“Now that America is going to be great again, power is the only thing that matters and the Envision revs.”
Priddis, AB: I happened to be at the Azuridge Hotel after our first look at Buick’s newest addition to their utility-vehicle stable, an exquisite and high-end boutique destination normally reserved for far more important people.
It was American election night and everybody’s smartphone was displaying their favourite news site, the conversation dominated by the goings-on south of the border.
I kept passing by the bigscreen TV over the coffee bar in the lobby, sharing the increasingly stunned disbelief of roughly half the world and wonder at what the future would hold. It made me wonder what was in store for Buick’s latest crossover ute, the 2017 Envision.
The Envision is the first vehicle from GM’s luxury arm to be built entirely in China (which is where the largest market for the brand is, by far), and we’ll see if that stirs up any controversy in the new, ultra-protectionist political climate that has been ushered into office.
That aside, though, the Envision provides another gap-filler in the midsize crossover/utility offerings from the company, fitting in, size-wise, between the cute as a button Encore and the full-size Enclave.
It is available with two engine choices – the base being a 2.5 litre four-cylinder mill, but the more exciting option is the turbo 2.0L – and promises to push Buick’s reputation as the ‘luxury’ brand ever forward.
Now that America is going to be great again, power is the only thing that matters and the Envision revs. Even if the company isn’t predicting the turbo to have the highest take-rate of the field of new Envisions, the performance of the two-litre is bound to attract a lot of fans with its potential 252 horses (and 260 lb.-ft. of torque).
The 2017 Envision shows off what Buick is touting as the best-rated in interior ever, in terms of noise insulation and vibration suppression inside the cabin, and the cabin itself is suitably bedecked in leather (or leather-ish) upholstery and trim.
Or at least it was in the model I drove earlier in the day – a Premium trim level, with the zesty 2.0L beneath the hood – in a rather truncated bit of seat-time, around the foothills of southern Alberta.
I won’t try to pigeonhole the new ute after a half day of driving out to Longview but the Envision definitely holds to the standards Buick is known for; and brings on the promised quietude and smoothness of the ride. Liquid sound deadeners are incorporated throughout the body of the vehicle, and improved glass all ‘round make conversation audible throughout the cabin, even at low volume.
The steering remains what buyers have demonstrated they expect from the brand – you could call it ‘vague’, if you were looking for a sporty-car feel and level of connectedness. But the wheel is responsive and light to the touch even if the level of feedback doesn’t engage a driver with a lot of emotion – it is effective and controlled.
Envision also offers a number of technology and safety googaws that we first saw in the latest Acadia (from parent GMC), one of my favorites of which is the vibrating warning in the seat.
The system works in conjunction with the Envision’s various safety inclusions (the rear cross-traffic detection feature, for example) and alerts you, the driver, to the presence of people or objects by vibrating your buttocks and thighs, in addition to the audible warning. It is a really alarming experience, the first time you feel it; but frankly it is also really helpful – and if it ever, even once, prevents you from backing over something meaty it will have proven its value. Plus, once you get used to the ‘buzzing’ feeling, it is kind of fun.
Also available in the 2017 Envision is the Rat-Box (which we also saw in Acadia earlier this year). That is not the proper name for it, of course, it is formally known as Teen Driver Mode; a piece of software that can monitor the behavior behind the wheel of a driver, and then generates a little report of average speed, stereo volume, etc that can be reviewed after the fact.
I made light of the Rat Box the first time I saw it demonstrated, but frankly I can see the value in it – it will show you how the kids (or any third-party driver) are treating the car.
Far from simply finking on a teen who drives like a fool when mom and dad aren’t watching, it could also help show the parents if Junior is actually operating the car respectfully; thus making a case to let them use the Envision more often.
The 2017 Envision will be offered in Preferred and Essence models with the 2.5 litre engine, and Premium I and Premium II equipped with the 2.0L turbo.
Prices start at $39.995 for the entry, and move up to $49,565.