CARS.COM — What do you do when you’re one of the biggest automakers and your near-luxury brand is growing in your home market, yet you find yourself without a vehicle to participate in the hottest segment of that market? Starting next summer, GM plans to import the midsize Buick Envision SUV from China to the U.S. to fill that gap.
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The Envision, built and successfully sold in China, shares many components with the Regal midsize sedan, and is meant to compete against car-based, front-wheel-biased luxury crossover SUVs like the Lexus RX and Lincoln MKX. While the Envision is a midsize SUV, it doesn’t share a platform with the current Chevrolet Equinox or the GMC Terrain, its GM siblings.
In its Chinese-market form, the Envision uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making a healthy 252 horsepower, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with standard all-wheel drive; this will carry over to the U.S. It’s been popular in China, selling more than 100,000 SUVs since its introduction. In the U.S., it would slot between the subcompact Encore SUV and the full-size Enclave, and still leave room for a compact-based SUV along the lines of a Lincoln MKC or Acura RDX.
What’s garnering the most attention, however, is that GM is will continue to build the SUV at its plant in Yantai, China, making it the first vehicle in the automaker’s lineup to be imported from China to the U.S. This is about building vehicles where it makes sense to build them — tooling up a plant in North America to build the Envision, which may sell around 50,000 or so in the U.S. if it’s successful, would be unnecessarily expensive when there’s a perfectly good source of Envisions in China right now.
With the plan, GM is leveraging its global footprint to quickly bring a product to market, and it’s a smart business decision.
For shoppers, what matters is how the Envision rides, drives and handles. It’s a competitive segment dominated by the Lexus RX, but there’s room for more players. People who have driven the Envision have told me that it’s extraordinarily quiet, and Buick representatives claim that it feels like a tall Regal GS — not a bad place to start from; the Regal GS turbo is an outstanding car to drive, not unlike an Audi A4 in its execution. The Envision’s interior finish also looks quite good, with premium materials and Buick’s IntelliLink multimedia system front and center.
The new Envision is slated to arrive next summer, but we should get our first good look at it at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.