2016 Buick Envision First Review

The 2016 Buck Envision is an all-new crossover SUV for the premium brand, slotting between the subcompact Encore and midsize Enclave. As an upscale 2-row, 5-passenger SUV, it aims to compete with the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and Lincoln MKC. 

The all-new Envision arriving now will have a short 2016 model-year run before 2017 versions go on sale in September. The 2016 Envision is only available in two high-end trims, Premium I and Premium II, whose starting prices are $42,995 and $45,635, respectively. As we previously reported, when the 2017 Envision arrives, it will add three lower trims and have a price that begins just under $35,000. As loaded, top-line models, the 2016 Envision comes standard with features such as leather seats, Bose audio, 8-inch infotainment screen, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, and 19-inch wheels.

Buick knows the upstart Envision is challenging established rivals, but the brand feels this new premium 5-passenger crossover is ready for the fight. Buick invited us to GM's Milford, Michigan, proving grounds to see how it stacks up. Here's what we found.

Quality Assurance

Addressing a potential elephant in the room, yes, the Buick Envision is made in China. So far it is among just two cars imported to the U.S. The short-lived Coda electric car arrived on our shores a few years ago before departing as quickly as it came, and the Volvo S60 Inscription is currently made there.

If the Envision's quality is any indicator, it may not be the last. In our time with several production models, fit and finish felt in line with its peers hailing from Germany and Japan. That's not surprising, considering it was designed, engineered and vetted in the United States. While time will tell how the Envision holds up in initial and long-term reliability, this crossover has already seen massive success in China, where it has already sold well over 100,000 units in the past couple years since it debuted.

Something to Prove

At the proving grounds, we tested the 2016 Buick Envision on a miles-long loop intentionally laced with the kind of surfaces most public roads aim to avoid. Poor pavement, big dips, bumps and contusions that make vehicles shake, rattle and roll. For comparison, Buick also brought three rivals to the party: the Audi Q5, Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC.

If you're a get-to-the-point type of person, the Envision's ride quality is best described as "relaxed with a playful side."

Considering the Envision is a Buick, that first quality isn't a surprise. In a segment where every player wants to be sporty this and performance that, it's refreshing to have a crossover SUV that's commendably comfortable and quiet. The Envision was notably quieter than the competitors here, and absorbed road bruises without bruising us.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Drive-wise, it felt most like the Lincoln MKC. But we prefer the Buick's airy cabin to that of the more closed-in MKC. Also not surprisingly, the Envision didn't feel as zippy or agile as the Acura RDX, whose 279-horsepower V6 has 27 more ponies than the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in the 2016 Envision. Still, the turbo engine used in this Envision offers good acceleration thanks to its impressive horsepower and more impressive torque (260 lb-ft starting at a low 2,000 rpm). Turbo lag was a non-issue, and the 6-speed automatic transmission is a smooth operator.

Being that all 2016 Envisions are the two top models, they include this up-level engine, and all use an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. That AWD worked well on surfaces of the test track where traction was compromised. In emergency braking maneuvers, the Envision also came to a halt swiftly and as stress-free as can be when you're slamming the brakes from 70 mph.

Like more and more vehicles, the Envision is equipped with an engine start/stop system that cuts power and stoplights. It isn't defeatable, but at least it didn't feel overly intrusive during an hour-plus drive outside the proving grounds. EPA fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city/26 highway for these turbo AWD models. The Envision's 22 mpg combined rating ties that of an all-wheel-drive RDX and Lincoln MKC, and slightly trails that of the Audi Q5 and Lexus NX 200t.

When 2017 Envision models arrive this fall, they'll offer a 2.5-liter naturally 4-cylinder 197 horsepower. One wasn't available for this test, so stay tuned.

Impressive Cabin and Amenities

The 2016 Buick Envision's comfortable drive manners are complemented by an equally refined, leather-laced cabin. As we've noted, it feels open and airy, and while the buttons and switches are Chevy-familiar, that's not a bad thing these days. Moreover, they're easy to see and use.

Rearward visibility is good, and passengers sitting in back are treated to plenty of legroom, their own climate controls and USB ports, and -- this is noteworthy -- no hump to impede feet. Even with its all-wheel-drive platform, the Envision has a flat floor free of a transmission tunnel.

The 2016 Envision with its limited trims will be on sale for a few months before the expanded 2017 lineup arrives in September. Note that if you must have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you'll have to wait for the 2017 Envision. If you must have a CD player, then the 2016 model it is.

This new Buick fills a much-needed space in the brand's crossover SUV lineup, and if our first taste is any indicator, the Envision appears to be a strong candidate if you're looking for a smaller SUV that stands out for it comfort, quiet and versatility. 


 

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