The Buick Envision made history when it debuted as a 2017 model: It became the first domestic brand to be assembled in China and sold in the United States.
The new vehicle also filled a big Buick need, giving the automaker something to peddle in the burgeoning compact crossover segment. Until then, the only crossovers Buick had were its large, three-row Enclave and the subcompact Encore.
For 2019, the well-received Envision gets a substantial mid-cycle refresh that includes the obligatory cosmetic surgery fore and aft, as well as a series of thoughtful engineering tweaks intended to improve the car’s operation and comfort.
And all this with a price cut that is intended, in part, to attract the Encore clientele who have acquired a growing family. Indeed, the base price drops $2,000 — from $33,995 to $31,995.
The Envision is the more affluent corporate cousin of the Chevrolet Equinox, with which it shares its structure and some mechanicals. In base form, it is a front-driver powered by the engine that stars in so many bottom-of-the-line GM vehicles, a normally aspirated 2.5-liter four that develops a respectable 197 horsepower and is buttoned to a six-speed automatic transmission.
But when you get higher on the food chain — say, the top-shelf, $43,600, all-wheel-drive Premium ll model I tested — things get livelier as well as more luxurious. This model trades in the 2.5-liter engine found in the bottom feeders for a 252-horse version of GM’s 2-liter turbo, a four-banger I like a lot.
The turbo models like this also eschew the old six-speed gearbox in favor of a nifty new nine-speed. (This is a gearbox that has you humming “Everything’s Up-to-Date in Kansas City.” And because this new transmission is stronger than the six-speed, it allows the turbo to engender an additional 35 pounds/feet of torque. This raises the ante to a considerable 295 pounds/feet, thus making for even more spirited freeway mergers.)
The Envision enjoys a graceful body design that certainly hasn’t been diminished by the considerable surgery. The grille and fog lamps are new, as are the 19-inch alloy wheels I found on the tester. Out back, we find a new liftgate, bumper, taillights, and side-marker lamps.
The electronic and mechanical upgrades are plentiful. In addition to the revised engine and new gearbox, the 2019 has a stop/start deactivation switch; a new brake booster providing more performance and less effort; the ability to switch from adaptive to conventional cruise control; an improved rear camera; better hands-free microphone enhancing call quality and voice recognition; next-generation wireless charging; and an air ionizer that reduces odors and bacteria.
Life is good inside the Envision. The car is roomy, comfortable, and quiet. The upmarket tester boasted a lovely interior loaded to the gunwales with standard gear. The seats were leather-appointed, heated, and, in the case of the front ones, powered and cooled as well. There was a full complement of electronic-safety alerts, a hands-free power lift gate, a Bose sound system and, well, you get the idea.
The only surprise in this hedonistic tale was the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. At this price point, I expected it to be powered.
Driving the Envision reveals no kinetic shortcomings. Power is ample, the car is composed in the corners, and it brakes and steers with aplomb.
Fuel economy is reasonable enough for a compact crossover. The base, front-drive car has EPA mileage ratings of 22 city and 29 highway. The all-wheel-drive, turbo-powered test car gets 20 and 25.
The Envision earns the top five-star government safety rating.
2019 Buick Envision Premium ll (AWD)
Base price: $43,600
As tested: $48,425
Standard equipment: 2-liter turbo engine, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and a litany of safety gear and luxury features the length of LeBron James’ inseam.
Options: Include adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, surround vision and a panoramic sunroof.
Fuel economy: 20 city and 25 highway
Engine performance: Lively
Ride quality: Fine
Styling: Graceful and civil
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper
Three Bens: Good