Buick mid-size crossover SUV on the horizon – USA TODAY
Buick is plugging a hole in its China lineup with a mid-size crossover SUV that appears perfectly situated to fill a big gap in its U.S. product line, too.
The General Motors premium brand unveiled the Buick Envision at an auto show in Chengdu, China, this week, saying Envision is meant to join the small Encore and large Enclave to round out the Buick SUV portfolio.
It could fill the same role in the U.S. GM is mum on what its U.S. intentions are for the Envision.
“Although Buick hasn’t made any official announcements, we expect this vehicle will join the U.S. lineup in the fall of 2015,” says Ed Hellwig, executive editor at Edmunds.com car research and shopping site.
Though Buick’s big Entourage three-row its small Encore crossover SUVs sell very well, Buick’s had no mid-size, two-row, five-passenger model like Envision to compete with the Lexus RX, best-seller among upscale mid-size crossovers, or Acura RDX, Audi Q5 or BMW X3 — all two-row models about the same size as the Buick shown in China.
“It’s definitely a vehicle that Buick needs in the U.S. This new vehicle will fill that gap” between Encore and Entourage “and give Buick an entry in a rapidly growing segment,” he says.
China is Buick’s biggest market and GM does considerable Buick design and development there, including on models intended for both China and the U.S. so it’s not far-fetched to think the Envision was developed with both countries in mind.
GM could make it the second mid-size vehicle that the automaker has promised the United Auto Workers union it will manufacture at Spring Hill, Tenn., to keep the plant open. GM just announced that the next-generation Cadillac SRX SUV will be the first mid-size model there, but the automaker won’t identify what the second one will be.
Details of the China-market Envision that suggest it would fit well in the U.S.:
•The engine is like one in the U.S. Chevrolet Malibu: 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, rated the U.S. equivalent of 256 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, 260 pounds-feet of torque at 5,300 rpm. (Malibu ratings are 259 hp at 5,300, 295 lbs.-ft. at 3,000.) Transmission is a six-speed automatic and the all-wheel drive shifts power between front and rear wheels as needed. No front-drive model is listed for China, though those sell well in the U.S.
•List of the China model’s features could be coming from a U.S. sales brochure: Front and rear LED lamps, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, aluminum alloy luggage rack, grille shutters that close when not needed for engine cooling, to reduce wind resistance for better mileage.
•Interior accents are some of those favored in American models: Piano-black accents and French-style dual stitching on the upholstery.
•Suspension has driver-selectable modes – Normal, Tour, Sport and Off-Road – similar to the array of choices on some U.S. SUVs.
•Safety systems are those needed to match U.S. rivals and, not insignificant, include system necessary to be considered for the highest crash-safety rating by the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, collision mitigation braking, rear cross-traffic alert.
•Infotainment appears to be what GM offers n the U.S.: Smartphone connectivity, eight-inch high-definition touch-screen, voice control.
•Amenities are familiar to U.S. showroom visitors: Standard large panoramic sunroof; front power seats with heating, cooling and ventilation, heated steering wheel.
•Enviable fuel economy, listed as the U.S. equivalent of 32 mpg. But the fuel-economy test cycles here differ from those in other countries, so it’s unlikely a U.S. version would get the same rating.