2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore Review

Cruising Atlanta in Buick's newest crossover.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: April 19th, 2013

The story of small luxury crossover SUVs is a familiar one by now--rising fuel prices and the use of car-based platforms that help automakers give these small SUVs a car-like ride have made them popular. And buyers who need SUV utility but don't want to sacrifice the best attributes of a car have been snapping these little utes up in droves.

While the crossover SUV story may be familiar, the Buick Encore is not. All-new for 2013, the Encore rides on a global compact SUV platform--a platform that is distinct from the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain twins.

Meant to slot below the larger Enclave, the five-seat Encore isn't just meant to be a smaller alternative to the other vehicle. At least, that's not how Buick sees it. Based on marketing materials, Buick wants consumers to think of the Encore as an affordable luxury vehicle that's nimble around town. We spent some time cruising around Atlanta and the surrounding area to find out if they accomplished the mission.

  • On the Road

    The Encore has just one available engine--a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower. It provides strong enough punch in around-town driving, but it runs out of breath just a bit when passing or climbing a hill.

    On the freeway, the Encore shines--its ride is smooth, but never soft; it glides along serenely without the float and wallow of Buicks past. Much of our wheel time was spent on interstates and state highways, and the Encore finds its groove nicely in those situations.

    Handling is a bit different. Buick presents the Encore as a nimble, small-SUV alternative to larger crossovers, and it is nimble--at least during around-town driving. Take the Encore to a back road, switch off the traction control, and push it hard through a corner, and the Encore reacts as if it's allergic to fun. The rear end tries to slide loose, or, alternatively, too much understeer intrudes. There's plenty of body lean, too (our tester was a front-wheel-drive Encore--all-wheel-drive is also available).

    Of course, the Encore wasn't built for that type of driving, so it shouldn't be surprising that it can't handle it all that well. This is a small family-hauler with near-luxury intentions, not an SUV with a sports-car pedigree.

    Keep the Encore in cruise mode and you'll be happy, especially if you need to eat a lot of interstate miles.

  • Exterior

    Buick insists on imbuing all its models with the same styling statements. The waterfall grille, the portholes on the hood--all the elements are there. So are LED headlights. The Encore has a curvy, tall roofline; and it looks a little like a baby Enclave, with subtle differences, such as a more smushed (and more aggressive) front end.

  • Interior

    The cockpit is laden with features, such as Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system and a heated steering wheel. Its look and layout is fairly familiar to those who have spent time in other Buick products of recent vintage. Most controls are easy to reach and easy to use, although it took us a while to figure out that pushing the tuning knob inwards was the way to confirm menu selections in the infotainment system, and we also had a hard time finding the USB port (hidden in an in-dash storage bin). We do like the nav system that constantly updates predicted arrival times based on traffic conditions.

    Thanks to the tall greenhouse, headroom isn't an issue, even for taller drivers. Legroom upfront is also plentiful, and we were pleasantly surprised by rear-seat legroom and headroom.

  • Final Thoughts

    Establishing a presence in a class where it hasn't tread before can be difficult for an automaker, but Buick got this one right. It offers a lot of features without breaking the bank, it's nimble around town, and it's roomy and comfortable enough. We applaud GM for using a global platform instead of giving a GMC Terrain Buick badging and a Buick interior. That's not because the Terrain isn't good--it is actually one of our favorite small crossovers--but because Buick has isolated itself against claims of badge-engineering.

    Of course, with a foot-shorter wheelbase and about 17 inches less overall length, the Encore is smaller than the Terrain, making it ideal for urban maneuvering. Imagine, real choice between two similarly-priced GM vehicles in the same class.

    Should you choose the Encore, there's a lot to recommend it, especially if your commute is urban. The Encore may be new, but it doesn't take long to become familiar.

  • Specs, Features, and Prices

    Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive (all-wheel-drive available)

    Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway

    Base Price: $28,190

    As-tested price: $30,925 (includes $750 destination)

    Available Features: Bluetooth, navigation, IntelliLink infotainment system, USB port, fog lamps, Pandora internet radio, heated steering wheel, 18-inch aluminum wheels, roof rack, satellite radio, front and rear park assist, dual-zone climate control, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, forward collision alert, lane departure warning.

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