2017 Buick Envision: Midsize crossover plugs gap in Buick line – STLtoday.com

Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2017

Until last year, Buick had a gap in its crossover utility lineup big enough to drive an SUV through. So Buick drove an SUV through it — the five-passenger Envision, a midsize SUV that fills the space between the subcompact Encore and full-size, seven-passenger Enclave.

For 2017, Envision, which debuted in late 2016 exclusively in tony trim, unveils its entire menu of togs: base, Preferred, Essence, Premium and Premium II. Both Premiums, which boast a 252-hp turbo four, come standard with all-wheel drive; everything else, powered by a 197-hp naturally aspirated four, can be had with all- or front-wheel drive. Regardless, the transmission is a six-speed automatic.

We drove a Premium and found it to be a Buick, with emphasis on quiet and comfort rather than athleticism.

On the highway, the cabin is serene while, in Premium trim, the decor surrounds passengers with spacious accommodations front and rear, heated seats at all outboard locales, classy wood and chrome accents, leather seat covers and, at night, a warm line of thin illumination along the top of the instrument panel, a nice touch.

Speaking of illumination, our only driving complaint was the brightness of the outside mirror housings’ turn signal indicators. These amber flashers, almost to the point of distraction, blink so brightly they could find work over a tanning bed. Otherwise, the driving experience is a happy one.

In 160 miles mixed city/hwy, our all-wheel drive Envision, behind its turbo four, returned to us 21 mpg.

Regarding infotainment, hard buttons get you where you want to go on the touch screen menu and the screen itself is laid out logically. And thank you, Envision, for the radio’s volume and tuning knobs.

Add redundant hard buttons for climate controls and steering-wheel-mounted toggle switches for audio volume and cruise-control speed — easy to find without taking your eyes from the road — and this Buick makes high-tech toys easy to use.

Styling-wise, we think Envision wears Buick’s elegant corporate look better than its squatty little brother, the Encore.

Finally, American-nameplate vehicles built overseas and, then, imported back home for sale have been in the news a lot lately. Among them is Envision, which GM manufactures in Yantai, China, making it the first-ever vehicle imported from China by a Detroit 3 manufacturer. Buick argues — and this probably won’t mollify critics — Envision, though made in China, was “designed, engineered and tested in Michigan.”

Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor to the Post-Dispatch and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine’s online Web Bonus. You can email him at drivingwithdan@gmail.com


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