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December 10, 2012

This New Buick is an Encore Performance: the 2013 Buick Encore

Atlanta, Georgia: I thought I knew a lot about Buick and its changes. I know this General Motors brand has been busy putting the mojo on a cadre of new or updated models, building a stunning stable of quiet, beautifully-appointed, and fine-driving vehicles. But, I didn’t know that Buick is attracting younger buyers and attracting some new buyers from others brands. Nor did I know that Buick sales are up close to 25 percent this year and this luxury brand is outselling Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Lincoln.

2013-Buick-Encore-020I just drove the all-new 2013 Buick Encore, an addition to the marque’s crossover SUV stable. It lets you ride high while keeping a low profile, thanks to its elevated driving position along with its compact character. It has room for five and a bunch of techno-luxe features befitting GM’s marquee brand, it’s available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions--and priced starting at $24,950, including destination. Come along on our test drive! Buick brought a group of automotive evaluators to Atlanta for the first drive of the new model. Our venue included an overnight at Atlanta’s Twelve Hotel, located in the upscale section of the city known as Atlantic Station, a live-work-play community.

2013-Buick-Encore-011And, just like Buick’s customer program that offers a drive and fine dining experience, we were treated to a cooking demonstration at the trendy restaurant Empire State South, co-owned by Top Chef Hugh Acheson. Buick has invited some 10,000 potential buyers to this program that has different venues across the country, using this same theme.


IMG_0324It’s a statement about the brand! Encore doesn’t look like a typical luxury SUV – its wedge-like doorstop shape, contrast-color bumpers and scooped out sides evoke the aggressively sporty Nissan Juke, the Toyota RAV4 or even the before-its-time outdoorsy angles of the late Pontiac Aztek. But a closer look shows the same chrome accents and wide grille with signature vertical slats that adorn the Enclave, Encore’s larger, seven-passenger stablemate. Extending back from that grille, which is set high in the snubbed nose and capped by trapezoidal blue-accented halogen headlamps, is a roofline that rises high before sloping steeply back toward the rear end. A relatively narrow-looking rear windshield sits high up in the liftgate, and a contrasting bumper with metallic inset rests above a stainless exhaust tip. Standard wheels are 18-inch, five-spoke aluminum, with seven-spoke chrome wheels available. Inside, the massive front windows and windshield provide a nearly panoramic view of the road and the scenery. The dash and instrument panels seem to integrate almost seamlessly with the doors on each side, giving a wraparound effect to the front of the cabin.

The driver’s seat has a six-way power adjustment with lumbar support; all seats are covered in a cloth/faux leather trim, although leather is available as an option. Storage abounds in Encore, which includes eight beverage holders, storage in all four doors, four bins in the dash, a double glovebox, pockets in the seatbacks, an optional bin beneath the passenger seat and bins under the rear load floor around the spare tire. With the rear seats in place, there’s room for all the groceries to feed a houseful of holiday guests; rear seats also fold flat for additional storage.

IMG_0327A standard 7-inch color screen in the center stack provided controls for infotainment systems, from the Sirius XM audio system to the rearview camera; GPS navigation is available as an option. The AM/FE/Siruis/CD stereo includes six speakers and an auxiliary jack for iPod and other devices; Bluetooth is standard. Under the hood is a 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder motor delivering 148 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission; drivetrain is either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. EPA gas mileage estimates are 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models, 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for those with all-wheel drive.

We drove both the front-wheel-drive and the Active On-Demand all-wheel-drive models of the new Encore over a course of some 150 miles out of Atlanta. While the drive included a variety of roads, there was no opportunity to try out the traction-enhancing capabilities of the AWD system that sends torque to the rear for every launch and redirects torque only when the wheels are slipping. When there is no slippage, the vehicle is a front-driver, just like its bigger sibling the Enclave. The benefit is increased fuel economy (23 city/30 highway), which compares with only two others the Mazda CX-5 (31 highway) and the Ford Escape (30 hgwy). Macpherson struts with coil-over springs are the backbone of the front suspension, while compound crank and coil springs hold up the rear. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion. Both stability and traction control are standard handling technologies for Encore, as is “QuietTuning,” which uses Bose noise cancelling technology to quiet the cabin. Brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS (vented discs in front, solid discs in rear); ten airbags including knee and side curtain bags are standard. Things that stood out for us during the drive were the well-appointed cabins in each trim, great steering, comfortable and quiet ride.

IMG_0328We also noted the fold-flat front passenger seat, enhancing bigger utility in Encore’s small package. Buick Encore comes in four trim levels: standard, convenience, leather and premium. The base Encore (1SB – starting at $24,950) includes the seven-inch infotainment screen with six-speaker stereo, Sirius XM and Bluetooth; rearview camera; cruise control; manual air conditioning; cloth and faux-leather seats; heated outside rearview mirrors; power driver’s seat adjustments, door locks and windows; leather-wrapped steering; rear cargo cover; roof-mounted luggage rails; dual gloveboxes; 18-inch aluminum wheels; and compact spare tire with mechanical jack. Encore Convenience (1SD – starting at $25,760) versions add an electrochromic inside rearview mirror, remote start, dual automatic climate control, 120V outlet and fog lamps. Up another level, Encore Leather (1SL -- $27,460) models include leather-appointed seating, heated steering wheel, power passenger seat, heated seats and a driver memory package that includes driver presets for seat position, outside mirrors and climate control. Encore Premium (1SN -- $28,940) adds rain-sensing wipers, Bose seven-speaker audio system, front and rear park assist, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, cargo net and cargo mat. Options include the premium Bose audio system (Encore Convenience and Leather); GPS-enabled navigation (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); sunroof (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); and an oil pan heater. All-wheel drive on all models is a $1,500 option.

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