|Buick has modernized the 2017 Encore with a sharp new grille, LED lighting elements and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I must say it’s even better for 2017. GM just gave it a thorough mid-cycle update including a much more attractive modernized grille, headlights and taillights filled with LEDs, the removal of those silly hood-mounted “ventiports”, and of course new wheels all-round, while its interior gets a number of styling and technical enhancements too, plus it continues to drive very well.
My tester came in near-base Sport Touring trim with few options so it featured the standard 138 horsepower 1.4-litre turbo four with 148 lb-ft of torque, and was only
|Other than new LED taillights the 2017 Encore’s rear styling is much the same. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s quicker off the line than you might expect from such a diminutive engine, this thanks to 100 percent of its twist coming on at just 1,850 rpm and a featherlight (for an SUV) curb weight of only 1,468 kilos (3,237 lbs), but if you really want more jump off the line the optional 153 horsepower version of the same engine (codenamed LE2) can be had in FWD or AWD for just $1,030, and provides auto start/stop to temporarily shut the engine off when it would otherwise be idling.
|A closer look at Buick’s sportier new grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Both engines utilize a nicely sorted six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, the latter probably best left on its own although capable of being manually actuated via a thumb rocker switch atop the otherwise leather and metallic shift knob,
|Nice LED detailing freshens the design while saying goodbye to Buick’s old blue signature bulbs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Likewise the suspension is very compliant, just as anyone who’s experienced a Buick would expect, and the cabin is particularly refined and quiet for such a small SUV, but at the same time the little Encore provides a level of agility that defies its tall, narrow body, easily darting in and out of traffic and a lot of fun on the open road, especially somewhere remote and winding. Like I said, the Encore is one of those vehicles that might not elicit passion at first sight, but is a real joy to live with.
Considering the original 2013 Encore hit the road at $28,680 and last year’s version
|These unique 18-inch alloys replace the standard 18-inch alloys in Sport Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Buick has added much more detail to the rear taillight lenses for a more sophisticated look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Getting past the materials used, it’s the overall design of the interior that will cause a second glance. Ahead of the driver is a redesigned gauge cluster with a bright, colourful 4.2-inch reconfigurable TFT multi-info display as standard, while the pod-like centre stack of the old model has been replaced with a cleaner, simpler design topped off by a very large standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen
|Most should find the Encore’s cabin roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Buick adds ample USB ports for charging devices, but a glance down the centre stack to the climate control interface shows a rudimentary manual system that seems out of place in a wannabe premium brand, especially being that it’s surrounded in big plastic dummy buttons. The six empty buttons get filled as options get added, and the entire interface is upgraded to dual-zone automatic for another $405 in this trim or as standard kit in the Essence and top-line Premium models, but even with a splash of chrome around its dials the HVAC interface doesn’t look like anything from a luxury brand the way it is.
Overall, the cabin is well laid out for four adults in comfort, or five in a pinch. I’m guessing the driver’s seat would be a bit narrow for larger folk, but it fit me quite well,
|The dash top, front and rear door uppers and much of the instrument panel get premium soft touch surfacing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The upholstery in my Sport Touring tester was a mix of contrast-stitched leatherette and textured cloth, the bolsters done in the former and the seat inserts in the latter. Oddly, Buick chose not to include heated front seats in this trim, the just noted Essence and Premium being the only Encore models to get seat warmers despite five available trims. The Sport Touring was therefore devoid of a heatable steering wheel as well.
It was a nice sporty leather-wrapped wheel, however, giving the Encore more of a performance car feel, and I really appreciated the reach of the telescopic column that
|A leather steering wheel, top-tier infotainment and other niceties enhance the Encore cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To be fair, we’re talking about an SUV with an asking price of just $27,895, and for that it gets everything included in the base model, which already comes with the features mentioned earlier as well as standard proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition (optional with most competitors), a six-way powered driver’s seat, and electronic noise cancellation that helps keep Buick’s renowned “Quiet Tuning” as hushed as ever. Another standard feature worth noting is integrated Wi-Fi via
|This 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-info display comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The standard Encore list goes on with features like cruise control, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, decent sounding six-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio, plus all the usual active and passive safety features as well as the rather unusual yet welcome addition of ten standard airbags incorporating front knee blockers and rear seat-mounted side-impact bags.
Even better, the usual standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, which incidentally
|This standard colour infotainment touchscreen measures 8.0 inches across. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Or at least that’s what I thought before I started delving deeper. Seriously, I’m not sure how Buick can explain the existence of its second-rung Preferred trim, because its substantive $2,500 price hike merely buys you carpeted floor mats and a cargo cover. I went back and forth over Buick’s online pricing configurator and detailed specifications and not one additional upgrade gets mention, with even
|The HVAC interface is too rudimentary for this class, but the leather-clad shifter is nice with the bonus of manual control. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Yes, as nicely tarted up as the base Encore is you can only get it in standard Summit White or $495 Ebony Twilight Metallic black with an Ebony black interior, and then Buick will only sell you a $150 oil pan heater, a $130 custom moulded cargo tray, and/or a $20 front license plate mount with this trim-there’s not even an option for a factory block heater, so no one living in one of Canada’s colder provinces need apply.
|Leatherette and cloth seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
More on point, the Sport Touring model tested adds fog lamps, unique 18-inch alloys, remote start, and a rear rooftop spoiler, which once again seems like a pretty skinny upgrade package for the additional $4,500 over base, much of this probably
|Rear seat roominess is quite good, although even the outboard seats nudge up close to the doors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Other features allowable with the move up to Sport Touring include a $150 block heater (meaning Sport Touring trim is the base Encore for most of Canada), the aforementioned
|The Encore’s front seat folds flat allowing long cargo to stretch all the way through.(Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’m not going to go over all the standard and available features in Essence or Premium trims, but suffice to say they can be outfitted at a much higher level, with those aforementioned heatable seats, a powered front passenger seat, driver’s memory, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision alert, and lane departure warning, plus of course they’re priced accordingly, with the a fully loaded Encore Premium listing at $40,210.
Of course, at this price point there are a lot of premium-badged options, even including Buick’s own larger compact Envision. On that note I’d recommend sticking with a lower end Encore as it represents reasonably good value, especially that base model if you can find one. It’s an SUV that may not initially elicit much excitement, but will likely earn your admiration and respect as the miles add up.
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