Buick might need to work on its euphemism-speak. In his pitch for the newly freshened Buick Envision, marketing boss Sam Russell referred to Encore lessees and buyers trading in their subcompact utes as “disposers.” Yikes—surely those vehicles are still useful, if the J.D. Power Dependability rankings are to be believed. The subject came up by way of explanation of Buick’s motivation to spiff up its midsize luxury crossover, the 2019 Envision. Apparently 60 percent of Encore buyers have been new to GM. Most were also young enough that it’s reasonable to expect that after two to five years in an Encore, their family situation and vehicular needs have changed, and Buick needs to keep these “disposers” in the fold.
Toward that end, the 2019 Envision’s styling gets a reboot with the new winged-tri-shield grille and a new fascia featuring chrome-ringed foglights in place of the former chrome foglight brackets and cross-car stripe. HID headlights are now standard, and bi-functional LEDs become the upgrade. From the side, the optional 19-inch wheels are new. Around back the liftgate, fascia, taillights, reflectors, and side marker lamps are all new. Oh, and Satin Steel replaces Plum Berry in the color chart.
Inside, the changes are more detail oriented. The 2019 Envision’s cruise control defaults to adaptive mode, but pressing and holding the main power switch can change it to standard cruise. (The only other Buicks with this option are Avenir models.) There’s now an off switch for the auto start/stop feature. This is a first for Buick in North America, but it was already engineered for China, and some Americans demanded it. It should be noted that improvements in the shutdown and restart strategies could mean that fewer folks feel the need to press that button. A new interior air ionizer helps eliminate odors and reduce bacteria, and the wireless smartphone charger is upgraded to suit the power needs and configuration of the latest iPhones. The rearview camera resolution is improved, and its iris function reacts more quickly when pulling out of a dark garage into broad daylight. Finally, a new seat-heater system promises to warm backs and tushes more quickly, and those seats can now be swathed in Dark Galvanized (gray) leather.
We enthusiasts and the 30 percent minority of Envision buyers opting for the top-dog turbo-four engine will cheer the replacement of the old six-speed automatic with a thoroughly modern nine-speed. That tranny can tolerate more torque, so the engine gets uncorked for 35 lb-ft of additional peak twist, bringing output to 252 hp and 295 lb-ft (trumping platform cousins Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain 2.0T models by that same 35 lb-ft). Perhaps more important to 2019 Envision owners is the newly broadened torque curve, which pays off in better around-town punch. For stoplight grand-prixers, 0–60-mph acceleration is said to improve by about a half second. Don’t hold your breath for a GS variant, as China isn’t into that hot rod CUV thing. Interestingly, EPA ratings are not expected to budge. There are no changes to the base 2.5-liter six-speed automatic powertrain.
Other mechanical improvements include a single-rate brake booster that delivers a bit more stopping power with less pedal travel than before and a Tire Fill Alert feature that honks the horn as soon as the target tire pressure is reached when refilling a low tire.
To give us a taste of the new 2019 Envision, we were invited to the rural byways of Georgia around Blood Mountain to sample Envision T AWD models. These roads begged for aggressive driving, and the Envision mostly indulged us competently but without evidencing any joy in the process. Whip this 2.0-liter, and your ears mostly record angry-Hoover vacuum sounds from the exhaust. Go for engine braking on the way down the hill, and you get a whiny noise from the engine compartment. There are no shift paddles on the steering wheel and no manual gate on the shifter, just a sad +/- button on the side of the shift lever. And spirited driving requires that one use that miserable switch because there’s no sport shift algorithm programming. (C’mon folks, just steal that code from the Regal GS team!) The brake pedal felt great and inspired confidence on the big downhill runs, and the suspension maintained an admirably even keel throughout our flogging. But Buick counts the Lincoln MKC as a key competitor, and the most enthusiast-oriented “disposers” looking for an upscale compact CUV might find that one more entertaining to drive.
Although an Avenir model could soon join the lineup, this year Buick is concentrating on sweetening the deal by lowering pricing on all 2019 Envisions. The base drops by $2,000, and the Envision T AWD turbo plunges about $1,600, with all other trim packages inching down, as well. The hope is that if Buick demands less of their disposable income, Encore disposers will become Envision deal-closers.
|2019 Buick Envision|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||2.5L/197-hp/192-lb-ft* DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/252-hp/295-lb-ft* turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed automatic, 9-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,750-4,100 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||183.7 x 72.4 x 66.8 in|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20-22/26-29/22-25 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||153-169/116-130 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.79-0.87 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Spring 2018|