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Quick Take: 2017 Buick Envision FWD Essence

It’ll get you and your stuff where you need to go. Eventually.

Kirill Ougarovwriter, photographer The Manufacturerphotographer

The first line on the Monroney window sticker for the 2017 Buick Envision FWD Essence is "design and engineering led by Buick in the United States of America," a clear indicator that Buick's marketing folks understand that the crossover's "Made in China" status is liable to raise objections with some potential customers before they so much as take it for a test drive. Ironically, the clearly telegraphed anxiety is unlikely to help matters.

And this was before the 45th President of the United States and his Twitter account came into the picture.

Against this backdrop comes the question, "what is the Envision and what does it do?"

Well, although the Envision is clearly a crossover, the behind-the-wheel experience feels vaguely like that of a minivan thanks to the seating position and steering wheel angle (overseas, it could easily be marketed as an 'MPV' like the Mazda5). Material and build quality inside and out felt on par with the rest of the Buick lineup, much of which isn't American-made either.

Motivation in the Essence is courtesy of a buzzy, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I-4 that makes a mere 197 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends that to the front wheels, moving the 3,755-lb Envision forward without undue fuss — or alacrity. An argument could be made that six gears is no longer enough, but more engine is really what's called for here, such as the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 in the Envision Premium, which provides 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

There is plenty of space in the leather-upholstered interior for all 5 passengers. Front occupants enjoy heated 8-way adjustable seats, and the outside rear seats are heated as well. Cargo volume sits at 26.9 cubic feet with the second row up and a cavernous 57.3 cubic feet when there's no need to accommodate additional passengers.

Though the engine buzzes like you'd expect a hard-working four-banger to, Buick's quest to exorcise the other sources of NVH with its "Quiet Tuning" is largely successful. Tire and wind noise is limited and the on-road experience is comfortably smooth. While the driver may complain about the absence of adaptive cruise control when he's stuck in traffic, no occupant is going raise any about the ride quality. Can't say the same about the engine's buzzing, however.

Speaking of the absent adaptive cruise control, the Envision Essence's feature list which isn't as long as its $39,040 price tag would indicate. Conspicuously absent are active safety systems; lane change alert, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert is all that's there. And there are only six speakers for the audio system. Not exactly "premium."

On the plus side, the included Buick IntelliLink system and its eight-inch screen includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto, negating the need to add $2,000 or so to the price tag to include a navigation system. A handy 4G LTE wireless hotspot is included as well.

As it turns out, the answer to the earlier question Of "what is the Envision and what does it do?" happens to be "a comfortable crossover with a slightly odd seating position in need of more power and a few more features."

2017 Buick Envision FWD Essence Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $39,040
Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-valve I-4/197 hp @ 6300 rpm, 192 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD SUV
EPA Mileage: 22/29 mpg city/highway
L x W x H: 183.7 x 72.4 x 66.8 in
Wheelbase: 108.2 in
Weight: 3755 lb
0-60 MPH: 8.6 sec (est)
Top Speed: N/A