The 2021 Buick Envision crossover sport utility vehicle could substitute as an antidote to former President Donald Trump’s ill-fated attempt to blame his coronavirus woes on China.
Trump seldom failed to speak of our more than one-year-old plague — OK, the pandemic — as the “Chinese virus,” as if that nation was solely responsible for the worldwide affliction, absolving him of any responsibility for combating it.
On the bright side, we have the redesigned 2021 Envision Essence, tested here, a decent near-luxury contender in the compact crossover class. It is, in fact, a fundamentally Chinese vehicle, though you’d be hard-pressed to recognize it.
A whopping 94% of its parts come from China. A joint Chinese-U.S. General Motors plant in Yantai, China, builds the Envision. Only 1% of its components come from the United States and Canada.
Yet the Envision crossovers sold here in the U.S. look, feel, and drive as if they were Thoroughly Modern American Buicks. It was designed that way from the get-go, introduced at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It joined two other similar offerings from General Motors—the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain.
Of course, as a Buick, it took a more luxurious tack than its garage mates. At the same time, it became the first Chinese-built GM vehicle sold in the United States.
Redesigned for 2021, the Envision is slightly smaller and less potent than its predecessor but also delivers better fuel economy and a lower price. Though touted as a luxury crossover competing with the likes of the BMW X3, Lincoln Corsair, and Audi Q5, its relatively bargain price in that company is the tipoff.
The mid-pack Envision Essence trim level tested here came with a base price of $36,995, including the destination charge. With options, the bottom-line sticker came to $41,315. That’s more upper-middle-class and near-luxury than most of the machines it seeks to conquer. The BMW X3 starts at $43,995, and the Lincoln Corsair sets up at $44,825, and either can creep up to tens of thousands of dollars more.
Most of the Envision Essence’s $4,320 worth of extras came from two options packages: Technology at $2,500 and Sport Touring at $1,325. Basic equipment included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, following distance indicator, blind-spot warning, Wi-Fi hot spot, active noise cancellation, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist.
The options packages added, among others: head-up display, surround vision rear camera, premium Bose audio, Bluetooth streaming, wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play, navigation with 10-inch touch screen, HD radio and SXM satellite radio, 20-inch aluminum wheels, roof rails and “Cinnabar Metallic” exterior paint.
The Envision has about the same passenger space as a midsize car—100 cubic feet — but with 25 cubic feet for cargo, almost twice that of a midsize car’s trunk. Fold the rear seatbacks and enjoy a two-passenger vehicle with 53 cubic feet for cargo. If you absolutely must tow something, make sure it’s not more than 1,500 pounds.
Like many modern cars and crossovers, the Envision uses a four-cylinder engine. Modern four-bangers, especially with turbochargers, have replaced their forerunner V8s and even, in some cases, in-line six-cylinder and V6 engines. Thank computer technology for the enhanced power and fuel economy.
The Envision Essence offers only one power plant: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s slightly less than its predecessor’s 252 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission transfers the power to either the front wheels or all four wheels. The tested Essence came with front-wheel drive.
But unless you live in an area prone to snowstorms and other nasty weather, you’d likely be entirely happy with the front-driver, which can account for itself reasonably well in all but the most challenging weather.
On the road, the Envision Essence was a capable though not inspiring performer. It cruises mostly quietly with enough power for passing situations on two-lane roads and the cut and thrust of heavy freeway traffic. Acceleration to 60 miles an hour is in the acceptable seven-second range. However, avoid impromptu stoplight drag races.
Handling is competent though not sporting. The suspension system can deliver a smooth ride in most circumstances, which detracts some from any sharp handling pretensions. But likely, most drivers will not opt to explore cornering limits.
- Model: 2021 Buick Envision Essence FWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/25 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,732 pounds.
- Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/31/26 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $36,995.
- Price as tested: $41,315.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Buick