Review: 2020 Buick Encore GX
Buick gives Encore an encore with new GX crossover
Ford EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Expedition.
Buick Encore, Envision, Enclave.
Maybe GM has run out of e-names, because here’s the Buick Encore GX.
Just a gussied-up Encore?
They’re both built in South Korea, but don’t share a single nut.
Just the name.
Marketing people get paid way more to make these decisions than I do to question them…
GM calls the non-GX Encore a “subcompact” crossover, so the Encore GX, my tester, I guess becomes a “subcompact-plus” crossover.
It’s a millimetre-by-millimetre wheelbase difference business out there…
Encore GX starts at $26,098 for a front-drive “Preferred” trim level. My tester, a range-topping “Essence” which only comes with part-time selectable four-wheel drive, checked just about every option box and listed at $38,373.
It is built on a new platform, shared with Chevy’s recently launched Trailblazer.
It’s a handsome little thing, with a bit more character than the two-box concept of most in this class.
My tester sported a lovely “Dark Moon Blue Metallic” paint job with sparklies in it.
It’s equally handsome inside, with perforated leather seating surfaces, matte-black dash top to reduce reflections into the windshield, and also matte-finished metallic door handles and HVAC vents.
The photos here show what the dash looks like — well-designed, with clear gauges and a ton of choices for information displays.
As usual with modern cars, you’ll be months into ownership and still be discovering stuff.
My tester had all the nanny systems, but they’re easy to shut off if you don’t want them. I don’t.
Same for the head-up display.
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to seven devices highlight the high-techery.
Amazon’s Alexa is available if you’ve got a weekend to spend learning how to use it.
It isn’t quite “natural speech,” but it’s getting there.
Most minor controls are by the dreaded push buttons. At least radio volume and the HVAC system have proper round knobs so you can work them without taking your eyes off the road.
You’ll have lots of places to store stuff, with cup holders and cubby bins galore.
Allergy sufferers will rejoice over the air ionizer system which helps remove pollen and dust from the car.
The front seats are really short in cushion length, so if you like lots of thigh support, this might not be your car. I found it acceptable (I’m five-foot-10), but I didn’t take any long trips.
The main dimensional difference between Encore and Encore GX is wheelbase. This translates into decent rear seat legroom for two (three is a bit of a squeeze).
The rear seat-back split-folds one-third/two-thirds, and the front passenger seat can fold flat for added luggage-carrying flexibility.
The two-level trunk also has decent capacity.
A button on the driver’s door lets you open the power liftgate all the way, halfway (for those low apartment garage ceilings) or to shut it off altogether. Not sure why you’d want that.
The 1.3-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine produces a modest 155 horsepower at 5,600 r.p.m., but a healthy 174 lb.-ft. of torque, which peaks at a low 1,600 r.p.m. and stays pretty much at that level until 4,000.
It scores 9.0 l/100 km city, 8.0 l/100 km highway.
The lowest number I recorded was 8.1; interesting that this was a bit worse than the bigger Jeep Cherokee I tested immediately beforehand.
As they say, “your mileage may differ.”
Sometimes you get into a car, and it just feels right. Both Lady Leadfoot and myself felt this way about the Encore GX.
The engine feels surprisingly peppy with no marked turbo lag. That low peak torque peak r.p.m. number helps here.
It is also surprisingly quiet, not as raspy as most three-bangers.
It cruises at common (if not technically legal) highway speeds with ease.
The nine-speed autobox has a ratio for every purpose; drive gently and you might never see three grand…
You can switch to manual shift mode, but in a car like this, I’m not sure why you’d want to.
The ride is on the firm side by historical Buick standards, but I’ll take that every time.
The steering is light and precise, and the car’s small size makes it feel nimble.
The “AWD” button on the console locks the car into four-wheel drive mode; otherwise, it’s an on-demand deal.
Good weather during my test didn’t give me much chance to test this, but quick acceleration runs on a gravel road with and without the system engaged showed it can make a difference.
So, how does one choose from what must be a dozen smallish crossovers currently available?
They’ve all been market-researched to death, so all offer roughly the same features at similar prices.
Let me make that decision a bit tougher by recalling an old Buick ad slogan: “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?”
In the case of the Encore GX, you just might.
Jim Kenzie is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star.