The Envision is not particularly new to the automotive world. It’s been on sale in China for some time, with Buick China selling nearly 150,000 units of it in 2015. Given that it was originally designed for the Chinese market; it is essentially a one-off vehicle that does not share its underpinnings with anything else according to the Envision’s engineers. It’s odd-ball platform puts it at just the right size for the Buick brand; it’s a foot and a half smaller than Enclave and a foot and a half larger than the Encore.
Given than the Envision is an oddity within the GM portfolio, it becomes less surprising that the company has opted to produce the North American version in China. From a logistics standpoint, the costs to tool a North American facility to build it probably would have exceeded the business case for it, but that does not necessarily mean that it will get a pass for being the first Chinese-built vehicle in the U.S.
Despite the Chinese production, the North American Envision does have some differences. Buick opted to go with the brand’s HiPer strut front suspension, while the Chinese version has a continuous damping system. According to engineers, GM has found that buyers in the U.S. typically do not utilize various drive “modes” while Chinese buyers fancy this option much more. Additionally, all final tuning of the Envision has been tweaked for the North American market.
Handling engineers for the Envision assert that this is one of the most fun to drive crossovers in the GM stable, which may not be an unrealistic claim. The Envision is powered by only one engine option, GM’s 2.0-turbo making a healthy 252 horsepower and 260 ft-lb of torque. Adding to the fun factor is a new dual-clutch all-wheel-drive system that is standard on the Envision – no, there is no front-drive version available. Power is funneled through a six-speed automatic.
In person, the Envision is an attractive Buick. The design is very cohesive and looks more premium than the recent press photos suggested with very detailed headlamps and an upright grille treatment.
Inside the Envision is also impressive, at least at first glance. The design is very attractive, while material quality feels superior to other recent Buick products. Everything is soft-touch and switchgear feels high-end, though the plastic wood-look trim looks horribly cheap in this application. Space utilization also appears to be a strong point with the Envision. As expected, the interior feels considerably larger than the Encore, with an abundance of rear leg room and more width in all five seating positions.
The new Envision will go on sale later this summer. No word yet on finalized pricing, but common sense suggests it will fall between the Encore’s $24,000 and Enclave’s $39,000 starting price tags.