Auto Review: Buick’s all-new Encore

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., May. 1, 2013
- Contributed Photo

It’s not every week we get to tell you about a completely new automobile, much less one that is also in an entirely new category (in this case, the luxury compact SUV). But Buick has decided to enter this tiny niche in a big way with a new compact SUV called the Encore, and we recently spent a very pleasant week with this sporty, luxurious, and ultimately functional vehicle. Derived from the same “global” platform as the Chevrolet Sonic, the Encore is a very compact package yet well-equipped with the latest bells and whistles and available with Front Wheel or All Wheel Drive. There are four different trim levels, 10 standard airbags and StabiliTrak stability control along with Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning systems (the last two standard on our Premium test unit) round out the Encore’s safety resume. Fuel economy is pretty much the best in the segment, too.

The Encore is one of the most petite SUVs for sale in the U.S. right now, with a 100-inch wheelbase and a 168.5-inch overall length so it slides into small parking spaces and tight garages with ease. The lone engine is a 1.4-liter EcoTec Turbocharged Inline Four that develops 138 horsepower. All models also come with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and our Premium test grade also had All Wheel Drive. Engine response is laudably smooth although it’s no major powerhouse, but in return it’s quite frugal and overall the drivetrain is as polished as one would expect with a luxury nameplate like Buick. Suspension tuning is also impressive in that it doesn’t feel like a gussied up economy car but instead has a supple ride and sharp, satisfying handling. I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the Encore was to drive, and it had the sold feel of a well-built vehicle. Braking performance was also quite good, with short, well-controlled stops in all road conditions.

The Encore interior also shows a lot of attention to detail, especially with the Premium package. Wood grain trim is mixed in with dark and light tones and ice blue ambient lighting, and a 7-inch display for the Intellilink infotainment system resides on top of the central stack. Chrome-ringed blue-on-black analog instruments surround a trip computer in the instrument cluster, and the Bose sound system features the latest voice activation and live streaming technology. The front seating is both supportive and durable with stout leather on our tester, and the rear seats offer a surprising amount of room and overall the accommodations are quite plush. With the rear seats occupied you have 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind them; fold the seatbacks and this expands to 48.4 cubic feet.

Overall our experience with the Encore was a very satisfying one, with the all-new vehicle showing both enjoyable driving dynamics and solid versatility (with fine build quality tossed in for good measure). The 2013 Buick Encore AWD Premium is EPA rated 23 MPG city/30 highway and has a base price of $29,690. With options, our sticker came to $32,230.

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