First Drive: 2021 Buick Envision Is a Competent but Unexciting SUV

Buick’s midsized model has a comfortable ride and user-friendly controls

2021 Buick Envision front three-quarters view

Buick has morphed from a brand known for big, floaty sedans to one that—currently—offers only SUVs. 

Interestingly, most recent Buicks have their roots in other countries. While the big Enclave is from the U.S., the redesigned Envision (as with the previous generation) is built in China; the Encore GX is from Korea; and the discontinued Regal was originally built by Opel (then a General Motors-owned company) in Europe.

If you ran a 23 and Me test on every Buick, they’d come back as mostly unrelated to each other.

Though this luxury-lite brand has tended to have reliable vehicles, they haven’t kept pace with the more-competitive models. Many of them have felt like fancy versions of less-expensive Chevrolets.

The redesigned 2021 Buick Envision might be the first model in a long time to break that mold.

The first-generation Envision was an underwhelming, mostly unimpressive product that didn’t stand up to luxury competitors like the Audi Q5—which GM tried to pit it against—or even top-trim versions of more mainstream SUVs like the Mazda CX-5. It had a floaty yet unsettled ride, clumsy handling, and an ordinary interior. 

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With this redesign, Buick has addressed some of the flaws of the first model, while also establishing what the Envision “experience” is about in terms of interior ambience, ride comfort, and amenities. 

We bought a 2021 Buick Envision Essence AWD for the CR autos test program and also rented a top-trim Envision Avenir from the manufacturer. 

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the Envision is available below.

After we log more than 2,000 break-in miles on our Buick, we’ll put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

If you haven’t signed up yet, click below and become a member to access this full article and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

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What we bought: 2021 Buick Envision Essence AWD
Powertrain: 252-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $37,600
Options: $2,500 Technology package (HD surround vision; head-up display; Bose premium audio system; front park assist; infotainment system with navigation, 10-inch touch screen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; HD radio), $1,450 Panoramic Moonroof, $350 Illuminated Door Sill Plates, $85 Wheel Locks
Destination fee: $1,195
Total cost: $43,180

What we rented: 2021 Buick Envision Avenir
Powertrain: 252-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive

2021 Buick Envision rear three-quarters view
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