When you think of luxury auto brands, Buick might not be at the top of your list. But the company hopes to change that moving forward, by transforming its lineup to attract younger buyers and more women. Even though year-end auto sales at GM Canada were down nearly 15 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, its Buick arm was up 1.1 per cent. Sure it’s not a lot, but it out-performed many other luxury automakers. And its largely due to the new Encore GX and a smaller lineup that includes only four SUVs and no passenger cars.
“Going into 2019 we actually had eight nameplates, but we had to transition to four,” says Duncan Aldred, global vice president of Buick and GMC. The move was an “intentional strategy” following the growing popularity of SUVs. “We felt we could get more from less and basically deliver very similar market shares and volumes with four SUVs competing in the biggest and fastest growing segments in the industry versus what we did previously with the addition of sedans,” he adds.
The gamble seems to have paid off. In Canada, 61 per cent of Encore GX customers are new to the Buick brand, while 29 per cent are new to the GM. And another surprise? More women are buying Buicks than ever before.
“Buick is our number one female GM brand, but when you consider the [Encore] GX it was 65 per cent female buyers – that’s an all-time record for us and it well out-paced the industry average,” says Michael MacPhee, Buick Canada director.
But age is still a stumbling block. The average age of the Encore GX buyer is 57. “The average age has actually come down significantly because of vehicles like the all-new Encore GX – the average age of a GX buyer is now five years younger than it was,” says MacPhee.
But 57 is still on the high side. That’s why Buick is pushing bolder styling and more connectivity and technology features to attract younger buyers through its latest revamp: the all-new 2021 Envision compact SUV.
Slotted between the smaller Encore and Encore GX and the larger Enclave, the Envision is lower and wider than the last version. It’s sophisticated, sporty, and sleek looking, especially from its profile with its sweeping, sculped body lines. Inside, it really excels compared to the previous generation, which was pretty lacklustre with poor-quality fit and finish. Now, there’s a more premium, upscale feel with nicer materials such as diamond-quilted leather upholstery and textured wood panels on the top trim and cool technology including a new large, 10-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s titled towards the driver for better visibility. Connectivity features include Amazon Alexa, several in-vehicle apps such as Spotify and the Weather Channel, an available wireless charging pad, an SD card slot, accessory outlet and USB ports. A new push-button gear shifter looks attractive and saves space, too. While slim A-pillars and a dual panoramic roof give the feel of an open, airy, spacious cabin.
The Envision seats five. The 40/60-split second-row seats can also fold flat into the floor to create a long cargo arear, if needed. At 713 litres, the cargo space is large, but it expands to 1,492 litres when the second-row seats are folded down. There’s also a hands-free power liftgate that you can program to your ideal height. The feature is being included as a standard option, as are heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and an air ionizer with a new air quality indicator to monitor the quality of the cabin’s air - a first for Buick in Canada.
Powering the Envision is 2.0L turbocharged I-4 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine pumps out 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque – sure, that’s not much. Many competitors offer more power. And worth nothing - the 2020 Envision had two engine choices – a 2L turbo 4-cylinder with more power and torque - 252 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque as well as a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine with 197 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque.
While the Envision is built in China, some of the innovative safety technology comes from Canada including the Lane Keep Assist and Front and Rear Park Assist systems, which are designed, engineered and executed in Ontario at GM’s CTC (Canadian Technical Centres) in Markham and Oshawa, Ont.
Starting at $37,598, the Envision will be offered in three trims – Preferred, Essence and for the first time, Avenir. It’s just arriving in dealerships, followed by a refreshed 2022 Buick Enclave, the flagship 7-seater SUV later this year. Finally, it looks like Buick is on the right track.
TECH SPECS: 2021 Buick Envision
- Base price: Starting at $37,598
- Engine: 2.0L Turbo I-4 engine rated at 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque
- Transmission/Drive: 9-speed automatic, FWD/AWD
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway): City 10.0(FWD) 10.5 (AWD); Highway 7.6 (FWD) 8.2 (AWD)
- Alternatives: Volvo XC60, Lincoln Corsair, Acura RDX, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Infiniti QX50
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