the brand has had in the Chinese market.
Which brings us to the totally revamped 2021 Buick Envision, a premium compact SUV sandwiched between the small Encore and Encore GX and the larger Enclave. It’s entirely manufactured in China and imported to the U.S., which is still a rarity for the American market.
I spent more than a week in the summery then snow-struck Front Range with the attractive Essence trim level of the Envision. It also had a Sport Touring package added that gave it darkened grille and tinted chrome roof rails, window trim and nice-looking, dark-finished 20-inch wheels. That brought the total price to just $41,315, which seems pretty affordable by modern SUV standards.
After a week, I cannot say I could see any huge issues with quality or build associated with the vehicle’s offshore origins, other than some foibles with the infotainment system. The vehicle offers good renditions of the safety systems and infotainment offered in other GM products, and overall Envision was a pleasant and just slightly different variation on the small — but not too small — modern compact SUV category. The size and ride height also means you comfortably step into the Envision, not clamber or crawl up into the cabin.
It’s progressively styled, more than adequately powered and featured decent room for five, plus good cargo space. The 183-inch-long vehicle sits lower and is a bit wider than similar options, and those darkened looks added to its presence, with a slightly more car-like feel than bigger SUVs. Drop the second row, and you’ll still get 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space, as well.
And with its overly wide tires and a 2.0-liter turbo engine, it also went like hell, which was useful as I kept up with traffic on Interstates 25 and 70 a week ago. While 228 horsepower is not a ton in today’s vehicle market, the 258 pound-feet of torque made the Envision fly along rather impressively. A nine-speed transmission also smooths out that delivery. It’s rated for 26 combined mpg and can do 31-plus on the highway.
Its other Buickness is the QuietTuning engineering, which adds a sense of stability and sound insulation that’s a little different than smaller SUVs of this size.
Other interesting bits included an optional air ionizer with an in-cabin air quality indicator, something useful for our inevitable summertime forest fire season, plus the sharply-raked 10.2 inch touchscreen, with three control knobs that were just a bit too far for me to comfortably reach while planted in the supportive and outline-stitched seating.
Your rear passengers may notice seatbacks that seem almost vertical, which is a bit peculiar, and the passenger window frames also veer up sharply, limiting vision just a little bit. There’s no sunroof or moonroof, so it’s a bit dark inside, and the far rear glass and sightlines can be a little limited if you don’t drop the rear headrests.
I did like the cabin layout, with its entirely flat dash, which reminded me of the Dodge Durango I recently drove. Small aircraft-styled window inserts in front of the side mirrors and relatively thin A-pillars also helped with visibility. The dash features some very glossy black trim, and there’s an odd, soft-touch passenger-blocking bar on the right side of the console and AC controls with a pass-through hole that’s not quite big enough to serve as a grab handle, but I guess you can use it to loop your phone charger cord through — no wireless charging pad at this level.
The console also features a vertical strip of push-and-pull shifter buttons, kind of like the new Corvette, versus a traditional shift knob. That required a bit of attention. The vehicle also will absolutely not go anywhere unless you are seat-belted, so keep that in mind.
Also available is the new, almost Cadillac-level Avenir edition, which gets special embroidered and badged leather seating and trim, different paint options, clear lens LED taillamps and distinctive 20-inch pearl nickel wheels — plus a color head-up display. The Avenir also will feature continuous damping control, not unlike Cadillac’s ride control technology.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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