2021 Buick Envision Review

The 2021 Buick Envision offers what crossover shoppers crave wrapped in luxury trappings.

Nicole Wakelin
  • Quiet ride.
  • Luxury without opulence
  • A grownup crossover for grownups
  • Down on power from last generation's model
  • Only one engine choice
  • Difference between drive modes a little too subtle

The 2021 Buick Envision is an upscale two-row crossover with seating for up to five people. Introduced in 2016, this year it enters its second generation with a new powertrain, an updated design, and a simplified lineup of just three trims (this includes the exclusive Avenir, which is something of a sub-brand for Buick and is new to the Envision). Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Buyers are offered a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The 2021 Buick Envision starts at around $33,000.

Envision Exterior

There are endless crossovers on the market and Buick aims to make the Envision stand out from the pack with refined, elegant styling in keeping with its upscale image. This new generation of the Envision is also lower and wider, which creates a sportier, more aggressive first impression and improves handling by lowering the Envision’s center of gravity.

The Preferred and Essence have an available Sport Touring package that adds dark exterior accents and 20-inch wheels for those who want to push things further in a sporty direction. The top Avenir trim, however, focuses purely on luxury. It gets a unique mesh grille, 20-inch Avenir Pearl Nickel wheels, and Avenir badges with their own special script. It even has an exclusive color – Red Garnet Metallic. The 2021 Buick Envision combines the compact dimensions of a crossover with the sophisticated styling of a luxury car.

(The Buick Envision Avenir FWD in Red Garnet Metallic is featured in this review’s images.)

Envision Interior

The interior of the Buick Envision aims for the same sense of luxury and elegance exuded by the exterior and largely succeeds. There’s no stripped-down version of the Envision. Even the base Preferred has an 8-way power driver’s seat, leatherette trims, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Seating is comfortable and supportive up front with massaging, heated, leather seats on our Avenir that upped the luxury factor. While an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, the Essence and Avenir benefit greatly from a standard 10.2-inch touchscreen angled toward the driver for easy access.

Rear seats can accommodate three, but are best for no more than two adults (except on the shortest of trips). While there’s ample headroom, legroom gets tight with the front seats pushed back. No matter where you sit the ride is remarkably quiet, something Buick targeted for improvement with this generation. Combined with the Envision’s smooth ride, it creates the hushed interior that’s a hallmark of luxury cars.

Cargo room is down from the previous generation with 25.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 52.7 cubic feet behind the first row. While the decrease behind the second row is minor and won’t keep you from being able to stow the family’s luggage, the decrease behind the first row is nearly 5.0 cubic feet. That’s a big difference and could prove challenging for those who plan on packing their Envision full of stuff rather than people. Towing capacity is unchanged at up to 1,500 pounds.

2021 Buick Envision

Envision Powertrain

The 2021 Buick Envision is offered with a single powertrain, rather than the two available on the previous generation.

Under the hood is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (228 hp/258 lb-ft of torque) paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. There’s a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive across the lineup. It gets an estimated 26 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and drops only slightly to 25 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. There are not yet 0-60 times for the new Envision, however the outgoing turbocharged engine, which had more horsepower, posted a time of 6.6 seconds. Set your expectations accordingly.

2021 Buick Envision

Envision Driving Experience

Buick is an aspirational brand. It doesn’t have the luxury cache of more expensive options, but it is an upscale choice. You can see it when you take open the door and are greeted by eye-catching trims and you can feel it in how the Envision drives. Although the current engine is less powerful than the outgoing turbo, it’s still responsive and engaging. It’s no trouble getting up to speed, and a light foot on the gas is all that’s needed to get a little extra power for passing.

In keeping with its upscale demeanor, there’s nothing harsh about the powertrain. Shifts are smooth and quiet and do an admirable job of managing power as unobtrusively as possible. This is not a sports car. It’s a luxury car. It engages the driver with crisp steering and ample power without disturbing passengers with a lot of engine or exhaust noise.

The ride is composed over rough road surfaces with minimal bounce making its way into the cabin. Our Avenir equipped with optional continuous damping control smoothed out rutted dirt roads and soaked up the worst of winter’s potholes.

Selectable drive modes of tour, snow/ice, and sport fine-tune handling to current conditions. All-wheel drive models add an off-road mode and swap snow/ice for AWD mode. There’s a subtle different between tour and sport, but nothing dramatic. The Envision keeps its luxury-car calm no matter the mode, but if you want a more aggressive response, then leave it in sport. 

2021 Buick Envision

2021 Buick Envision Trim Levels and Pricing

Buick offers the Envision in three trims:

  • Preferred FWD/Preferred AWD (starts at about $33,000/$35,000) – The base model has an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, 8-way power front seat, and cloth/leatherette seat trims
  • Essence FWD/Essence AWD (starts at about $37,000/$39,000) – Standard handsfree power liftgate, 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, and heated front seats and steering wheel 
  • Avenir FWD/Avenir AWD (starts at about $41,000/$43,000) – Standard 9-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, and heated rear outboard seats.

If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price an Envision on Buick’s official web site. 

2021 Buick Envision

Envision Best Features

Our favorite feature of the Envision is QuietTuning, which is standard across the lineup. This active noise cancellation system includes acoustic materials placed throughout the vehicle to keep exterior sounds from intruding into the cabin. You won’t hear road or wind noise, even in bad weather. Passing large trucks at highway speeds won’t wake up snoozing passengers. QuietTuning makes sure the sounds outside the windows are kept outside so the Envision is relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.

What is Our Favorite Version of the Envision?

Our pick is the Essence (about $37,000). It includes the 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, heated steering wheel, and heated front seats for a modest price increase over the base Preferred model. Although the top-of-the-line Avenir has a more luxurious interior, an upscale experience can still be had in the Essence at a more affordable price.

2021 Buick Envision

Envision Notable Safety Features

Every Envision includes Buick Driver Confidence Plus with nine active safety features. These include automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and lane change alert with side blind zone alert. It’s a comprehensive package that makes key features standard rather than requiring a step up to a higher trim or the addition of an options package.

The 2021 Buick Envision has not yet been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

2021 Buick Envision

Who Should Buy a 2021 Buick Envision?

The Buick Envision is geared toward the crossover buyer who wants a little luxury in their daily driver. It offers a good range of features even in the base Preferred while the top Avenir adds richer trims to the mix.

While the Envision works for families, its elegant interior is best suited to appreciative adults rather than a car full of kids. It’s ideal for empty-nesters or couples who want the versatility of a crossover with the capability of all-wheel drive. There are more opulent crossovers out there, but the Envision delivers a luxury-light experience with a more reasonable price tag.

CarExpert’s Take on the 2021 Buick Envision

The 2021 Buick Envision offers what crossover shoppers crave wrapped in luxury trappings. There’s all-wheel drive for bad weather, plenty of standard safety, and a fully-featured infotainment system. While this crossover is perfectly capable of holding all your stuff, its focus is on people. That includes a smooth quiet ride that makes the cabin of the Envision a refuge from the outside world. While not an over-the-top luxury crossover, the Buick sits toward the high end of the crossover spectrum. It has an attractive, well-equipped interior, especially in the Avenir, with a more budget-friendly price.

2021 Buick Envision

Envision Competitors to Consider

  • Acura RDX
  • Cadillac XT4
  • Infiniti QX50
  • Lexus NX
  • Lincoln Corsair
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Volvo XC90

Photos by Nicole Wakelin


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Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 8.6
Ride Comfort 8.8
Safety 8.5
Fit for Purpose 8.9
Handling Dynamics 8.6
Interior Practicality and Space 8.2
Fuel Efficiency 8.1
Value for Money 8.8
Performance 8
Technology Infotainment 8.5