The 2018 Buick Envision is a comfortable, roomy five-seat crossover that may not be the best in its class but is still worth a look.
- MSRP: From $39,110
- Horsepower: 197 hp to 252 hp
- MPG: Up to 22 mpg city / 29 mpg highway
- Review continues below
- Dimensions: 184” L, 72” W, 69” H
- Curb weight: 3,755 to 4,083 lbs
The 2018 Buick Envision is an international five-seat crossover SUV. A few years ago, it became the first mass-market vehicle from a Detroit automaker to be assembled in China and sold in America, but it isn’t the Envision’s assembly location that affects it in our scoring.
While it’s a likeable crossover that does most things well, it does little to stand out. The Envision is narrow inside and gets pricey with options, although it rides comfortably and has performed to a high standard in crash-testing. We’ve scored it a 6.0 out of 10.
The Envision is offered in base, Preferred, Essence, Premium I, and Premium II trims, a walk that starts off well-equipped and winds up at nearly full-scale luxury levels (and prices). Base, Preferred, and Essence models pair a 197-horsepower inline-4 to either front- or all-wheel drive, while both Premium configurations are exclusively available with all-wheel drive and a strong but thirsty 252-hp turbo-4.
We’ve only driven the turbocharged version and have found it to ride well, with a sedate manner amplified—or not, in this case—by its overall quietness. It’s not the kind of crossover that will goad you into taking a winding road, but that’s just fine given its intended mission in life.
While the Envision has aced IIHS crash testing and performed well in the federal government’s evaluation, we fault it for only offering advanced safety tech at the highest prices; a $36,000 base price balloons to about $48,000 if you want an Envision capable of potentially preventing a crash.
Although not a head-turner, the Buick Envision is a nice looking crossover.
Credit to the 2018 Buick Envision’s designers for giving it a simple, pleasing look that’s in-line with the rest of the automaker’s lineup.
It may be sourced from overseas, but the Envision looks right at home in America.
Buick’s design cues are all here: a waterfall grille, swoopy lines, and even faux portholes that stick out like warts on its hood. At 72.4 inches from side-to-side, the Envision is relatively narrow against its competitors, but it doesn’t generally reveal that from the outside.
It’s inside where it feels and looks a little tight against crossovers such as the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. But, again, Buick’s cues are all present, like a swoopy dashboard with a big 8.0-inch touchscreen mounted high. It’s a clean, simple look that doesn’t feel spartan, and it’s helped out by several attractive hues available that range from bright and airy to warm and dark. Only the wide expanses of fake wood remind buyers that they’re not in a vehicle from a full-line luxury automaker, like Lexus or Mercedes-Benz.
The Buick Envision's ride quality is excellent
The 2018 Buick Envision is available in several configurations, but we’ve only been able to spend time in the most powerful.
Based on that experience, we rate the Envision a 6 out of 10, awarding it a point above average for its good ride quality. It’s not remotely sporty, but the Envision does a nice job of filtering the outside world and providing a relaxed, calming demeanor.
Envision base, Preferred, and Essence trims are all powered by a 197-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-4 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic. It’s paired exclusively to front-wheel drive on the base model. Only Preferred and Essence trim levels can be optioned up with all-wheel drive and the base engine.
Both Envision Premium trim levels are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 252 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The turbo engine can feel a little buzzy at idle, but it delivers smooth power with minimal lag.
Envisions are available with 18-, 19-, and 20-inch alloy wheels, but we’ve only driven Premiums with the larger setup. Despite the small sidewall afforded by the 20s, the Envision rides well over smooth and rough terrain. Its suspension is soft but not too plush, so it can be hustled confidently down a winding road.
It won’t entertain, but it does cosset reasonably well. That’s all we ask of a luxury crossover, and to that end the Envision delivers.
Comfort & Quality
A bit narrow inside, the Buick Envision is nonetheless very quiet on the road.
The 2018 Buick Envision offers good room for five, albeit with the caveat that it’s quite narrow inside. We’ve added points for its comfy front seats and its hushed attitude, but we’re pulling one back because it has a slightly narrow feel compared to its rivals.
The Envision’s front seats are comfortable and both thrones are eight-way power-adjustable including lumbar adjustment, a relative rarity at this price. All models have heated front seats and higher spec models add heating for the three-seat rear bench. The Premium II loads on the extras with cooled front seats. Cloth and synthetic leather upholstery is standard on base and Preferred; leather comes on other models.
There’s decent space in the outboard seats out back and room for a fifth adult in a pinch, but the Envision is narrow inside against its competitive set. It’s not necessarily claustrophobic or confining, but the feeling is slightly exacerbated by the Envision’s high roofline even with the optional panoramic moonroof.
Materials inside are par for the course, with soft touch, nicely grained surfaces most places human hands will venture. There’s nothing particularly decadent, but also nothing really out of place either.
Where the Envision stands out is with what it lacks: road and wind noise. Laminated glass and thick sound deadening panels hush the outside world remarkably well, making the Envision a comfortable long-distance cruiser.
Good crash-test scores elevate the Envision, but you'll have to spend big money to get the best safety tech.
The 2018 Buick Envision has done well in government and independent crash tests, enough to rate a 7 out of 10.
So what stops it from earning our top score? One factor is that Buick restricts the most advanced safety tech—automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and and a surround-view camera system to only the top trim level, where they’re grouped in the extra-cost Driver Confidence Package. That’s a shame, since most rivals have democratized these important features and made them at least optional at a much lower price, if not standard.
But in terms of its crashworthiness, the Envision checks all the right boxes. With the Driver Confidence Package, the Envision is rated a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. The agency isn’t as fond of the halogen headlights on most versions of the Envision; it rates them “Poor,” although the HID projector lights fitted to the range-topping Premium II are “Acceptable.”
Federal testers, meanwhile, give the Envision five stars overall but four stars for rollover and frontal crash protection.
All Buick Envision trim levels are outfitted nicely, as they should be at this price point.
You have a choice between five basic flavors if you’re after a 2018 Buick Envision. Even the base model is equipped nicely and we like Buick’s infotainment system, but a loaded model gets very expensive for what it is.
We’ve given the Envision a 6 out of 10, adding two points for the well-equipped base model and the 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but subtracting one for the way the Envision’s price escalates rapidly with options.
The Envision is available in five trim levels: base, Preferred, Essence, Premium I, and Premium II. The first three are 2.5-liter 4-cylinder only, while both Premiums are powered by the 2.0-liter turbo-4.
The base Envision is front-wheel-drive only and can’t be ordered in any color other than white, but if you live where it rarely snows, it may be just fine for you. You’ll get an 8.0-inch screen in the dash and a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster, plus keyless ignition, cloth and synthetic leather seats (eight-way power and heated up front), dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, rear assist, and General Motors’ OnStar system with a 4G LTE antenna, turn-by-turn directions, concierge services, and a wi-fi hotspot.
The Envision Preferred is a bit of a head-scratcher, too. It’s about $1,800 more than the base Envision, but it doesn’t actually add any features. Instead, it’s available with all-wheel drive and can be ordered in more paint shades. Basically, if you can live with white and front-wheel drive, the base Envision is the way to go.
From there, the Envision Essence adds some luxuries like leather upholstery, heated rear seats, roof rails, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Essence can be further loaded up with navigation and it’s available with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Next up, the Envision Premium brings the turbo-4 to the table, plus Bose audio, forward collision warnings, active lane control, front and rear park assist, and 19-inch alloy wheels. As it should given a price tag that approaches $50,000, the Envision Premium II loads on the luxuries: cooled front seats, the ability to automatically park itself, a panoramic moonroof, HID headlights, adjustable thigh support for the driver’s seat, and a head-up display. Only the Premium II can be ordered with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, however.
It's a mixed story regarding the Buick Envision's fuel consumption.
The 2018 Buick Envision is about mid-pack when it comes to fuel efficiency.
We’ve scored it a 6 out of 10 based on the 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined rating for the Envision Premium and Premium II.
Skip those models with their turbocharged engine and the rest of the lineup is a little thriftier: 22/29/25 mpg for front-wheel-drive models and 21/27/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.
All models are fitted with a start/stop system that turns off the vehicle’s engine at a traffic light to save fuel while idling.