Buick Envision | Starting price: $34,000
In our modern driving society, crossovers are the station wagons of the ‘70s. Fortunately for us, shape, power, and fuel efficiency have all improved since then, and you don’t get the two kids making awkward faces at you from their rear-facing back seat. I only make the station wagon comparison to say, they’re everywhere. People with or without kids, men and women of all ages and demographics, are driving crossovers.
Enter the Buick Envision: an all-new luxury compact crossover with segment-challenging driving dynamics, advanced technology, connectivity and Buick’s trademark interior acoustics. The Envision is designed from the ground up as a global vehicle. Already in China the vehicle is wildly popular. Introduced earlier this year, it falls somewhere on the size spectrum between the Enclave and Encore, though it’s closer to the Enclave.
The Envision, which shares the same yet thoroughly moderized platform with the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, is everything you expect a Buick to be. Its lines are clean and simple, with its best feature being the waterfall grille. Chrome accents add a little flair and it rides on either 18- or 19-inch wheels.
Inside, more of the Buick-ness comes through with soft-touch surfaces, leather seats with contrast stitching, and dash full of shiny gadgets. The Envision’s interior features a “floating,” wraparound instrument panel that sweeps into the door panels, for a flowing, organic and inviting appearance that complements the exterior. The large center console storage bin features damped dual wing-type doors that provide easier, less-obstructed access and allow the driver or passengers – even those in the rear – to access the storage bin without disturbing the other. With such luxury, it’s easy to see, or envision, yourself driving one!
This crossover is loaded with all the technology you expect, including a standard 8-inch Buick IntelliLink screen, as well as available OnStar with 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Envision exemplifies what Buick does a best: providing a whisper-soft ride, even with the panoramic sunroof open. Whether driving through the suburbs or cruising the freeway, the ride is as pleasant as it can be from within the cabin. It’s great to just sit back, relax, and drive. Steering is easy, but don’t expect sport-like performance. When this crossover first came off the line, there weren’t too many options available. It came outfitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and the Premium trim level. For 2017, you get the additional option of a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine as the base engine, available front-wheel drive, and three lower-priced trim levels. The turbo isn’t short on power, delivering 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque — an excellent pairing with the standard all-wheel drive. Depending on engine type, you’ll get anywhere from 20-29 mpg.
If you’re going to drive a modern station wagon, the Envision is a good place to start.
BMW 3-Series | Starting price: $33,500
To say that the 3-Series is BMW’s bread and butter is an understatement. The current stable of 3 Series includes the 320i, the 328d diesel, the 330i and the most powerful 340i in both 4-door sedan and sport wagon models. Worldwide, the 3-series accounts for about 25 percent of BMW’s total sales, with over 14 million units sold globally. The first 3-series landed in the U.S. back in 1976 as a 1977 model. It had a 2.0-liter engine and 110-horsepower. It’s been going strong ever since.
Forty-something years later, the 3-series maintains its reputation as a fun-to-drive, entry level luxury car — the ultimate driving machine. It remains the standard by which everyone else is measured. The difference now is that customers have a wide array of options, from engine size to body type, from which to choose. Not to mention the technological advances.
The engine range is comprised of gasoline engines with output from 180-320 hp and a diesel engine with 180 hp and an impressive 280 lb-ft of torque. The new modular BMW EfficientDynamics inline 6-cylinder engine in the 340i is equipped with the latest BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, which combines exceptional performance with excellent fuel efficiency. This new BMW EfficientDynamics modular engine will share a common design blueprint, with 4- and 6-cylinder inline cylinder arrangements, a displacement per cylinder of 500 cc and very lightweight, thermally optimized all-aluminum construction.
As far as body styles go, there’s the sedan, the coupe, the wagon, and the truly unique five-door Gran Turismo hatchback. In other words, there’s a 3-series for everybody.
Let’s take a closer look at the new 330i sedan, which is the bread and butter of the bread and butter. You get a the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode. Together, this powertrain delivers 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s a good deal of oomph for people who like to drive.
And drive, it does. It grips corners and hugs curves in true BMW fashion. Its electrically boosted steering can only be described as laser focused. The re-tuned suspension delivers on improved roll and stability without sacrificing feel. Fuel economy is rated at 23/34 mpg.
Visually, the 330i has clean, sporty, sculpted lines, with LED headlamps now available. Its aggressive stance tells the story of both its reputation and history.
The driver-oriented cabin provides optimum access to all the important functions. The outstanding ergonomics of the BMW 3 Series have been improved further. Carefully arranged chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces give the interior an even cleaner look. The center console now comes in high-gloss black and also features new ambient lighting with an even greater feeling of quality with additional chrome applications.
Base price for the 330i starts at $39,745 and tops out at $47,645 if you want features like keyless entry, a sunroof, satellite radio, navigation, heated seats, etc.
But for the most part, you’ll want this car for the driving experience alone.
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Category: New Automobiles