Chinese-built 2016 Buick Envision: priced against BMW, Audi, Mercedes?

April 20, 2016

GM’s Chinese-assembled vehicle for the U.S. market, the 2016 Buick Envision, faces more than its country of origin when it begins arriving at dealerships by June of this year: Those who encounter some of the first Envision models are bound for a bit of sticker shock.

The entry point for the 2016 Envision lineup is the Premium I model, at $42,995, or $43,490 with an upgraded IntelliLink system that includes navigation.

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That’s $1,050 more than the base price of an all-wheel-drive BMW X3, $1,120 more than a Mercedes-Benz GLC300 with 4Matic, and $1,070 more than an Audi Q5 Premium—all models that are sized about the same as the Envision on the outside.

And it’s more than a five-grand price premium versus the Lexus NX200t and Acura RDX.

Price-tag insanity; pretty decent feature list

As hard as that price tag might be to stomach, the Buick from Yantai does come with a robust standard-feature list, with many things that add to the bottom line in those other models—such as heated front and rear seats, tri-zone climate control, Bose premium sound, remote start, and a heated steering wheel.

For 2016, all Envision models come powered by an all-aluminum 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine, making 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and there’s a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that finesses grip not just between front and rear wheels but between left and right.

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2016 Buick Envision, 2016 Detroit Auto Show

2016 Buick Envision, 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Before you start to ponder whether this is worth more than the most prestigious from Germany and Japan, consider that there’s even a step up from that model. The 2016 Envision Premium II model costs $45,635, and it adds a lot of extras, many of which do drive the price of those German models far higher—including ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and HID headlamps.

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With the $1,540 Driver Confidence Package (adaptive cruise control, surround vision, and front automatic braking) and premium paint ($395), the Premium II costs $47,575.

Perhaps easier to envision spending on the 2017 Envision

Things change, a little bit, by October, when the 2017 Buick Envision arrives. The 2017 Envision will start with a front-wheel-drive Convenience model, at around $37k. These models won’t include nearly as many standard features—leather is a step up—and they’ll be powered by a 2.5-liter non-turbo I-4 engine, and all-wheel drive will be optional. With the base Envision weighing in at about 3,900 pounds, don’t expect these models to be particularly quick or confident.

GM has released full pricing and specs for the 2017 Envision even ahead of the 2016 model’s market arrival, all in the interest of transparency, explained Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle. “With any launch, we’ll launch with the more equipped ones first,” he said. “There just happens to be a change in the model year in the middle of it.”

Is this all very wishful thinking for GM, or are American shoppers' perceptions about Buick and Chinese origins rapidly changing? The market shall soon tell. 

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