When Buick announced its intention to bring over the Envision from Yantai, China, you couldn't go 10 minutes on the internet without stumbling into some kind of furious consternation. Would Americans care for a car built--ostensibly--for Chinese tastes, and more importantly, would they buy a car built in the People's Republic?

After only a few short months on the market Americans have proven that the Envision, competing in the U.S market's hottest segment, more than speaks to consumer needs, and they don't really care where it came from-the Envision isn't just Buick's quickest turning model, but also the quickest turning among its chief rivals-its 25 day turnover rate is half of its next closest competitor, the Audi Q5, which will hang around for 50 days.



Stacking the deck even more in Envision's favor--to date--it has only been available in two top level trims, Premier I and II. With MSRPs popping $40,000, the up-market focused 2016 Envision was offered with a generous smattering of standard equipment, Bose stereo, heated leather front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, advanced safety features and AWD.

Sales should only continue to increase as Buick slots trims in below and lowers entry price to $34,990 for a base 2017 Envision, along with the $36,795 Preferred trim and the $38,645 Essence.

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Now that we know the Envision is hitting the mark with the consuming public, it's time to find out why.

It all begins with Buick's brand ethos-to build "beautiful, quiet and comfortable cars and SUVs in the most important segments and a customer experience shaped around quality, safety and well-being." Since Buick decided to turn itself around nearly a decade ago, the brand has lived at the alter of safety, whisper quiet interiors and elegant, tasteful design.

Buick being one of the few brands to avoid the narcissistic Nurburgring feedback loop, but I digress.

envision engine choices


For 2017 Buick adds a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder for Envision, Preferred and Essence trims. It kicks out 197 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, both Preferred and Essence trims can be optioned with AWD.

Little has changed for the two 2017 Envision Premium trims, it still comes stock with a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder making 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and like the 2.5, it's hooked to GM's Hydra-Matic 6T70 6-speed automatic. Oddly, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox will offer GM's brand new 9T50 9-speed in conjunction with the same 2.0T, when will the Buick also benefit?

Premium I and II also feature Buick's first application of GM's venerable Hi-Per front strut suspension-along with another first for Buick--a Twin-Clutch torque vectoring AWD system sourced from GKN driveline, ala Ford Focus RS.

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On the road, the Hi-Per front end keeps everything compliant during heavy acceleration, helping mitigate torque steer and increasing steering feel, while overall providing a soft and plush ride, without being soft and wallowy.

The real star of the show is the new mechanical Twin-Clutch AWD system, similar to what's on offer in the Cadillac XT5. Buick claims its version was tuned for comfort instead of out and out performance. Where the twin-clutch Envision differentiates itself from competitors is its use of mechanical clutches in the rear differential to maximize traction; instead of simply using stability control and individual wheel braking to manage slip.
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When the Audi Q5 or Acura RDX detect slip, they use a mix of braking and stability control to reduce the torque being transferred to the ground, stopping the slip. The Envision, however, doesn't compromise torque for traction, its mechanical delivery allows it to direct 100% of available torque to any given wheel.

However, it isn't directing 100% of the vehicles total torque to a single wheel, I was told by Buick that "if you only have traction in one of the four corners, you'll accelerate with 100 percent of the torque available to that wheel but 24 percent of the vehicle's total torque."

Do keep in mind though, the Twin-Clutch torque vectoring AWD system is only available with the Premium 2.0T-- 2.5-liter models make due with a less sophisticated, conventional AWD system.

buick quiet tuning


Speaking of engines, Buick's long time focus on Quiet Tuning works wonders under the hood, extensive use of sound deadening on the engine cover and standard Active Noise Cancellation technology dampen and dissipate the sound and fury of direct-injected gasoline exploding just in front of your knees--under hard acceleration on the highway attempting to overtake, the engine beating at 4,500 RPM, our conversation carries on uninterrupted.

Tony DiSalle, Buick's U.S. Vice President of Marketing, told those of us gathered that "Buick delivers as being one of the quietest vehicles in the competitive set." Agreed, if you really listen really hard with the radio off, road noises are all but a vague hum.



It's not just NVH that makes the cabin an enjoyable place to be: the wrap around wood dash is pleasant and premium--albeit with a smattering of plastic that has realistically become inescapable in segment--heated and optionally cooled leather seating with contrast stitching, available panoramic roof and automatic climate control all spoil you in what Buick calls smart luxury.

Buick's standard 8-inch Intellilink infotainment system is easily one of the best in the league when it comes to simple intuitiveness, and if that's not your game, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, along with OnStar 4G LTE.

Other amenities include fast-charging USB ports throughout the cabin, a 120-volt plug, and a traditional 12-volt outlet, meaning there is plenty of juice for everyone, be it kids or coworkers.



As a side effect of the importance of the rear seat to the Chinese market, the Envision's rear quarters are really the place to be. Leg room is more than ample even for 6 footers, quirkily, headroom for said 6 footers is at a premium, especially with a panoramic roof.

It's not just sophistication, style, and smiles that sell vehicles in this segment; with safety becoming one of the biggest boxes for a majority of buyers, especially young families, Buick's elevation of safety to the top of its trifecta of core competencies is no coincidence.

For 2017 Buick equips all Envisions with ten standard air bags sprinkled strategically throughout the cabin, along with Surround Vision and automatic front braking and rear park aids. Up-level trims can option a vibrating safety seat, forward crash avoidance, lane keep, lane departure, lane change alert, blind zone alert, cross traffic alert. On Premium II Envisions you can add Adaptive Cruise Control.

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With the Envision, Buick is looking to replicate the Encore and Enclave's smashing success stories-one quarter of small SUVs on the road today and Encores, while the Enclave boasts more than a 50 percent retention rate, with majority of its buyers opting for top shelf trims.

Scoff if you want at the idea of a Chinese built Buick, but it's no longer an idea, it's a properly executed product that satisfies all but the staunchest shopping list, and nestles itself in where the top of mainstream meets entry level luxury, making it an attractive proposition.

Quite frankly go ask most people where their car was constructed and I'll bet 70 percent of the time people back away from you in terrified confusion.

It doesn't hurt that Buick as a brand has enjoyed rapid growth among female demographics, simply because most females don't carry old Buick brand baggage and evaluate the product for the proposition it is, not the perception it's trying to erase.

For fun I asked one Buick official when we could expect Envision production to come across the Pacific, his response was quite succinct, "We're on pace to sell 200,000 of them [Envisions] in China, so not unless we can move 150,000 here."