If you still think of Buick as the frumpy sedan-wielding brand your grandmother adored, you’ve had your head in the drink for too long and need to cast those thoughts aside. Gone are the sedans and wagons of your parents’ youth, replaced by a range of sporty crossovers that rise from the urban-friendly Encore and Encore GX to the quite roomy three-row Enclave. Right in the middle is the model we tramped this week, the 2021 Buick Envision.
If you didn’t notice the red, white, and blue Buick badges, you might mistake the Envision for an Acura or Lexus. You’d never guess the China-built crossover shares its basic underpinnings with the Cadillac XT4. It’s fetching with its hungry grille, aggressive lower facia, expansive hood, and crisp arching bodylines. Squinty LED headlamps and 20” black alloy wheels slap on a little attitude. The Sport Touring package adds body color trim. It’s all quite sporty, but also classically elegant in its proportions.
Slide inside to find a driver-centric design with intuitive touchscreen and button-activated gear selector. As in other GM crossovers from the entry Chevy Trax to the top Escalade, seats are a bit firm, but they are heated. A heated steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control bring their comforts too. Soothing away hard cushions is a smooth 9-speaker Bose audio system that’s made more enjoyable by the Envision’s active noise cancellation system. Connect devices via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and 4G Wi-Fi. Navigation gets you there. Wireless phone charging and a sunroof would have made the ride even better.
Being a premium ride, most of the latest safety tech was installed. From the head-up display to lane keep assist, forward collision alert with auto brake, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection, your family should be safe. Adaptive cruise keeps a safe distance from other vehicles on the highway while drivers are further warned by the safety alert seat that buzzes in the direction of trouble. Stepping up to lane centering steering would be a topper for this fancy cake.
Beneath the Envision’s shapely hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that conjures 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque – sent to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is available, but our front-drive model achieved an acceptable 24/31-MPG city/highway with auto stop/start engaged. The engine sounds a little agrarian on start-up, but settles down quickly and dishes out all the power a compact crossover needs to zip up to speed or click through morning traffic.
The Envision drives much like other smaller General Motors crossovers, which means it’s a bit clunky, but tight in the corners, solid on the highway, and quick to turn. Unlike some Cadillacs, the Envision goes without any electronic turning for the chassis, but a Sport mode does sharpen throttle response. It’s easy to park and goes smartly down the road.
Especially with the Sport Touring package, the Envision is far removed from the fluffy sedans of the past, casting its gaze into a future dominated by near-luxury crossovers like the Acura RDX, Lexus NX, Subaru Outback Touring, and Mazda CX-5. Given that, a base price of $31,800, or $41,315 as tested, seems appropriate.
Send comments to Casey at [email protected]; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.