The 2018 Buick Envision fills an important hole this near-premium brand’s lineup, supplying a natural stepping stone from the tiny Encore to the large Enclave while offering handsome styling, a comfortable ride, and a quiet interior.

Best Value

The 2018 Buick Envision comes in five trims: Base, Preferred, Essence, Premium and Premium II. Customers have a choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive and a base 2.5-liter inline four or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The only powertrain goody customers don't have a choice on is the transmission – it's an eight-speed auto across the board.

Our “best value” model is the mid-grade Envision Essence ($38,715, including a $995 destination charge), powered by the standard engine and equipped with all-wheel drive. This model builds on the previous two trims, adding 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, chrome roof rack side rails, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather-appointed seating, lane charge alert with side blind zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert.

The only packages available are dealer- or port-installed accessories and the $495 navigation upgrade for the eight-inch infotainment system. There is some trickery here, though. For a start, all Envisions come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which provide a navigation interface free of charge. The other trick focuses on paints – Buick only offers one no-cost paint option, Summit White, while the other five carry a $395 charge. Keep both of these facts in mind when purchasing for yourself.

  • Model: 2018 Buick Envision Essence AWD
  • Engine: 2.5-liter inline-four
  • Output: 197 hp/192 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 22 city /29 highway
  • Options:N/A
  • Base Price:$40,565 (including $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$40,565

Performance

Buick Envision

The standard engine delivers adequate acceleration and passing power, along with light steering and a supremely comfortable ride. The ride is comfortable and braking is strong and free of fade. Customers wanting something beyond a leisurely drive must move up the trim level and pay thousands more.

Going for the turbocharged offering provides a lot more power, but Buick curbs torque steer – the engine's influence on the direction of the front wheels – with a nifty suspension setup.

And grabbing the pricier engine isn't necessarily a bad call, as even Buick's renowned QuietTuning struggles to deal with the occasionally buzzy base engine. Outright handling ability is precise thanks to the effortless steering, but the Buick will be easily outmaneuvered by rivals like the Acura RDX or BMW X3.

Style

Buick imports the Envision from China, its largest market and where this vehicle was first sold. Its origin doesn’t have a bearing on what we think about this SUV, which does a commendable job of upholding the Buick brand, although it doesn’t especially stand out. That said, Buick’s recognizable waterfall grille punctuated by the tri-shield emblem kicks things off. Swooping lines, the expected faux portholes and chrome touches are other features common to the brand.

The interior is roomy at least for four, not the five Buick says it can hold. The swoopy dashboard is a Buick staple and in this model the center console has a standard eight-inch color touch screen display. The imitation wood, however, supplies the cue that this isn’t a luxury model. Nevertheless, the color schemes, amenities, and available higher-end features demonstrate that this model is a cut above the rest.

The Best and Worst Things

Although the Envision’s styling isn’t outstanding – it's more awkward than the lovely new Enclave – it delivers enough of a Buick connection to satisfy our needs.

Why is only one paint color free? $395 isn't a lot of money when you're spending $40,000, but it's annoying that Buick will force owners to shell out for a paint other than white.

Right For...

Buick Envision

The Buick fan who prefers not to move over to GMC to acquire a compact SUV. The brands may be under the same roof, but if it's Buick you want, then Buick you should get.

Wrong For...

Luxury SUV shoppers looking for a Lexus RX equivalent. Besides being nearly a foot longer than the Buick, the Lexus is a true luxury model, outfitted with the amenities and cachet befitting the brand.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Envision successfully fills an important gap in the Buick SUV portfolio and that’s why it’s needed. Discounting is strong across the model line, but especially so with our best value pick and the Premium I edition. If you need more power, then move up and take the amenities that go with it.