2019 Buick Envision Review - Is That a Buick?
2019 Buick Envision AWD Premium II
Around these digital pages, Buick gets a bad rap. Some have negative connotations of Buick as an old person’s car (disclaimer, my paternal grandfather was a Buick man) or hold grudges simply because the brand was continued while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were killed off during the Great Recession (disclaimer, my father was an Oldsmobile man), seems few have good things to say about the division from Flint.
Disclaimer: I hate the theme music from Buick’s TV commercials.
Let’s make a deal, then. Let’s try and ignore the badges on this 2019 Buick Envision for a few minutes. Let’s evaluate this entry-level luxury crossover against the competition, rather than against whatever demons lurk within our collective subconscious.
Since we last looked at the Envision about two years ago, the compact crossover has seen a couple of tweaks to the nose and tail, tightening up the somewhat saggy look of the pre-facelift model. And while we tested the base 2.5-liter engine back then, now we have the uprated 2.0-liter turbo, which lends 252 horsepower and an impressive 295 lb-ft of torque to move this hefty tall wagon with verve.
Mind you, the Envision makes no efforts to emphasize performance. In the long tradition of mid-range, near-luxury marques everywhere, this Buick is soft. Soft leather, (mostly) soft-touch plastics, and soft, compliant suspension. It’s quiet, and the driver’s hands will be similarly quiet with minimal feedback. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts nearly imperceptibly. It’s not a bug but a feature – the Envision is simply playing the luxury side of the crossover card.
While I’d never expect the Envision to grace museums as a paragon of design, it’s moderately attractive in an inoffensive manner. The ridge rising from below the side mirror, through each door handle, to terminate in the tail lamp visually lengthens the car, making it look larger than it really is.
The interior is, with one significant exception, inoffensively attractive and purposeful. I’m delighted by the wireless charging slot aft of the shifter, which grips one’s phone vertically with enough force to discourage those “quick glances” at Twitter or the like. The standard 8-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay works effortlessly.
Seat comfort is excellent front and rear, though the kids had a bit less legroom in the rear than in similarly sized crossovers I’ve tested. While seated normally, the kids had no problems, but their restless shifting as a road journey stretches beyond an hour put tween knees into mom and dad’s backs. Heated seats front and rear were appreciated, and the ventilated front seats were nice since a week in Ohio can allow one to experience at least three seasons with little warning.
The glaring pimple on the face of the Envision’s interior is the vast swath of hard plastic atop the dashboard unconvincingly finished to look like some sort of wood. Seriously – the vinyl woodgrain applied to the 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible I saw at Cars and Coffee last weekend was more realistic. This is not good, and should be replaced by soft-touch plastics if not covered with leather.
Cargo space is about what one would expect from the class, though the cargo area feels a bit narrow with more intrusion by the wheel wells than I typically see from the competition. I’ll grant that I was taken aback by the chrome levers atop those wheel wells – they looked like (and probably are) repurposed interior door handles. They allow for a one-touch collapse of the second-row seatback from the rear, for when you’ve accidentally bought too much stuff. I’ve been there.
My biggest concern with the Envision is the lack of value. This loaded tester stickers for just under fifty thousand dollars, putting it against luxury models that have more room, better comfort, and better features for roughly the same price. Using the build-and-price tool at Buick.com to create a minimum-viable Envision (with the 2.0-liter turbo and all-wheel drive), I’m only able to step one trim level down to the Premium package, which loses navigation (meh, I’ve got Android Auto), cooled seats (this I’d miss), the heads-up display (I can manage). The only option I’ve added was extra-cost Satin Steel Metallic for $495, because the only no-cost paint is white. Delivered, that Envision stickers for $42,390 – which is much more palatable.
A more attractive offer sits at the bottom of the page – $4,750 in cash allowances appear for me in Ohio, your mileage may vary. I don’t talk much about incentives or local market deals when I review cars, since these numbers vary from day to day, dealer to dealer, and place to place. But Buick has long relied on incentives to draw buyers, and here the Envision brings the discussion into yet another realm I try to avoid: geopolitics. The B&B will heatedly discuss their concerns about labor regarding the Envision’s final assembly point, but for me, I’d be watching whether incentives dry up if trade disputes lead to further tariffs from China.
That doesn’t answer the question you’ve surely come here to read – would I buy the Buick Envision?
It’s a tough one. At $50k for the car I drove, no. There are too many compelling alternatives at that price. At $37k for a lesser trim with a bunch of cash on the hood? I’d certainly envision myself looking once again at this Buick.
[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]
Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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