ATLANTA, Georgia — Want to print money? Build a compact crossover. Sounds like a good plan, but what happens when the buyers of those small utes are looking for something with a little more space for the next step in life? That’s the question Buick is trying to answer with the refreshed 2019 Envision.
You may protest that the Envision has only been on sale for 25 months after launching in December of 2016. Chief engineer Rick Spina rationalized the choice for an early refresh during his discussion of what’s new and different for the 2019 model.
“They are important tweaks from a customer perspective,” he said. “We want to make sure performance and technology are keeping pace.”
Buick tweaked the front and rear fascia for the 2019 model year, with the most notable tell being the wings protruding from the badge on the grille. HID headlights are standard across the range and LED headlights accompany turbocharged powertrains. The Envision also now rides on 19-inch wheels. Technological upgrades include a revised microphone, an air ionizer, and faster heating.
To see if Spina’s goals were accomplished, we evaluated the 2019 Envision on a technical single-lane road on our way back to the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta from the Appalachian Mountains. We sampled the top-level Premium II trim, which uses the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder making 252 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the latter is up 35 lb-ft over the outgoing version.
The engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission new to the 2019 Envision that sends power to all four wheels via a variant of the twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system found in the Buick Regal GS and TourX.
A 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder making 197 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque is the standard engine on lower-tier Envision permutations. The carryover from the 2018 model comes paired to a 6-speed automatic.
Winding the ute through the well-paved Georgia roads, I was surprised by the Envision’s great steering feel and near-flat handling. Powering up hills was a breeze and braking on the way back down slowed the vehicle in a predictable and confidence inspiring manner.
Driving the SUV entailed little drama and gave me time to appreciate some of the features Buick included in the update. We don’t have any acceleration figures yet, but Buick claims a near half-second improvement over the previous iteration of the Envision.
Given that this is the highest-spec package, interior amenities are focused on comfort. There’s a heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control with an air ionizer, and leather seats with both heating and ventilation. Materials are solid and the faux-wood trim makes a strong statement without cheapening the design. My only gripe with the layout is use of soft-touch HVAC controls, which don’t give any feedback via feel or sound. It also has an odd gauge-like clock that feels out of place in the top right of the center stack.
Our testers were maxed out with available safety technology, including the most up to date version of Buick’s Driver Confidence Package. It also has adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The engine start/stop can now be toggled on and off in the 2019 Envision, a first for Buick since start/stop’s introduction.
Given that this will likely be a suburban runabout for many drivers, it only made sense for Buick to update the Envision’s parking lot game. Parking aids include rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert, and rear park assist with GM’s vibrating seat alert for when an obstacle gets near. A hands-free liftgate is thrown into the mix for those carrying a full load of groceries.
Mobile devices will also find the cabin to be a friendlier place. The infotainment system uses an 8.0-inch screen and features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There are two USB ports up front in addition to a wireless charging slot built into the center console.
The 2019 Buick Envision Premium II we tested is priced at a healthy $48,040 but buyers can hop into a base model for $32,990, which undercuts competitors from Acura, Lincoln, and Lexus. Every trim level on the refreshed model undercuts pricing from the previous year by about $1,000, so Buick is banking on buyers recognizing the brand’s value play.
Buyers looking for peak mid-tier luxury should give the 2019 Envision a look. It’s positioned at the value-end of the market and has the build-quality and driving chops that belie the lower-end price. The higher trim levels are packed with safety and convenience technology to keep drivers on the road and connected to their devices.
Buick says this is the third-highest selling model in its portfolio and the most recent battery of changes should boost its relevancy in an ever more competitive segment. The brand is also looking to further-capitalize on current owners, so those who currently own an Encore and aim to shuffle up through the Buick ranks will find another dependable CUV in the Envision.
|2019 Buick Envision Specifications|
|PRICE||$32,990/$48,030 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-four/252 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|L x W x H||183.7 x 72.4 x 66.8 in|