The Buick name is synonymous with big squishy sedans that were gobbled up by elderly folks who wanted comfort above all.
How times have changed.
Buick no longer sells sedans, squishy or otherwise. The cancellation of the Regal hatchback sedan in 2020 means there are currently four crossover-style utility vehicles of varying sizes in the Buick lineup.
The first-generation five-passenger Envision, which arrived for the 2016 model year, slotted between the larger (seven-passenger) Enclave and the compact Encore. The slightly bigger Encore GX was added for the 2020 model year.
From any angle, the second-generation 2021 Envision is more attractive. It has a larger grille and air intakes, and thinner headlights. The fenders, doors and tailgate have also been restyled, resulting in a lower and wider silhouette. The net effect is a more premium-look utility vehicle that’s in keeping with Buick’s upscale image.
The same goes for the interior that conveys elegance and sophistication, with stitched-leather trim surrounding an eight- or optional 10-inch touch-screen that’s slightly angled toward the driver. The standard active noise-cancelling system, which works through the audio system, filters out low-frequency engine sounds, much in the same way noise-canceling headphones operate. The system works well, even with the extra noise generated during aggressive acceleration.
The 2021 Envision is built on a new platform that increases the distance between the front and rear wheels by about 2.5 centimetres, and adds nearly five centimetres of length and width.
Cargo volume behind the second row — or with it folded flat — has been reduced slightly and offers less space than many competitors.
Whether it’s the platform or improved tuning (or a combination of both), the redesigned Envision does a good job of soaking up bumps and road ripples.
For 2021, the base 197-horsepower four-cylinder has been retired, meaning all trim levels now get a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s down from the 2020 rating of 252/295. The engine does, however, use regular-grade gasoline, unlike the previous 2.0-litre turbo or similar turbocharged four-cylinder variants from Europe-based competitors.
Fuel consumption rings in at 8.9 l/100 km in combined city/highway driving, which is better than the 2020 Envision’s 10.0 l/100 km with the base non-turbo four-cylinder.
A nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the six-speed for 2021.
The active Twin-Clutch all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on all but the base trim level, uses a rear differential that increases torque to the outside wheel when turning (called torque vectoring). The idea is more precise cornering with less understeer, which is the tendency for a vehicle to continue in a straight line even when the front wheels are turning.
With a $38,000 base price, including destination fees, the base Envision Preferred is somewhat light on content, but it does come with eight-way power adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels. Active-safety technology includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and pedestrian detection.
The midrange Essence gets heated front seats (covered in perforated leather) and steering wheel, a premium audio system and a hands-free power liftgate.
The top-range Avenir trim, which is new for 2021, rings in at $8,700 above the base price. It comes loaded up with tri-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, nine-speaker Bose-brand audio system with navigation, front and rear park assist and 20-inch wheels. Visually, a unique grille separates the Avenir from the other trims.
All things considered, the Envision does a credible job as a premium vehicle that arrives without the higher price charged by some competitors. It seems doubtful that buyers loyal to European nameplates would switch to Buick, but carefully weighing value, the Envision deserves consideration.
What you should know: 2021 Buick Envision
Type: Front- /all-wheel-drive midsize utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre I-4, turbocharged (228)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Market position: The imported-from-China Envision is a right-sized utility vehicle for buyers wanting more than just a modicum of luxury in a reasonably sized and priced set of wheels.
Points: Revised styling results in a sleek and attractive package. • Interior has user-friendly controls and comfortable seats. • Standard array of safety tech covers nearly all contingencies. • Turbo four-cylinder engine loses some power for 2021, but at least it’s more fuel-efficient than the previous version. • Well-priced in a competitive field.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (std.); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 7.6/8.9 (FWD)
Base price (incl. destination): $33,000
Acura RDX AWD
- Base price: $46,500
- Spacious cabin has plenty of room for five. Standard 272-hp four-cylinder.
- Base price: $48,850
- Turbo four-cylinder makes 261 horsepower. V-6 is optional; AWD is standard.
Lincoln Corsair AWD
- Base price: $46,950
- The smallest of the brand’s all-utility lineup offers both gasoline and hybrid options.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media