Buick might be the world’s most global brand. Yes, Buick, General Motors’ problem child that only continues to exist due to its relevance in China. Granted, it’s been part of the Chinese market…

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD Road Test

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
This is the final year for the first-generation Buick Encore, but it’s still a very relevant and popular subcompact SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Buick might be the world’s most global brand. Yes, Buick, General Motors’ problem child that only continues to exist due to its relevance in China. Granted, it’s been part of the Chinese market since emperors ruled, while the brand more recently positioned itself well as a purveyor of true premium products that suited Chinese market tastes to a tee, both stylistically and luxuriously, but China isn’t the only reason Buick can claim such jet-setting status.

The Regal GS (see the latest version here) I most recently reviewed, for instance, was designed cooperatively by GM’s German and Australian divisions, with input from its Chinese and North American operations, and assembled in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and Shanghai, China, for the Chinese market, the latter factory also producing the LaCrosse that I tested and reviewed way back in 2017 (see the 2019 LaCrosse here), although our version of Buick’s flagship sedan is built in GM’s Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The design might be aging, but it’s tall profile makes it very spacious inside despite being one of the smaller SUVs in its class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Even more exotic, the compact Envision crossover SUV (see the updated version here) I covered the same year, while related to the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, was mostly designed and produced in China, and is actually the first mass-produced vehicle to follow that Chinese production path (not without ever-changing regulation challenges).

The only American-made vehicle to remain under the Buick brand after the LaCrosse is discontinued later this year will be the mid-size three-row Enclave SUV (see the redesigned Enclave here), produced in Lansing, Michigan. Even the upcoming mid-size five-passenger Envoy, based on the new Chevy Blazer, will likely hail from GM’s Coahuila, Mexico facility, where the Blazer is currently built, but it’s possible the new Enspire, slated to fit between the Encore and Envision, will be built at the GM Fairfax plant in Kansas, being that initial plans to bring it over from China aren’t looking as appealing as they once did.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
Buick added its revised grille for the Encore’s 2017 mid-cycle update, and we think it looks much better. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, the Encore being reviewed here is the product of GM’s South Korean enterprise that resulted from taking over Daewoo, and is built in Bupyeong-Gu, Incheon alongside the Chevy Trax, which is virtually the same vehicle under the skin.

The Encore will be completely redesigned for 2020, although we won’t see it until spring. The current model hasn’t changed noticeably since it was given a thorough and attractive refresh for 2017, with its basic underpinnings remaining unchanged since it first came on the scene in 2012. I’ve tested it all the way through the years, and always enjoyed it for what it was and still is, a comfortable yet surprisingly quick, highly fuel-efficient, well-featured, roomy little urban runabout with decent all-season capabilities.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
These 7-spoke chrome alloy wheels are optional with top-line Essence trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For the reasons just stated, I think the Encore is one of the smarter vehicles to buy in its subcompact near luxury class, at least for those of us who prefer a bit of premium pampering. The 2019 model starts at a mere $26,400 plus freight and fees, and tops out at just over $41k with all options and most useful accessories added, which is where most others in the luxury subcompact SUV class start off, but to be fair to the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 et al, the little Buick is not fully in this class.

First off, it’s a Buick, and outside of China the name doesn’t conjure up as much prestige as Cadillac, which unfortunately doesn’t wow the neighbours as much as one of those just-noted German brands, or for that matter Lexus. Lexus just entered this market with a model that more closely targets the type of comfort/efficiency-first buyer that the Encore attracts, and the UX has quickly run up the sales charts to displace Audi’s Q3 in third behind the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, or fourth if we include the Encore in this list, but once again it’s priced closer to mainstream volume-branded subcompact SUVs than anything in the luxury sector, so it would be unfair to do so.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
Essence trim provides the no-cost option of a two-tone leather interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Just the same, with 10,637 Encores sold in Canada last year it continues to do pretty well in the mainstream sector too, placing fifth out of 17 volume-branded subcompact SUVs in 2018, with all others priced cheaper, excepting the near-luxury Mini Countryman that starts at $31,690 and reaches over $50k before adding accessories. That top-line Mini is one of the best performing subcompact SUVs at any price, however, where Buick’s buyers are more interested in comfort, quietness, and fuel efficiency, as noted earlier.

If you hadn’t already noticed, the Encore is small. In fact, it’s smaller than both Countryman generations, the older Mini not as large as the current one, and smaller than all premium-branded subcompact SUVs. Nevertheless, it’s larger than Honda’s HR-V, Kia’s Soul, Ford’s EcoSport and a few other mainstream subcompact SUVs, while it’s smaller than Nissan’s Qashqai, Toyota’s C-HR and Jeep’s Compass, in fact sized closer to Mitsubishi’s RVR, Nissan’s Kicks and Hyundai’s Kona, and almost identically to Jeep’s Renegade and Mazda’s CX-3. Yet it’s tall, so much so that few will run out of headroom, while its available cargo capacity is surprisingly generous.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The updated instrument panel gets luxurious soft-touch elements and very good infotainment. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

With all seats lowered the Encore can haul up to 1,371 litres (48.4 cubic feet) of gear, and the 60/40-split rear seats lay flatter than most rivals thanks to a folding process requiring each lower rear cushion to be flipped forward first, before manually lowering each headrest, and then tucking each backrest in behind. The process is a bit more labourious than most competitors, but the final result makes it well worth the effort. Buick dedicates 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) to cargo behind those rear seats, which is about as much as a full-size sedan’s trunk. Even better, for those moments when you need to transport something really long and awkward, like some extra 2x4s for the extension you’re building or that perfect area rug you saw at the country fair or garage sale, you can lay the front seatback flat as well for up to 2.4 metres (8.0 ft) of extra storage. The Encore’s passenger/cargo flexibility truly makes it a practical companion to ease daily life.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The nicely shaped, thick-rimmed steering wheel is made from particularly soft leather, and even includes a heated rim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you want something easy to drive, with excellent sightlines in all directions thanks to a tall ride height and large greenhouse, you can’t get much better than the Encore. Its ride is very good, a Buick trademark, soaking up road irregularities with ease, while its MacPherson strut front and compound crank (torsion beam) rear suspension proved agile enough too, not so much as some of its fully independent sprung premium competitors, but easily up to most of its volume-branded rivals. Buick’s QuietTuning makes a real difference when it comes to reducing road and wind noise, of course, thanks in part to standard active noise cancellation, but it also adds to the Encore’s feel of quality, this process requiring more insulation than average, which results in a sense of solidity and better than average workmanship.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The mostly conventional gauge cluster includes a fairly large colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Buick can outfit your Encore with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter costing $2,000 and therefore boosting the base model’s price up to $28,400, while the standard 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine can have its sequential multi-port fuel injection replaced with Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI), which raises output from 138 to 153 horsepower and torque from 148 lb-ft to 177, and its six-speed automatic transmission upgraded to include Start-Stop technology that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and automatically restarts it when the brake pedal is let off, all for just $1,030 extra.

My tester included both upgrades and the combination made a massive difference off the line (especially in the wet), when powering up to highway speeds, when exiting corners and during passing manoeuvres, transforming the feel of the little SUV from a eco-commuter SUV into a feisty little pocket rocket. With a curb weight of 1,386 kilos (3,056 lbs) the AWD model doesn’t need a lot of power to get moving, while its overall lightness makes the Encore easy to slot through congested city traffic too, not to mention it helps keep fuel costs down.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
Buick’s infotainment interface is easy to use, fast, and fully featured. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Transport Canada rates the base FWD model at 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 8.7 combined, while the same engine with AWD is good for 9.9 city, 8.1 highway and 9.1 combined. Offsetting the extra power of SIDI with auto idle-stop actually reduces overall fuel use to 8.9 city, 7.5 highway and 8.3 combined with the FWD model or 9.4, 7.9 and 8.8 respectively with the top-line AWD SIDI version, making this upgrade a true “have your cake and eat it too” scenario.

The automatic gearbox, which shifts nicely and is a lot more enjoyable to drive than a continuously variable transmission or CVT, especially when factoring in the thumb-actuated rocker switch that allows for do-it-yourself manual mode after pulling the shift lever to its rearmost position, adds sporty feel to the driving experience, albeit only a little. Rev too high and the engine is a bit on the buzzy side, normal in this class amongst entry-level SUVs. Interestingly, the transmission will hold its gear in manual mode without shifting if you so desire, which does add an element of sportiness that most of its competitors don’t allow for, but all said the Encore is best enjoyed at a more relaxed pace, where it makes the most of its compliant ride and overall comfort.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
Dual-zone automatic climate control is expected at the Encore’s price point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Encore includes one throwback feature that shows its age, a well-made, sturdy handbrake lever between the two front seats, that’s not leather-wrapped incidentally. It’ll likely give way to an electromechanical one for the next-generation Encore, but I certainly didn’t mind seeing it there and almost used it all week without noticing.

While the handbrake is a non-issue, the rake and reach of the Encore’s tilt and telescopic steering column is a definite bonus. It allowed me to set up the driver’s position ideally for my long-legged, shorter torso five-foot-eight body, that, when matched up with its power-actuated driver’s seat, resulted in a comfortable driving position that also left me fully in control. To be clear, only the lower cushion is powered with the backrest needing manual recline, while the two-way powered lumbar support just happened to meet the small of my back quite well. This said it might not line up with your lower back, or at least not the way you like it, so you may want to check this feature during your test drive. Hopefully Buick will offer four-way lumbar adjustment in the upcoming 2020 model.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The Encore’s 6-speed automatic is more engaging than a CVT, while its thumb-actuated manual mode makes it even sportier. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As mentioned, those front seats are very comfortable, the driver’s even providing a minivan-style folding armrest, but other than their Shale beige leather upholstery (Ebony black or Brandy wine are available too) and nice contrast stitching there’s nothing fancy about them. For instance, there’s no forced ventilation or even perforations in the leather to cool off during summer, but the three-way seat warmers were downright therapeutic in there hottest setting, and the heatable steering wheel could be set up to automatically turn on with the ignition. I love that, and only wish the seats would do likewise.

Buick simplified the Encore for 2019, with Preferred, Sport Touring and Essence trims, the base model including 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a large 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporating a rearview camera with active guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and many other features, while additional standard features include a hard cargo cover and 10 airbags to go along with other passive and active safety features, while the move up to $28,400 Sport Touring trim adds fog lamps, a rear rooftop sport spoiler, and remote engine start.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The driver’s seat is comfortable, but could use more premium functions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My tester was outfitted in top-tier $31,700 Essence trim, albeit with AWD and the upgraded engine so its base increased to $34,730. Essence features include a heated steering wheel rim, heated (front) leather-upholstered seats with driver’s memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and side blind zone alert with rear cross-traffic alert.

The last two items can be had in the two lesser trims as part of a Safety Package, along with a three-prong household-style 120-volt power outlet located at the rear of the centre console, while my Essence trimmed tester was upgraded with the $1,110 New Safety Package II incorporating the above items as well as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, an air ionizer, plus front and rear parking assist. It also featured the $3,050 Experience Buick Plus Package, which first removes $650 because it includes everything in the just-noted New Safety Package II, while adding special seven-spoke 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels, a navigation system, and a powered glass sunroof.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The Encore’s rear seating area is spacious and fairly comfortable for its size. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It all made for a nice little subcompact luxury utility, with a better interior than you’ll find in most non-premium rivals and only slightly short from achieving the interior finishing of the true luxury set. Details like fabric-wrapped A-pillars set it apart, while its soft-touch dash top and door uppers, both front and back, are nicer than average too, as is the beautifully padded and stitched leatherette instrument panel bolster that begins to the left of the primary gauge cluster before visually continuing below the centre touchscreen and then widening as it crosses ahead of the front passenger.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The rear seats take a bit of work to fold down, but the process results in a truly flat load floor with more cargo room than most rivals. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The dash looks elegant and provides a good background for the instruments, the gauge cluster traditional in layout, with an analogue tachometer to the left and speedometer to the right, plus the usual gas and temperature gauges hovering over a nice full-colour multi-information display that’s quite comprehensive in its capability, albeit not a more modern fully digital gauge cluster as offered by a number of premium brands.

A sporty, thick, nicely shaped steering wheel frames the gauges elegantly, while the leather it’s wrapped in feels very upscale. The attractive satin-silver trim that’s added to the lower portion of the wheel feels cool to the touch and therefore comes off as genuine aluminum. There’s more on the instrument panel as well as chromed door handles to bling things up, as well as some de rigueur piano black lacquer tastefully applied in key areas.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
If you want to transport longer items, merely drop the front seatback as well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The centre touchscreen shows off Buick’s latest interface design that mimics Chevy’s impressive system layout, albeit with fewer colours and a more sophisticated looking blue on black look. Both work well, with this one providing accurate navigation, easy to use audio functions, a good backup camera with aforementioned active guidelines, plus more, but there was no overhead camera option, which was a bit disappointing in this class and price point. Also disappointing was its lack of wireless smartphone charging capability (aren’t we getting spoiled), but I suppose it wouldn’t have been easy to fit one in as the rubberized tray provided at the base of the centre stack wasn’t even large enough to fit my medium-sized Samsung S9 smartphone. Yes, this SUV’s age does show through here and there, but at least there were USB charge ports close by, not to mention an auxiliary input and 12-volt charger.

2019 Buick Encore Essence AWD
The Encore is a truly practical all-season urban runabout. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I imagine Buick will take care of wireless charging and the other shortcomings I’ve mentioned thus far in the upcoming second-generation Encore, but they don’t need to update the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which uses traditional buttons and knobs for all functions, resulting in an easier process than being forced to hunt around for the same features in an infotainment interface.

I’ve allowed myself to get a bit more granular with this review than I planned to, but the Encore deserves this attention to detail. It might be an old model on its way out, but this little Buick represents very good value in every respect, which is no doubt why it sells so well. You can choose to wait until spring 2002 for the new one, which will likely improve on this aging Encore in every way, or you can opt for tried and tested.

No doubt Buick would be happy no matter which of these two choices you make, but to sway you towards the 2019 they’re offering up to $5,390 in additional incentives. To learn more, check out CarCostCanada where you can find pricing on all trims, packages and individual options, plus information on available manufacturer rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing.

If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of…

2019 Buick Regal GS Road Test

2019 Buick Regal GS
This is the new face of Buick, and it’s a particularly handsome one at that. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of four- and five-door models currently getting axed by General Motors, and the fact that its European Opel and Vauxhall Insignia twins will soon need to disappear due to an August 2017 sale of the two brands to France’s Groupe PSA, it’s quite possible we’ll see this change at some point in the future (our Regal is manufactured in Rüsselsheim, Germany after all), but a 2020 Buick Regal is slated to go on sale shortly, so at the very least we’ll enjoy it for another year. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The Regal’s elegant lines come standard, but this GS model’s sportier additions really make it stand out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I use the word “enjoy” because this mid-size near-luxury sedan is truly a joy to look at, and possibly even better to drive. It helps that my tester was in top-line GS trim, and therefore is one of the mid-size family sedan segment’s sportier cars. It’s also not technically a sedan, but rather a five-door hatchback, Buick choosing to call it a Sportback. As a quick side note they make a raised five-door sport wagon/crossover variant (à la Subaru Outback and Volvo V90 Cross Country) for the U.S. (and Euro markets, plus Australia and New Zealand where the two body styles are sold as the Holden Commodore) dubbed TourX, but just like in China where Buick finds its most ardent followers (and builds its Regal at the SAIC-GM assembly plant in Shanghai), we only get this four-door coupe-like sedan. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
In a rare feat of design mastery, the Regal’s rear angle looks just as good as its front. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Despite its attractive styling and strong performance, the Regal is either one of the least popular cars from a mainstream volume brand or a fairly strong selling luxury model, depending on how you categorize it. With a base price of $32,045 (plus destination and fees), most competitors start $3,000 to $7,000 more affordably, while similarly priced mid-size sedans from volume brands do about the same or worse when it comes to sales numbers. Still, the Regal doesn’t quite measure up to premium status or refinement levels (GM’s Cadillac division occupies that space), so the unique model’s market exclusivity is understandable (see all 2019 Buick Regal pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The red “GS” insignia and LED headlamps come standard with this top-tier model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Regal GS pictured here starts at a cool $44,045 plus freight and fees and goes up to $51,700 with all options (and a couple of cool accessories added), which while a steal compared to a comparatively sized and equipped premium-branded model, is a fair jump up the desirability ladder from a fully loaded Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Fusion, the top-three sellers in this category, but its fully loaded price is just $205 more than a completely optioned out Kia Stinger and actually $1,880 less than VW’s new Arteon with all features added. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The design details are fabulous! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Granted the top-tier Stinger is a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6-powered AWD super-beast capable of hitting 100 km/h from standstill in just 4.9 seconds, but the 310-horsepower Regal GS’ is plenty respectable at 5.6 seconds from zero to 100km/h, which is (believe it or not) better than the legendary Regal Grand National GNX and about the same as the 265-horsepower Arteon, which is 300 kilos (about 660 lbs) lighter. These acceleration times are estimates, of course, with some manufacturers more conservative than others, Buick seeming not to want to set anyone’s hopes too high considering the GS’ 3.6-litre V6 engine’s generous power rating, not to mention its 282 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Yes, you’re looking at Brembo brakes behind those sharp looking 19-inch rims. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, there’s a lot more that makes each of these impressive cars worthy of your attention, and much that sets them apart from their more conventional family sedan peers. I won’t turn this review into a full-scale comparison review, despite recently testing all of the above for a week at a time, but rather will concentrate on the Regal GS and occasionally point out strengths and weaknesses compared to its key rivals. 

As far as styling goes, each respectably holds its own. I find the Regal is thoroughly attractive, but admit my appreciation for its classic lines and overall elegance may have something to do with my 50-something age. On looks alone I could understand why someone would fall for it, especially when enhanced with GS trim details. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
These elegant LED taillights are standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

These upgrades start with bold red italicized “GS” block letters on the otherwise glossy black mesh grille insert framed by a gloss-black grille surround that’s all underscored by yet more of the shiny, inky brightwork on lower fascia. The same piano black treatment highlights the lower side window trim and rear apron, this sporty look complemented by aluminum-like trim on the grille, corner grillettes, upper window surrounds, and exhaust. A subtle body-colour rear deck spoiler and modified rear bumper finish off the performance-oriented design. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The interior is a mix of awesome sport-oriented upgrades plus fit and finish that comes up a bit short. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Climb inside and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Buick is channeling the ghost of Pontiac, as you’ll immediately be greeted by two of the most aggressive looking sport seats in the Regal’s class, not to mention a contrast-stitched, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel to match, complete with a slightly flattened bottom for extra verve. I wouldn’t say the latter is as impeccably shaped as the Arteon’s superbly crafted wheel, or for that matter the Stinger’s paddle shifter-enhanced rim, but they all do much better than average in this family-friendly segment. Like the others (i.e. glossy black plastic is hardly original), Buick adds some additional splashes of piano black lacquer trim here, a bit of carbon weave-like adornment there, plus aluminized and chromed accents elsewhere, and voila, you’ve got a sport sedan. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The Regal’s interior design is conventional, but the GS spiffs things up with a nice sport steering wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A smart looking partially digital gauge cluster with a red GS insignia emblazoned within the 4.2-inch digitized centre speedometer portion reminds that we’re in Buick’s quickest car, a graphic than can be swapped with plenty of useful features by flicking the steering wheel controls. 

Over on the centre stack is the latest version of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment interface, residing within a very nice high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen. The circular aqua-green on black graphics are attractive and a bit more upscale looking than the bright, colourful Apple-style design in the Regal’s Chevy Malibu counterpart, fitting for the Buick’s older and slightly wealthier target clientele. It’s certainly an easy system to use and once again filled to the brim with helpful features, from a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, to a navigation system with easy-to-input, accurate route guidance with detailed mapping, plus all the usual audio features including HD/satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, phone and text message info/readouts, another panel for OnStar, a big interface for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, and more. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The gauge cluster includes a large colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A separate HVAC panel just below provides quicker-access analogue controls for the same, not to mention switchgear for the three-way heated and cooled front seats, while other features not yet mentioned that came with my Regal GS tester included a heatable steering wheel rim, a head-up display atop the dash, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror, two-way driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, eight-speaker Bose audio, wireless charging, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a powered moonroof, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, remote engine start, auto-leveling LED headlamps with cornering capability, 19-inch alloy wheels with grey-painted pockets, front and rear parking sensors, and much more. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The centre stack is nicely sorted, and the infotainment system excellent. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Buick also includes a host of advanced driver assistance and safety features, such as autonomous forward braking with collision alert and pedestrian detection, blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, plus Buick’s first active hood pedestrian safety system that raises the rear portion of the hood by 100 mm (3.9 inches) to lessen impact and help reduce injury. 

The driver’s seat is inherently comfortable and benefits further from four-way lumbar support, a feature some premium-branded luxury sedans don’t even include, not to mention extendable lower cushions that cup nicely below the knees, and big side bolsters that provide excellent lateral support thanks to powered adjustability. Complemented by extensive reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, the Regal provided an ideal driving position, which isn’t always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Get a load of these sport seats, complete with four-way lumbar, extendable lower cushions, and powered side bolsters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Regal GS’ V6 idles smoothly when it’s not shutting off automatically to save fuel and reduce emissions, a good thing in my books. Quick shifts come from a nine-speed automatic transmission, the GS getting one additional forward gear than four-cylinder AWD trims, which like the engine proved smooth and effortless to operate around town, on the highway, or through more entertaining serpentine stretches. Chagrined to learn this sporty sedan didn’t include paddle shifters, which would have been a great way to improve on its well sorted transmission and fully capable powerplant, I first put it in Sport mode and then slotted the gear lever to the left for a little old school manual fun. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The rear seats are roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The GS has a lot of punch off the line and the gearbox is a perfect match, shifting quickly yet never harshly, but needing more sport from Sport mode I immediately chose the GS setting, which adds more weight to the steering and feels a lot more engaging overall. Yes I missed having paddles, but I adapted as needed and enjoyed this very well balanced sedan through some tight, twisting two-laners and some open straights as well. The chassis is smooth and comfortable, yet it holds the road very well thanks to active dampers that adjust every two milliseconds. The GS’ active twin-clutch all-wheel drive system aids handling further, particularly in wet weather, while its high-performance Brembo brakes perform as brilliantly as they look. Fuel economy is reasonable for its performance and all-wheel drivetrain, with a rating of 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Yes, the Regal is a hatchback. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Unfortunately, the GS wasn’t perfect. It suffered from one of the cheapest turn signal stalks I’ve ever experienced, due to flimsy hollow plastic and a loose, sloppy feel, while there’s a lot of low rent hard plastic on the lower dash, glove box lid, and mid to lower door panels. To be fair, the aforementioned Arteon isn’t much better when it comes to the latter, but the Stinger pulls off luxury more convincingly. Most of the GS’ upper surfaces are agreeably soft to the touch, however, and front and rear seat roominess is good, with the rear outboard positions almost as comfortable as the buckets up front, but the moulded black plastic panel covering the backside of the front console looked bulbous, as if it was pulled from a much cheaper vehicle, an issue made worse by its spartan array of twinned air vents up top and dual USB ports below. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
A 40/20/40-split rear seat configuration makes for ultimate passenger/cargo flexibility. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, the Regal GS comes up a bit short on back seat features. It doesn’t including rear seat heaters like most $50k-plus competitors, which was a shame as, together with its AWD, its standard 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks and liftback layout, not to mention its strong performance on winding mountainside roads, it would make for an ideal ski shuttle. The cargo cover is weighty, feeling really well made, and seat releases on the cargo walls quickly expand the 892-litre (31.5 cubic-foot) luggage compartment to an accommodating 1,719 litres (60.7 cu ft). 

While missing some key features and not quite measuring up to its peers when it comes to interior fit and finish, the Regal GS is nevertheless an ultra-stylish ride that does some things so well it’s worth a closer look. You’ll probably like its quick and agile performance, reasonably well-equipped, roomy and comfortable cabin, and overall practicality, and therefore will likely be able to look past its few shortcomings.

Buick now has a more affordable way to get into a compact luxury SUV, but does the Envision really measure up to its more established rivals? That’s the question we pose in today’s review. On paper…

2017 Buick Envision Premium II Road Test

Most automakers have voids in their lineups that eventually need to be filled in order to take advantage of market developments. Even major luxury brands like Audi and Lexus are missing key models that would dramatically boost sales if available. For instance, Audi could use a smaller, sportier mid-size five-passenger crossover SUV to take on Lexus' segment-leading RX, and Lexus needs a seven-passenger car-based sport ute to fight the Q7.

This issue is even more pronounced amongst entry-level luxury brands like Acura and Buick, with Honda's premium division requiring a subcompact SUV to battle the popular Encore, and GM's near-premium subsidiary having long needed a compact crossover to go up against the RDX. Thanks to the new 2017 Envision this latter problem is now resolved, but is it good enough to unseat the mighty RDX.

Mighty yes, but Acura isn't number one in the segment. That position has long belonged to Audi's Q5, but the RDX has almost always maintained a respectable Read Full Story
Buick has recently been making an earnest play into the premium sector with models like the new Envision compact SUV and this much-improved LaCrosse full-size sedan, so we tested it in top-line Premium…

2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD Road Test

Ask the majority of car shoppers to name the top three most reliable brands in the industry and Lexus would likely earn the popular vote, as it's been touted most dependable for decades. Once again it sits on top of J.D. Power and Associate's 2017 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, as well as first place with Consumer Reports' most reliable car brands in America report.

Considering Toyota is Lexus' parent automaker and therefore shares many of its components and some platform architectures, at least when it comes to the premium marque's lower end product, choosing it for second place makes sense too, but this is only true for Consumer Reports. Instead, J.D. Power gives the runner up position to Porsche, leaving Toyota in third. I'm guessing you can figure out which brand slots into CR's second rung. Buick, of course. The General Motors division manages a solid fourth in J.D. Power's ranking, which is still mighty impressive considering 31 brands are in contention.

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Buick’s Encore is updated for 2017 and is therefore an even more enticing prospect for subcompact SUV shoppers. In this review we give you the good, bad and ugly, the only real negative being a great…

2017 Buick Encore Sport Touring Road Test

Each time I schedule a Buick Encore for testing I don't give it much thought. It's a subcompact SUV that needs to be covered because of its reasonably strong sales, but it's not the type of vehicle that elicits a lot of passion. And then once inside I'm reminded of how nice it is, and on the way home how easy it is to drive.

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 configured to drive the front wheels as tested-AWD is a reasonable $2,000 option across most of the line. Read Full Story