By Bob Nagy - Updated Date: 12/17/2012
A well-mannered, well-finished compact crossover SUV that goes on sale in February, the 2013 Buick Encore expands the division's reach into an entirely new market segment. Intended to capture the hearts and minds of both younger urban buyers as well as empty nesters that want a versatile vehicle but no longer need an Enclave-scaled SUV with seating for seven, the 5-passenger Encore matches premium character with an accommodating interior and attractive pricing. Powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the Encore delivers exceptional fuel economy in both front-wheel-drive (FWD) and available all-wheel-drive (AWD) configurations. Collectively, those admirable qualities should serve it well against key rivals like the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Mini Countryman, Nissan Rogue and Volkswagen Tiguan.You'll Like This Car If...
Fans of basic Buick panache will find plenty to favor in the new Encore, thanks to its combination of refinement and comfort complemented by a bounty of standard/available features, solid value orientation and outstanding fuel economy.
Some will find alternatives with more horsepower preferable to any potential fuel-economy gains the Encore has to offer. This new Buick's lack of a tow rating also may be a deal breaker for those who demand a vehicle with light-duty trailering capabilities.What's New for 2013
Armed with an attractive package that Buick believes will appeal to a wide range of both the young and younger-thinking mature buyers, the Encore provides the automaker with a more than competitive entry in the hot-and-growing compact crossover SUV arena.Driving It Driving Impressions
Spun from GM's small global small-crossover platform, the Buick Encore's solid core structure, well-sorted suspension and electrically boosted power steering endow it with a confident and well-controlled feel that properly complements its quiet, comfortable passenger compartment. This enlightened chassis tuning delivers a smooth ride in cruise mode and keeps body roll well in check when negotiating corners while the Encore's generously proportioned 215/55 low-rolling-resistance tires – on 18-inch alloy wheels – serve up a surprisingly high level of grip. As for caveats, the 1.4-liter EcoTec engine in this versatile Buick hauler proved quite capable of holding its own in city traffic and freeway running, but the added mass of the all-wheel-drive system does impact its enthusiasm, particularly when the passenger count rises or on sustained uphill runs.
QUIET TUNING WITH ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION
In addition to the benefitting from Buick's highly-efficient Quiet Tuning regimen, the Encore introduces a new element to the mix: Active Noise Cancellation circuitry that effectively filters out low-frequency engine sounds to ensure an even more serene passenger compartment.
"ACTIVE ON-DEMAND" ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Available on all Encore variants, this computer-controlled AWD system automatically engages the all-wheel drive as surface conditions dictate as well as each time the vehicle stops to ensure smoother off-the-line acceleration. If no slip is present, it progressively disengages to promote better fuel economy.
The Encore's passenger compartment displays the same kind of upscale ambiance and Buick character cues found in all of the division's latest offerings – packaging that's effectively complemented by an even more sophisticated variation on the Quiet Tuning theme. Whether rendered in cloth and leatherette or available leather, the well-finished, well-appointed cabin rich in soft-touch surfaces offers room for five with a 60/40 split rear bench that accommodates two average-sized adults plus a kid in the center spot. The Encore's large hatch provides easy access to its 18.8-cubic-foot cargo bay, which expands to 48.4 cubic feet with the aft seatbacks folded.Exterior
A bastion of 21st century Buick styling cues – from its waterfall grille and faux portholes to painted lower body panels – the new Encore puts a more contemporary spin on each of these elements to create a package that's skewed towards a more youthful, progressive mind-set. The Encore's highly sculpted bodywork and a tasteful assortment of bright accent bits are effectively set off by prominent blue-accented projector beam headlights and LED-infused taillights. Brushed-aluminum faux front/rear skid plates and an 18-inch wheel/tire fitment add a bit more aggressive flair to the overall mix.Notable Standard Equipment
The well-equipped base Encore includes numerous power assists, air conditioning, Buick IntelliLink telematics with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, a tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control, a power driver's seat, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a rear-view camera, and more. The Encore Convenience trim level adds dual-zone climate control, remote starting and fog lights, while the Encore Leather trim nets the obvious plus heated front bucket seats/steering wheel, a power passenger seat and driver-seat memory. The top-line Encore Premium boasts Bose audio, front/rear park assist and Forward Collision Alert/Lane Departure Warning. All models feature StabiliTrak, OnStar with six months of Directions and Connections and 10 airbags.
Largely prepackaged within its base/Convenience/Leather/Premium hierarchy, the Buick Encore does offer several individual extras. All but the base model can be fitted with a GPS-enabled navigation system, a power sunroof, an oil-pan heater and 18-inch chrome-alloy wheels as well as the 7-speaker premium Bose Audio system – which is already included in the Encore Premium kit.
Every version of the Buick Encore, whether front-drive or all-wheel drive, shares the same basic powertrain. The engine is GM's familiar 1.4-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. Here, it's paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that features manual-style shifting capabilities via a lever-mounted rocker switch on front-drive Encore models. The combination yields respectable acceleration and impressive EPA figures for a vehicle of its type, with front-drive Encores earning 25 mpg/33 mpg stats on the city/highway cycles and AWD models netting 23/30 mpg numbers. To complement its mileage-maxing prowess, the engine is designed to run on regular gasoline, not the premium grade required by many of the Encore's chief rivals.
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
138 horsepower @ 4,900 rpm
148 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850-4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg (FWD), 23/33 mpg (AWD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2013 Buick Encore starts at just under $25,000. Moving up the line, the Encore Convenience opens around $25,800, the Encore Leather commands close to $27,500 and the Encore Premium commences just below $29,000. All-wheel drive on any version will add $1,500, and a fully-loaded top-line Encore will hit the street just below $34,000. Although not the lowest priced among its competitive set, the Encore does become a far more compelling value when you factor in its more extensive roster of standards in each trim grade, including features like IntelliLink telematics, Active Noise Cancellation and a rear-view camera, not to mention potential savings in fuel costs. On sale early in 2013, Kelley Blue Book has not yet established a resale value for the Encore. However, residuals on the full-size Buick Enclave have tended to fall slightly below other vehicles in its segment.