2017 Buick Envision Preferred AWD Review - The Buick Tri-Shield Badge Premium Exists

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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Fast Facts

2017 Buick Envision Preferred

2.5-liter DOHC inline-four (197 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm; 192 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm)
Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
21 city / 28 highway / 24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.8 city / 9.1 highway / 10.6 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
25.0 mpg [9.4 L/100 km] (Observed)
Base Price
$34,990 (U.S) / $41,995 (Canada)
As Tested
$38,830 (U.S.) / $42,980 (Canada)
Prices include $925 destination charge in the United States and $1,800 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2017 buick envision preferred awd review the buick tri shield badge premium exists

General Motors apparently believes you’ll pay a genuinely lofty price for the 2017 Buick Envision precisely because it’s a Buick.

A basic 2017 Buick Envision, upgraded with Preferred trim in order to select the $1,850 all-wheel drive system, costs $38,645. That’s correct: the least costly AWD Envision is priced from $38,645. General Motors will sell you a larger, V6-engined, AWD GMC Acadia for only $445 more.

But that’s a GMC. A generic, garden variety, menial GMC. The Envision seeks to mercilessly trample on the Acadia’s blue collar status.

Who would want a spacious GMC when you could own a Buick; a smaller, less powerful, China-made Buick with cloth seats, no sunroof, blank switches at the front of the center console, and no advanced safety gear? Evidently, the person who’s willing to pay a premium for the Buick tri-shield badge. You know, the buyer who places a value on supposed Buick prestige over and above any accompanying equipment that may (or may not) accompany this alleged luxury SUV.

Even after price is removed from the equation, a 2017 Buick Envision still reveals itself as a vehicle that underwhelms in areas besides, for example, the lack of full leather seating. The 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine produces 197 horsepower, GM says. But 197 horsepower doesn’t feel like 197 horsepower when those horses are tasked with motivating 3,929 pounds, when power peaks at 6,300 rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque doesn’t peak until 4,400 rpm, when the six-speed automatic isn’t remotely interested in playful cooperation.

That Buick didn’t build a corner-carving small luxury crossover comes as no surprise. Indeed, Buick’s determination to avoid even a hint of sporting nature is a welcome turn of events.

The six-speed automatic’s lack of urgency testifies to its smoothness. Meanwhile, the Envision’s ride quality is exemplary. There is no sound of harsh suspension impacts because there is no sound; there may not even be any harsh impacts. The uncommunicative steering channels no information back to the driver yet rewards cruisers with delightfully light effort. There are no optional steering modes. There’s no Sport button tucked behind the shifter that generates individualized Tour and Race settings in the instrument cluster.

The Buick Envision is all the better for it. Its singular focus on refined and relaxed transportation largely pays off, as the Envision never tries to be what it’s not.

But the Envision is slow. You’d need to spend $43,640 to rise to the Premium trim level for access to the 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. In lesser iterations, the 2.5-liter-powered Envision AWD will struggle to scoot from rest to highway speeds in less than nine seconds. That was once acceptable, and it may still be acceptable in some corners of the market. But it’s not acceptable for a so-called luxury SUV at a truly premium price point.

Besides, the Envision isn’t even comfortable trying, as it loses its composure when the 2.5-liter strains its vocal cords at high rpm.

Buick’s efforts inside are more successful than the underhood outcome. The Envision comes across as a notably more spacious small utility vehicle than upmarket rivals such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC thanks in part to the flat rear floor. Three-across seating is actually a real possibility. There’s also more cargo capacity than you’ll find behind the rear seats of an Acura RDX or Lincoln MKC, two of the more likely Envision rivals.

Unfortunately, the front perches are flat and the seating position leads the driver to feel like he’s seated on the Envision, rather than in it. The oddly tilted center stack features an eight-inch touchscreen that’s difficult to reach even if you lengthen your stretch (and it displays a backup camera with fuzzy quality.) The blanked-out switches in prominent locations devalue Buick’s already weak luxury credentials. Ten awkwardly intersecting materials on the doors are surely deserving of some of the blame for the Envision’s dollar store aroma. The driver’s side window features auto up and down; the other windows are only auto down.

The horror.

Little things? At the Chevrolet Equinox’s MSRP, perhaps. At the GMC Terrain’s price point, maybe. But Buick is reaching here, far more than Buick will reach with the $29,995 Regal TourX (which comes standard with the Envision’s optional 2.0T) and far more than Buick will reach with the $40,970 2018 Enclave.

The 2017 Buick Envision is quiet, however, a sedate cruiser in a world chock full of utility vehicles that pretend to be sporting vehicles and often suffer as a result. The Envision is inoffensive to behold, it’s equipped with a handful of standard features (such as a power tailgate and dual-zone climate control) that cast a premium aura, and it resides outside the luxury norm, a benefit to those who tire of Lexus ubiquity.

The 2017 Buick Envision Preferred AWD is also not a $38,645 vehicle. Prominently positioned at Buick.com are advertisements for 15-percent price reductions on this very vehicle. Interest-free financing for up to six years is another Buick attempt to sweeten the pot. Buick certainly needs to. After averaging 4,600 monthly U.S. buyers for the Envision through the second-quarter of 2017, Envision volume totalled just 2,812 sales in July. Inventory piled up — Automotive News says there was a 166-day supply of Envisions heading into August. Fewer than 70 days would be ideal.

Turns out General Motors knows you won’t actually pay a significant price premium for the Buick Envision just because it’s a Buick.

[Image: © Timothy Cain]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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3 of 114 comments
  • Nick 2012 Nick 2012 on Aug 16, 2017

    My wife's 80 year old godmother (who I've become quite close to) just bought one of these. I broke her heart when I told her were it was made.

    • NormSV650 NormSV650 on Aug 19, 2017

      My 70-year old inlaws love riding in the Envision too. But I gave them sticker shock when I told them it listed for $49,320!

  • Legacygt Legacygt on Aug 17, 2017

    Chinese manufacturing has been able to undercut the world in just about every possible area. Then why is it that GM chooses to utilize Chinese production for an overpriced mid-sized SUV that few will buy? Wouldn't they be wiser to bring over something like a Chevy Spark for under $10K? They could have completely shaken up the market and dominated a segment with the cheap manufacturing avaialble in China. Instead they chose to go with this. I know. The Envision was designed for China and was available so why not? I guess you can rationalize it but the sales numbers and deep discounts tell the story.

  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.