For Buick fans who don't want or need an SUV as large as the Enclave, there's now a right-sized choice in the form of the all-new Encore -- a stylish compact crossover vehicle from Buick.
The 2013 Encore conveys a mini-Enclave image (an intentional styling move according to members of the Buick design and marketing teams). Buick's goal and focus with the 2013 Encore is to appeal to fuel economy conscious consumers who desire a more compact packaging without sacrificing luxury, functionality and versatility.
The Encore comes in four levels starting at $24,950: Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium trims. Standard features include QuietTuning with Bose Active Noise Cancellation, 18-inch wheels, a rearview camera and a 7-inch, high-resolution, full-color display radio with IntelliLink connectivity.
Encore is built in a front-wheel drive configuration and all-wheel drive is a $1,500 option. Power is derived from a 1.4-liter, Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower along with 148 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,850 rpm. Power is transferred to the driving wheels via an electronically controlled six-speed automatic with overdrive. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway (FWD) and 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway (AWD).
I was afforded the opportunity along with several auto writers to drive both FWD and AWD Encore models in all trim levels. I spent most time in the Encore Premium AWD with a base sticker of $29,690.
Some of my auto colleagues felt that the 1.4-liter turbocharged four is lacking in power. Admittedly, 138 horses and 148 lb.-ft. of torque are not staggering, but I found the performance to be quite adequate for its intended audience and purpose. The transmission shifts smoothly, even in manual mode. I would have, however, preferred paddle shifters, as the stalk served up a somewhat awkward range of motion.
Road manners delivered a flat, stable ride and the electronic power steering offered a positive on-center feel. The front seat's bolstering provided ample support and comfort during spirited driving maneuvers. We did wish Buick included a sliding visor extender. And we did find it odd the Bose noise-canceling sub-woofer that was mounted inside the spare tire required removal to access the spare.
The new Buick Encore delivers an elegantly designed and contemporary exterior, starting up front with a waterfall grille, chrome accents and surrounds, portholes on the hood and painted lower panels. Blue-accented halogen composite projector-beam headlamps and detailed taillamps further enhance the stylish exterior; with 18-inch, five-spoke painted aluminum wheels as standard.
Encore's distinctive styling cues carry over to a flowing instrument panel that wraps gracefully into the door panels. A prominent central instrument panel houses a voice-activated infotainment system. The cabin is distinguished by an all-Ebony or a contemporary blend of dark and light tones accented with ice-blue ambient lighting and a select use of bright chrome and faux woodgrain trim.
Encore provides ample storage, beverage holders, storage in all four doors, and bins under the rear load floor around the spare tire. It offers 18.8 cubic feet of storage behind the split-folding rear seat and 48.4 cu.-ft. with the rear seat folded flat.
Even with the rear seat in place there's room for at least six full grocery bags. When the rear seat is folded there's room for golf clubs and overnight bags. The front passenger seat folds flat to extend the cargo length and accommodate longer items.
The Buick Encore will likely prove to be the perfect size for many consumers, not to mention perhaps the perfect size, with all the right features, and at a really good competitive price point considering the high level of desirable feature content.
2013 BUICK ENCORE PREMIUM
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD compact CUV
BASE PRICE____________________ $29,690 (as tested: $30,440)
MOTOR TYPE___________________16-valve 4-cylinder turbo w/SMPFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 138 at 4900 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_________________148 at 1850 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 168.5 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb____36.7 ft.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,309 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 14.0 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway