Picture the rolling hills folded into those last miles of prairie before the Rocky Mountains suddenly spring up. Or envision them. They’re joined by smooth, traffic-free roads unlike anything the GTA’s had in two generations. And they’re the perfect place to test Buick’s new compact SUV, the Envision, an outright challenge to the Audi Q5 and Lincoln MKC.
To say the Envision’s fun to drive would be an overpromise — few SUVs are — but dependable and solid work well. It delivers an enjoyable driving experience with a good engine, nimble dynamics and coddling comfort.
First the engine. Even the entry-level Envision trims have some decent power: a 2.5L four-banger with direct fuel injection that delivers a peppy 197hp. Another standard, which is becoming ubiquitous in cars above the budget territory, is start-stop technology. It shuts the engine off upon application of the break. The switch is subtle, only noticeable when you remove your foot from the brake and the engine springs back to alertness. I had to actively listen for it to turn off.
Next the ride. The Envision handles quite well. The all-wheel drive, a standard feature with active twin-clutch, grips intuitively, splitting torque between the front and rear axles and, again, between the rear wheels, when the computer senses the need for the extra boost from one spot.
This ain’t yer grandpa’s Buick. Sure, the ride is smooth but without feeling like a floating marshmallow. If a confident handshake could roll on wheels, this is how it would feel.
And finally the comfort. The Envision driver is well cocooned in a cockpit not unlike a decent power sedan. Buick ensconces sound-baffling materials in critical places, to render a hushed atmosphere worthy of a recording studio.
As with all GM products, the Envision comes with OnStar for Wi-fi capability. Apple and Android softwares turn your mobile phone into a huge phone that’s literally mobile.
Buick is having a banner year with sales in China going through the roof. The 2017 Lacrosse that I drove briefly last month was, bar none, the biggest surprise of the year; it performs like a hero and is priced to disappear from the lot. Frankly, the Envision does not look out of place beside it. I’m not mad for SUVs but they got this one right.
Starting at $39,995 before freight and taxes.
Steven Bochenek has been reviewing vehicles for nearly a decade. He was invited to join the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada in 2011, was voted the runner-up Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year in 2014 and won Volvo’s 2016 Award for Environment Journalism on his birthday.