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

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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.

  • Arthur Dailey Is most of your driving in stop and go urban traffic?Do you have kids, who you have to drive to and from their activities? Sometimes with their friends/teammates.Do you have pets? Do you have some mobility issues?Can you perform maintenance yourself?Do you have a discretionary fund for unforeseen repairs?Do you have another car, so that you only need to use this on weekends or rural/highway trips?Check your answers to the above. They may tell you that as nice as this car is, you might be better off with a new, boring but more practical SUV.
  • DungBeetle62 Before everyone dumps on California and their tax structure and Gavin's hairstyle, my recent road trip (which didn't get to California) was as follows when tanking up Super Unleaded.Texas - Fort Worth area Costco : $3.36Texas - Amarillo Sam's - $3.46New Mexico - Albuquerque Costco - $3.75Arizona - Flagstaff Sam's - $4.25Nevada - Henderson Costco- $4.72Oil is oil is oil is oil. State taxes vary, transporting the refined product varies, but a friggin BUCK AND A HALF more a gallon (and we're talking Costco to Costco here) ain't passing the smell test as you get out west. No, count me in with thinking someone out west is going for a bigger bite of the apple and figuring people will blame Newsom.
  • Tassos Whoever pays $23,000 for this 15 year old unreliable car will regret it. I would not pay half that.Go get an excellent E55 AMG, also 2008, and pretty close HP-wise, with far higher Torque, and a proper luxury interior..
  • VoGhost Why would anyone want to save a car dealer? No really - what actual value do they provide?
  • FreedMike Really nice example, but these are LEGENDARY for being money pits.