Back in the dark days of 2009, Americans were shocked when Buick was given a stay of execution while Pontiac proceeded to be led in front of the proverbial firing squad. Time heals all wounds, though, and there's no doubt that the pain of losing the progenitor of the muscle car has numbed considerably while Buick itself is on a winning streak. The Envision, a mid-size crossover that bridges the gap between mainstream conveyance and luxury motoring, reflects the brand's confidence that the market has a newfound respect for the storied Tri-Shield marque. Unfortunately, we have not yet had an opportunity to drive the 2019 Envision.

Best Value

The Envision offers a flurry of trim levels to choose from, ranging from the base model (which goes by the eloquent moniker 1SV) to the snazzy – and expensive – Premium II. Of this spread, we're most tempted by the all-wheel-drive Essence. The biggest benefit of the Essence is that the interior is classed up with niceties like a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, tri-zone climate control, and leather upholstery, all of which are unavailable on the next-step-down Preferred trim.

The Essence is also a good $3,000 cheaper than the next step up, the Premium. While that model does include the higher-output turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, it's forty-something-grand starting price puts it in a class of luxury crossover that outdoes the Envision in both style and prestige. Here's our Envision as it would roll off the assembly line:

  • Model: 2019 Buick Envision Essence
  • Engine: 2.5-liter inline-four
  • Output: 197 hp / 192 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 21 City / 27 Hwy
  • Options: All-wheel drive ($1,750), Navigation ($495)
  • Base Price: $36,795 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $39,040

Performance

Buick Envision

Don't envision the Envision to be a paragon of performance, because it's decidedly not. From the outset, Buick designed this people-mover to adhere to that classic Tri-Shield attribute of hushed comfort.

It's this philosophy that explains why a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making under 200 horsepower is found under the hood of three of the five Envision trims. Specifically, this motor pumps out 197 hp and 192 pound-feet of torque; it's hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the AWD models is EPA rated at a rather average 21 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway, and 24 combined, which trails the highway rating of the Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC but slightly edges out their city performance.

For those who crave more speed, the Premium and Premium II trims come standard with a 252-hp, 295 lb-ft of torque, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This forced-induction powerplant is hooked up to an all-new nine-speed automatic. Once we drive it, we'll have more to say on whether it shifts with aplomb or if we'll be pining for the old six-speed. Fuel economy for this powertrain is 20/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined.

Style

For 2019, Buick has seen fit to powder up the aging fascias of the three-year-old Envision. This includes slimmer, more modern-looking taillights out back and a new grille up front that features a pair of wings sprouting out from the badge. There's also new HID headlights for 2.5-liter models and LEDs for the turbo trims.

Unfortunately, these little brush-ups do little to help the Envision's general lack of style. Some might call the unexciting look conservative, but we just find it bland. There's little here to suggest any cohesion with the Buick lineup as a whole, yet there's also nothing that lets it stand alone in the showroom in that same vein a Riviera used to remain discerningly aloof from LeSabres and Park Avenues. It's all very generic 2010s crossover, and ergo the Envision looks more like a video-game anycar rather than a identifiable product of an established manufacturer.

At least the interior doesn't suffer from these woes. There's a handsome, modern-looking dash, and we especially like the wood-veneer stretching across the dash from the touchscreen to the passenger-side air vent – it keeps things looking upscale.

On the safety front, the 2018 model received a five-star rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick accolade from the IIHS, so we imagine that the lightly refreshed 2019 iteration should be no less impressive in that regard.

The Best and Worst Things

For not a lot of money, buyers can get themselves in a well-equipped crossover that offers everything the luxury models have except for the brand snobbery, and this alone merits taking a closer look at an Envision.

Unfortunately, a closer look means having to literally look at the Envision, which is a sleep-inducing act in itself. We hope there's a major design overhaul for this crossover in the works, because it's a snoozefest compared to the competition and the rest of the Buick lineup.

Right For? Wrong For?

Buick Envision

The Encore – Buick's smallest and cheapest crossover – has managed to bring in a lot of customers new to the brand, many of them young and without children. Once these youngbloods start families, they'll need something bigger, and the Envision would be a perfect choice.

We imagine many of these buyers, though, will be wanting more power and style than what the more affordable trims of the Envision offer. If these two attributes matter but the turbo-equipped Premium trims are too pricy to consider, look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Buick Envision is a solid offering. It's well-equipped, affordable, economical, and safe – in other words, what the vast majority of buyers want from their next crossover. If Buick can squeeze a few more ponies from that base 2.0-liter and add a smidgen of style, the Envision would make a great alternative to the established luxury brands. As it stands, though, this is still a good choice in a crowded segment.