SUVs

2019 Buick Envision: A little bit better, a little bit cheaper

A host of small quality-of-life upgrades push the small SUV more premium, while a lower starting price boosts the Buick's value.

Buick

It seems like the Buick Envision only just got here -- arriving in the US market in 2016 -- and already it's time for a refresh. But let's not forget that the compact SUV actually made its debut in China back in 2014, so it's a bit longer in the tooth than most realize.

And so, for the 2019 model year, the Buick Envision sees a mid-cycle refresh that brings with it a few subtle styling changes outside, a selection of quality of life upgrades on the inside and a nice price drop that makes it even better value than before.

A new look and a lower price

Up front, the grille has been redesigned to include a horizontal chrome bar, bringing the fascia in line with the rest of the automaker's lineup. Flanking the new grille are standard HID headlamps, while optional LED headlamp upgrades are available on turbo models.

The design of the rear end sees newly contoured sheet metal that's more muscular than the old design, though a bit too busy-looking, depending on the color chosen. Look closely and you'll notice that there are fewer badges this year. The SUV ditches the "Buick" lettering, making do with just the tri-shield badge and Envision nameplate -- a move that'll have even more onlookers asking, "That's a Buick!?" But maybe for the wrong reasons. ಠ_ಠ

2019 Buick Envision Premium II

My example rolled on 19-inch wheels that are a new option for higher trim levels.  

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Overall, the revisions are subtle enough to require a side-by-side comparison to really tell what's new. If you think the Envision is just an "OK-looking" vehicle, you probably won't be wowed by bigger wheels and new headlights. If you liked the old look, you'll like the nicer details of this one.

The 2019 Enclave is also a slightly better value. A price drop of about $2,000 across its five trim levels brings the new starting price down to $32,990 for the base model. Meanwhile, the Premium II trim level I tested tops the line at a $44,595 to start. Equipped with a panoramic moonroof and an active safety tech suite will push that bottom line up a bit, but pricing for individual packages hasn't yet been announced.

Torquier turbo

For lower to mid-tier trim levels, the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine carries over unchanged for the 2019 model year. It produces 197 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, with either front- or all-wheel drive configurations.

However, the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four found in the Premium and Premium II trim levels is mated to a new automatic transmission for 2019. Buick engineers say the new nine-speed gearbox allowed them to tweak the engine's output for more torque. The number now sits at 295 pound-feet of torque -- a 35 pound-foot gain. Peak horsepower, on the other hand, remains unchanged at 252 ponies.

All turbocharged Envisions feature the Active Twin Clutch all-wheel drive system and are about a half second quicker to 60 mph than last year. More importantly, the engine feels more robust and confident, both around town and when passing on the highway, thanks to the meatier torque curve.

The Envision doesn't have paddle shifters, and there's no sport setting in the transmission. That leaves the driver at the mercy of the nine-speed's programming and unable to, for example, preselect a lower gear for passing or hold a ratio during a twisty passage. Fortunately, Buick has mostly nailed to tuning here and, under most conditions, the SUV seemed to make smart gear choices. The sole exception was during uphill segments of mountain roads, where the transmission was a bit indecisive.

Regardless of engine, the Envision's stop-start system has been tweaked. In situations where the SUV is creeping forward at under about 8 mph, the engine will just stay on so you won't have to keep switching it on and off in stop-and-go traffic. Buick's engineers call this the "drive-thru" fix. The SUV also now features a deactivation switch on the dashboard for those who'd rather not deal with the system at all.

2019 Buick Envision Premium II

Steering and handling were easy and relaxed. The Envision isn't a sporty ride, but it is a pleasant one.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Elsewhere, the brakes have been retuned for more predictable behavior and an improved feel. I wouldn't advise that you seek the limits, but the compact SUV felt confident when unpredictable Atlanta traffic meant I had to slow down quickly near the end of my drive.

I didn't experience much stop and start on my blessedly low-traffic and mostly rural drive. Over 51 miles, I kept a smooth 53 mph average speed and average fuel economy of 25.9 mpg. EPA estimates for 2019 haven't been announced, but my numbers are in line with the 26 mpg estimate for last year's turbo model.

Lots of small tweaks

The rest of the 2019 changes are what Buick's engineers and product planners call "small tweaks" and quality-of-life updates.

The climate control system gains an ionizer into help neutralize smells and the seat heaters warm up quicker than before. The rear camera system looks clearer and the in-cabin microphone has been improved, which should come in handy when used with hands-free calling, voice commands or the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionalities.

The Driver Confidence suite of driver aid features gains an improved long-range radar sensor that, in turn, yields improvements to the adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems. Envision drivers can also toggle between adaptive and conventional cruise control, for those who'd rather do the braking themselves.

The rest of the Driver Confidence package persists unchanged with features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and GM's haptic vibrating Safety Alert Driver's Seat working as well as it did before. I didn't get to test the semi-autonomous parallel parking, but it's part of this package, as well.

2019 Buick Envision Premium II

The 2019 Envision is a better value, but not such a huge improvement over a 2018 model year bargain or a used 2017 model.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The revised Envision will compete for premium compact SUV market share against the aging Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC. The Lincoln is likely the closest competitor where value and feature set are concerned, but the Acura is due for a major tech overhaul next year. If you prefer much simpler technology, I'd also toss the Mazda CX-5 into the fray considering that automaker's new premium push. The CX-5 has much less extensive safety and cabin tech, but is also much less expensive making it a very tempting alternative for "budget premium" buyers.

With a small price drop and many improvements, the Buick Envision will be a better value than before when it hits the road in Spring 2018.


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