My first adulthood memory of Buick, involves my grandmother, at the time just shy of 80, remarking that she needed a new car to replace her Oldsmobile 88, “a white Buick” being the only purchase consideration. The sturdy sedans that floated down the road like land yachts may be an important part of Buick’s heritage, but the present and future are all about SUVs, including the newly redesigned Envision, which falls in the middle of Buick’s line up, between the Encore and Enclave.
Comfort is still a vital component for Buick, but contemporary styling and amenities are equally important factors in appealing to the active family, rather than the octogenarian, set. In recent years, Buick has taken a cheekily self-aware approach to updating its image. You may recall the recent “That’s a Buick?” ad campaign, or Reece Witherspoon’s character, Madeline Mackenzie, driving the Enclave Avenir in the series “Big Little Lies.”
Having driven the new Envision for a week, I can attest that it would pass muster with Madeline and her crowd out in Monterey, or any other land of luxury nameplates. Avenir is the luxury trim level for the Envision — above the Preferred and Essence — which falls into the category of “premium” SUVs, competing against the likes of the Acura RDX and Lincoln Corsair. All trim levels of the Envision have the same engine, which is more powerful than the previous base engine, but less so than the outgoing Premium model.
Even with less power, performance is adequate for the character of the Envision. Which is to say it delivers a comfortable drive experience that, if a little slow to respond to initial hard acceleration, shifts smoothly and quickly at highway speeds. Envision retains the best of Buick’s longstanding appeal: a supremely quiet cabin and a comfortable ride that easily absorbs road imperfections without jostling the vehicle’s occupants.
Envision also features a full complement of standard advanced safety features, including a lane-keeping assist that isn’t overly aggressive, but will guide the vehicle if it is drifting out of a clearly marked lane. As the parent of two teen drivers, I appreciated the suite of Teen Driver features that can limit the vehicle’s maximum speed, set a maximum audio volume, and automatically activate all of the active driver safety systems. The Buckle to Drive feature prevents you from shifting out of park for 20 seconds, unless the driver buckles the seat belt.
From the outside, it is a looker: well-proportioned with a lower stance and longer wheelbase than the plump, rather nondescript outgoing model. Opening the door to the upscale Avenir trim, heated, ventilated leather seats welcome you for the drive, and offer a light massage, if you desire. The graphics on the instrument panel are vivid, and the first-for-Buick 10.2-inch high definition touchscreen display is angled toward the driver for easy access, and also houses screen for the crystal-clear 360-degree view camera. I loved the luxury cockpit feel of this configuration, and the soft-touch surfaces, pleasing contours, and a complementary patterns throughout the interior.
Having the Envision Avenir for a weeklong vacation with the family, I can confidently say that it checked the boxes in road-trip functionality and comfort. Everyone appreciated the availability of USB charging ports (4 total, both C and A varieties) and wireless charging, as well as the heated rear seats and adequate cargo room. My nearly 6-foot-tall son was comfortable in the rear seat, although a third passenger in the second row would make it a little cramped on longer jaunts.
With the Envision, you’re getting a premium experience at a relatively mainstream price. It’s not revolutionary or trendy, but elevates the traditional Buick attributes with modern flair that will fit in at any school pick up line, and hopefully drive the under-60 set to the brand.
Price: $40,200 (base); $45,305 (as tested)