Is it change for the sake of change that drove Buick to update its 5-passenger Envision SUV after a mere one and a half years on the American market? It might seem unusual to refresh such a new nameplate so quickly after its debut, but zooming out to a macroscopic view of Buick’s developmental gold rush reveals a line-up that is almost entirely yearlings, leaving the Envision as the only vehicle still wearing an old suit.
Although a mild facelift may have been the hauler’s primary focus for the 2019 model year, there are a few other updates that help keep the Envision more than relevant in one of the hottest segments of the automotive industry.
Perhaps the most noticeable change – at least to the budget-conscious premium buyers that the brand is targeting with this crossover – has to do with price. With a new starting sticker of $32,990, it now costs $2,000 less to get behind the wheel of a base model Envision than it did the year before, with additional savings to be found at every single trim level. That’s a fair discount over a comparable sport-utility vehicle from Acura (the RDX) and Lexus (the NX), with the Lincoln MKC coming in at a similar ask.
Surprisingly, even the most affordable Envision gains equipment despite dropping dollars from the cost of entry. The additions are modest, but worth mentioning.
Better HID headlights are now included on every model save for those that are turbocharged, which move to LED emitters, while the fuel-saving engine start/stop system becomes the first in the Buick line-up to benefit from an on/off button. There’s also a newly available in-vehicle air ionization system to keep the cabin from getting stale on longer trips, a better rearview camera, and a cruise control system that can move between adaptive and standard modes.
All of this is on top of carry-over equipment such as in-car Wi-Fi, comfortable leather seating at all five positions, a respectable level of adaptive safety equipment, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Don’t scrutinize the passenger compartment too hard for any visible changes, however – it’s an almost identical clone of the Envision that came before it. On the outside, you’ll notice a new grille, revised fascias, modestly massaged lighting, and updated wheel choices that set the 2019 Buick Envision apart from its predecessors.
There are two engines available for the Buick Envision. Base versions receive a 197-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder while more expensive models benefit from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that produces 252 horses and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.
Invited to Atlanta, Georgia to drive the refreshed Buick, I was only afforded the opportunity to sample turbo-equipped trim levels. In fact, the 2.5-liter ‘bargain’ Envision is a rare beast indeed, almost mythical in its status, and you’ll rarely encounter it even on dealer lots.
This is no bait-and-switch, however, as the turbocharged engine is the one you’ll definitely want. Not only has Buick boosted its torque output by 35 lb.-ft. for 2019, but it also gains a new 9-speed automatic transmission to go with its standard all-wheel drive (leaving last year’s 6-speed to the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter 4-banger).
The mini-mountains built into the Georgian countryside offered plenty of opportunities to trip up the Envision’s more complex gearbox and test the mettle of its meatier powerband. I’m happy to report that, as with the original turbo Envision, the updated one offers plenty of muscle for a vehicle of its size, and its willingness to ascend the lesser peaks of the Appalachians proved to me that, even loaded down with cargo and passengers, it would be capable of keeping up with traffic around it. Handling was also acceptable for a relatively tall-riding people mover like this one.
There is one caveat to this praise. The 9-speed’s uncertainty in selecting the proper ratio when accelerating quickly out of a corner, particularly when tilting towards the vertical on an uphill run, is presumably the cost of preserving fuel economy while increasing power.
Speaking of official ratings, expect the 2019 Envision to hew closely to last year’s 22-mpg combined rating in turbocharged format, and 25 mpg combined from the unchanged 2.5-liter engine.
Comfortable and quiet to drive, relatively inexpensive to purchase compared to more established rivals, and quite practical for families on the go (with nearly 60 cubic feet of total cargo space available), the 2019 Buick Envision maintains the same attributes that have made it a near-instant sales success for the automaker since it was first introduced in late 2016.
In a sea of similarly capable SUVs, it’s difficult to stand out, but this particular Buick doesn’t have to. By focusing on what buyers actually want instead of pushing the envelope on styling or performance, the company has created a logical next-step in the ladder up for subcompact Encore owners looking to trade-in for something bigger.
That this same formula will likely appeal to those considering a shift in loyalties from pricier Japanese premium brands is merely a bonus.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it using the “Join the Conversation” buttons below, and thank you for visiting Daily News Autos.