2017 Envision New Car Test Drive
We're not sure of the full history of GM's decision to build cars in China, but it was years ago, and we recall it initially being about selling cars in China, not about building them there with Chinese labor and sending them to the U.S. to sell as American cars. So, before you consider the virtues of the stylish Buick Envision midsize/compact crossover, know that it's made in China.
Buick is quick to say that the Envision was designed in Detroit, for the North American market. However, it's a bit narrow for its class. Buick adds that fewer Envisions will be sold in the U.S. than in China, where people are smaller.
And nowadays, many of them richer. Even with cheap labor, the Envision is still fairly expensive, and lacks some features on the top models that we've seen on competitors like the Lexus RX and Acura RDX, or even the Nissan Murano.
The Envision is well assembled but unremarkable. The ride is really nice, but the rest of the driving dynamics are average.
New last year, the Envision fits in size between the Buick Encore hatchback and three-row Enclave wagon. It's a couple of inches shorter than the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. It weighs 3800 pounds and can tow 1500 pounds when properly equipped.
For 2017, Buick Envision expands to seven models, offering a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Base engine is a 2.5-liter four cylinder making 197 horsepower, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder making 252 horsepower that comes only with all-wheel drive. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
There are two available all-wheel-drive systems. The 2.5-liter gets the basic system, while the 2.0-liter turbo gets a twin-clutch system that splits the power not only between the front and rear wheels, but also between each rear wheel for better control in corners. That's torque vectoring at the rear. Some cars do it at the front.
What the Envision does to improve control at the front wheels is through the steering that's assisted by an electric motor, which can counter-steer in crosswinds.
We haven't driven the 2.5-liter, but we found the turbo 2.0-liter, used in other GM cars from the Chevy Malibu to Cadillac CT6, to be confident and competent.
The 2.5-liter with front-wheel drive gets an EPA-rated 22 miles per gallon City, 29 Highway, and 25 Combined. The 2.0 turbo with all-wheel drive gets 20/26/22 mpg. Compared to rivals that's nothing to brag about.
In crash testing, the Envision gets five stars from NHTSA. It gets all top scores from the IIHS, and when equipped with the optional automatic emergency braking system, gets Top Safety Pick+. But to get there you'd be in the Premium II model and might be looking at nearly 50 thousand. Almost all the other cars in this class make this safety feature available on more models than just the top one.
2017 Buick Envision ($34,065) comes standard with power and heated cloth seats and rearview camera. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) The 2.5-liter engine comes on base, Preferred ($35,870) and Envision Essence ($37,720) models. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive are standard on Envision Premium ($42,320) models. Envision Premium II ($44,960) gets air conditioned leather seats, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The Driver Confidence Package, with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, is available only on the Premium II.