Review: 2019 Buick Envision AWD Premium II

Buick has been dogged by controversy over its Envision since its American debut in 2016, which must be frustrating for the car maker since none of it has anything to do with the quality of the vehicle.

First came the announcement that GM would be producing the Envision in China, which sparked an angry cry from American unions. And today there are concerns about the trade/tariff situation between the US and China.

Through it all, Buick continues to make a solid little SUV that consumers, based on sales figures, seem to like.

The Basics

Nicely slotted between the smaller Encore and the heftier, three-row Enclave, the Envision satisfies the demands of people looking for a crossover SUV that can carry a fair amount of cargo without taking up two parking spaces.

There are five trim levels to choose from, with the base model 1SV delivering a 2.5-liter engine with a 6-speed transmission and front-wheel-drive. As you move up through the Preferred and Essence models you’re able to add all-wheel-drive, which becomes standard for the upper-tier Premium and Premium II versions. These latter trim levels also sport a new 9-speed automatic transmission.

For a week I drove the AWD Premium II.

Buick made a few changes for the ’19 Envision, including a few minor updates on the exterior. The winged grill’s design was adapted to mirror its Buick siblings, and materials inside were stepped up a bit.

The Interior

Those material changes have helped to provide a comfortable seating arrangement in both the front and back. There’s plenty of legroom even for your backseat passengers.

Three adults can fit comfortably back there. Pair that with nice leather on the seats and wrapping the wheel, heated and cooled front seats along with the slide/recline functions for passengers, and it all helps to bring the overall quality of the SUV up to near-luxury levels.

There’s plenty of helpful storage up front, including a nice center storage bin and one of those handy cubbies in the dash for the front passenger.

I appreciate the buttons for climate control, although the temperature adjustment did seem to take a few pushes before any changes popped up.

The rest of the dashboard is easy to understand. Visibility is very good out the front and sides, although rear vision is somewhat obstructed by the roof supports.

The Drive

I only got to drive the upper-trim model with its turbocharged 4 cylinder, but word on the street is that the base model is lacking in oomph.

That wasn’t the case with my Premium II. I found the acceleration to be good, and the 9-speed automatic was smooth.

Handling is about average for the segment. Crossover SUVs rarely hug turns like a Porsche, but the Envision was competent on twisty roads. Merging into highway traffic was a breeze, and the overall ride was quiet, even at highway speed.

For those who get irritated by the auto stop/start that many car makers employ these days, GM now has an on/off switch to disable that function.

The Tech

GM tinkered with a few things for 2019, such as adding adaptive cruise control. You also get an ionizing air cleaner to purify the cabin, which is a nice touch – and might help you get away with going through the fast food drive-thru without anyone at home knowing.

The 8-inch touch screen is intuitive and attractive, and the wireless smartphone charging system is always appreciated.

The Envision also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in place, upgrades that eventually will be standard in every car, I’m sure. Of course, there’s also Buick’s Infotainment system.

There’s also a 4G LTE Wifi hotspot, four USB ports, and a rearview camera – which is replaced by the superior surround vision system in upper tiers.

My test vehicle also sported a panoramic moonroof, which is a great add-on.

The Bottom Line

Of all the changes Buick unveiled with the ’19 version of the Envision, none has garnered as much attention as the actual bottom line.

Yes, for 2019 they’ve lowered the price, hoping to convince even more younger buyers that the Buick name is no longer reserved for grandpa. The upper trim levels have been cut by about $1,500 while the base model is closer to $2,000 less.

Although storage capacity in the way-back is about average (or even a bit less), overall I found the Envision to be a smooth, comfortable, and entirely-capable ride.

With this year’s slight improvements and attention to quality details, I can see this smaller SUV improving on its sales numbers.

The Details

2019 Buick Envision AWD Premium II
2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder
9-speed automatic transmission
252 horsepower
Fuel economy: 20/25/22 combined
MSRP: $43, 600
As tested: $49,925

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Car provided by manufacturer

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