2017 Buick Envision: A Domestic Crossover Manufactured In China – Forbes

Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2017
2017 Buick Envision - Photo courtesy of Buick

2017 Buick Envision – Photo courtesy of Buick

An iPad is made in China. Prada handbags are made in China. The Buick Envision is made in China.

I’m betting that few car shoppers know, or even care, that Buick is the first domestic automaker to import a vehicle from China. Truth is, it’s virtually impossible to tell a difference in build quality or fit and finish between Buick’s Chinese-made Envision, its Korean-made Encore, and its U.S.-made Enclave — all are assembled in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that equal or better anything the competition is using.

The Envision is an all-new mid-size crossover that fits in dimension between the Lincoln MKC and the Audi Q5. It joins a popular segment that is chock-full of competent five-passenger vehicles that also include the Volvo XC60 and the Acura RDX. While my six-foot two-inch frame fits well in the driver’s seat, with plenty of head and shoulder room, my knees press firmly against hard plastic seatbacks when I climb into the second row. Headroom is also tight in the back seat, but some of that may be blamed on the massive panoramic glass roof that requires a lower headliner. Overall, I consider the Envision’s stature on the small size in relation to its rivals, meaning it is best for those without kids or very young families — keep in mind that infant or child seats eat up a lot of second row real estate.

Peering around the cabin, it is obvious the Buick was seeking to design a premium environment for the occupants. Most of the materials and upholstery feel great to the touch, but it’s a busy dashboard in terms of ergonomics and some of the controls are simply frustrating to use — the cabin temperature adjustment panel, shared with the heated and cooled seats controls, is a maddening interface as there is no haptic feedback or acknowledgment of the input. Storage on the doors is minimal (the door panels are thin to maximize cabin space) and the cup holders in the console are only average size. However, the storage below the center armrest is generous.

2017 Buick Envision - Photo courtesy of Buick

2017 Buick Envision – Photo courtesy of Buick

Buick says the Envision offers more cargo space than an Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC, which isn’t saying much as both aren’t particularly cavernous (the Audi Q5, which is all-new for 2018, offers much more storage capacity for those who intend to haul around strollers, suitcases, or an occasional bicycle). That said, the trunk is easy to access and convenient handles make it effortless to drop the split-fold second row seats. The power-operated tailgate offers several different opening heights, making operation simple for those who are vertically challenged.

The Envision has a large greenhouse, but thick A- and D-pillars. While those buttresses are likely hefty for occupant safety (the IIHS gives the Envision its best “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating), they block outward vision while changing lanes, peering for traffic in a four-way stop, and backing up. Thankfully, large exterior mirrors and a competent rear-view camera do wonders to keep the driver informed of the outside surroundings.

Buick offers the crossover with two engines. The base is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 197 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque — try to avoid that engine as it’s overburdened by the Envision’s nearly 4,000-pound curb weight. A better choice is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is standard on the premium trims. It is rated at 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and it comes bundled with a very capable “active Twin Clutch” all-wheel drive system (standard models are front-wheel drive). Regardless of the engine, all Envision models feature a 6-speed automatic transmission that is very competent and smooth in operation.


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