Meet Buick’s newest baby.
After gaining brand appreciation for its stylish new product line with “That’s a Buick” commercials a few years ago, Buick has been on an uphill stride: building its product line with the modern family in mind.
With the launch of the Envision, its first mid-sized SUV, Buick is bridging a gap between the compact Encore and the full-sized luxury Enclave. The target market for Envision are DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), buyers with a young family like ours (parents and two kids under five), or buyers who have dogs. I was introduced to Buick’s new product line with a focus on 2017 Envision at an event in Kingston, New York against the backdrop of Catskill Mountains.
Built in China, but its DNA is American
Consumers who are concerned about American made products may be alarmed that Envision is made in China. But actually, Envision is a global product, a Buick engineer was quick to point out. Although the Envision is assembled in China, research and engineering, design are conducted in the United States and with most of its high end supplies are made here.
Assembly makes sense in China because Envision is also one of the fastest growing brands there. The size is perfect for a Chinese family that typically consists of a two grandparents, parents and one child. Having a product like Envision with strong sales in the growing Chinese market enables Buick to support manufacturing facilities for other product lines in the United States.
Though it is built in China, Envision boasts of American DNA in its lively drive experience. With comfort at the core of its design, the engine is quiet but not numb, and the suspension was smooth; I could drive through pot holes on small town roads and not feel any bumps. The 2.5L four cylinder engine was great for highway driving with sufficient accelerating power for merging into traffic.
Soft on the arms, soft on the knees, Envision is designed for well being
The sleek design of Envision is what caught my eye as I slipped into the driver’s seat. The trim, a glistening wood grain, blended well with the leather. The places where arms rest and knees touch were deliberately designed with softness. The stitching added a nice finishing touch to the seats and steering wheel. Ambient lighting is located in the doors and near storage areas below seats. You can see the effort in the details to add functionality along with craftsmanship.
Approachable luxury means more options for everyone
Envision’s competition in the luxury category comes from cars such as Acura RDX or Audi Q5. The 2016 Envision models were only offered in the Premium levels starting at $40,000. In 2017, Buick will introduce three more levels below Premium starting at $35 000. With this type of offering Envision is looking to broaden its market and compete with more budget friendly brands such as Honda CRV and Chevy Equinox.
With 25MPG (22 city/ 29 highway) it is comparable to its competition in the mid-sized category when it comes to fuel consumption.
Low Traction: A preemptive technology that keeps you from slipping and sliding away
Envision has an agile all wheel drive system. This means that the car can decide which wheel needs power when driving on a slippery surface. The engine will shift power among wheels to give a stable feel as you drive through a low traction surface such as ice, snow or a gravelly slope.
To show us how capable the all wheel drive system is, the Buick team demonstrated the Envision versus an Acura RDX going up a slippery incline. The driver had a difficult time maneuvering the Acura, while the Envision made it up with significant ease. Envision is designed with twin clutches to direct power efficiently. The difference: Envision’s preemptive low traction system gives the driver more control versus the traditional reactive AWD of the Acura RDX. With the winter season on its way, this is a feature that set the Envision apart for me in terms of its driving capability.
Envision has been named a Top Safety Pick Plus by IIHS (International Institute of Highway Safety) for its offering of safety and driver assist features.
Mid sized, but no compromise on storage space
The back seat can easily fit three people or two car seats comfortably. I found the moveable back seat has sufficient legroom and a firm head rest. And it wasn’t just me, another journalist testing out the Envision who is significantly taller than me– six feet– confirmed this observation as well.
The storage space in the back is ideal for a small family. We would be able to fit a stroller and two mid-to-large pieces of luggage, which is typical for our long road trips. Each of the back seats can also be moved forward or folded down to extend the storage space, and the 60/40 split of the rear seats allows extra storage and also a passenger or two.
Luxury amenities for the daily commute
Envision offers what is expected for a luxury SUV packaged with thoughtful design:
- Panoramic sun roof
- Power lift doors
- Heated steering wheel
- Dual climate control
- Temperature control seats
- Several USB ports
- 8″ touch screen
OnStar connectivity keeps you connected…simply
Having been introduced to OnStar just a few years ago, I was amazed to learn that it was celebrating its twentieth year. For families or professionals on the go, here is how On Star connectivity helps to simplify and enhance your digital experience:
- The OnStar app is a free phone download and can be linked to your car
- OnStar hosts the car’s wifi, and connecting to it is easy. Non tech savvy drivers won’t get stuck with some general instructions that lead to nowhere.
- The onboarding process to OnStar starts at the dealership while you’re waiting to pick up the car. This will include setting up your digital profile (ex: signing your car up for an online account).
- Basic OnStar service is offered for five years free of charge.
- Roadside assistance subscription is available for an additional fee
- New buyers get a three month or 3GB data trial for wifi (connecting to OnStar, however, does not require wifi). Afterwards, you can either sign up for a package or get an a la carte offering of 4G LTE data. Wifi is password protected.
- The app will help you with maintenance and fuel level, tracking your car in a parking lot, sending location info from the phone app to the car, or unlocking the car, even from thousands of miles away.
- And if you want to improve your driving skills, there’s feedback available to help you (when you brake/when you speed etc.) with data analysis at your disposal.
Filling a gap and attracting customers who want luxury
Envision not only fills a gap in Buick’s portfolio for the hottest crossover segment in the market, it also draws new customers towards the Buick brand. It is definitely a car for a young family looking for its first experience with a luxury car for everyday use. Having driven this vehicle through back country roads as well as the highway I can say that the Envision team did succeed with their goal of approachable luxury – I’m sold.
Disclosure: I was a guest at the Buick product launch event; opinions expressed here are all my own.