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2019 Buick Envision: First Drive Review

Recently, Buick invited a group of automotive and lifestyle reporters to Atlanta to sample the new 2019 Buick Envision. Sandwiched in between the technical specs and rosy predictions for Buick’s updated small SUV and the brand, in general, was a very interesting term — "False brand awareness." It’s a fascinating concept and a bit of a departure from the usual mark-missing marketing talk about "engagements," "activations" and "super-exciting news." Admittedly, the "False brand awareness" makes a lot of sense given the company’s "That’s a Buick?" campaign.

Branding and SUVs

Essentially, Buick is saying: "A lot of people know of the Buick brand." That’s usually a good thing. The trouble here is that what people "know" about Buick isn’t true — or isn’t true any longer. I have to admit, even I incorrectly think of Buick in a certain way — typically associating Buick with sedans. Maybe it’s just because I like sedans. Either way, I have always known Buick to be a builder of vehicles that embody technological innovation, quality, comfort and (usually) performance.

The truth is, Buick has three SUVs in big, medium and small sizes — the Enclave, Envision and Encore. I’m guessing the average new car shopper doesn’t know that Buick has three SUVs.

The recently introduced Envision fits in the middle with the small Encore and larger, 3-row Enclave bookending it in the Buick lineup. If you’ve never heard of the Envision, you’re likely not alone. The Buick Envision is relatively new, so it’s a little odd that it’s already getting a makeover. Although on sale in China since 2015, the Envision has been available to US buyers since mid-2016. Less than three years in, and the Envision gets a mild makeover — a smart move from a company that’s on the rise in a vehicle segment that will only increase in popularity. See the 2019 Buick Envision models for sale near you

Changes for 2019

The changes aren’t instantly noticeable. Both the front and rear of the car get re-worked for 2019, the rear end has the greater impact thanks to revised taillights and the below-the-bumper panel that houses dual exhaust outlets. The overall look is more premium — it kinda looks like an Acura RDX or something along those lines. The previous look was a little more traditional.

Changes to the Envision’s packaging and tech features are more substantive. For example, the 2019 Buick Envision costs about $2,000 less than the previous year model when comparing similar equipment. Basically, you get more for your money.

Inside, there’s now an in-vehicle ionizer, next-gen wireless charging and a newly available ability to switch between conventional and adaptive cruise, a better hands-free microphone, an enhanced parking camera, faster seat heating and improved radar for the adaptive cruise and forward-collision systems. Perhaps the single most important feature inside the 2019 Envision is the auto start/stop button that allows you to turn off the fuel-saving start-stop feature.

On The Road

Two engines are offered, a 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder with an estimated 252 horsepower connected to a 9-speed automatic transmission or the standard engine which is a 2.5L 4-cylinder making 197 hp connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Both front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions are offered.

Buick says the turbo engine is about a half-second quicker to 60 miles per hour. There’s also improved brake pedal feel.

It all adds up to a very competent compact SUV. The ride is calm, but with the right amount of precision. You’re not going win many drag races, but I’d be willing to bet the average Envision buyer doesn’t care. Still, acceleration with the 2.0L turbo is quick enough to merge into fast-moving traffic and pass on a flat stretch of highway. Given the Envision’s size and engine options, this is clearly one of the winners in Buick’s Quiet Tuning efforts. Noise levels are that of a small premium SUV.

Not that it matters, but the Envision is made in China and exported to the United States. One reason for this is that Buick vehicles are very popular in China, so it makes sense to build the cars there.

As premium SUVs go, the Envision is good one. Sure, your neighbors might not know what it is, but in a world of copycat SUVs, that’s not really a bad thing. It’s a $35,000 compact premium SUV, and it looks and feels the part. Add all the features Buick offers and you’re looking at $45,000 price tag. Most buyers will end up somewhere in between the $33,000 base price and the priciest Premium II trim level. For that money, you get exactly what you’d expect — an Acura– or Infiniti-level compact SUV for a fair price. Just be ready for a lot of "What kind of car is that?" talk around the cul-de-sac.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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