I was driving east on the Cross Bronx Expressway when I finally realized how much I was liking the teeny-tiny Buick Encore CUV. Having cleared the perpetual construction zone I was just getting up to highway speed in the left lane when a cantaloupe sized chunk of concrete came rolling out from under a dump truck one lane to my right. Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu! A dive to the left and a juke back to the right resulted in… absolutely no drama whatsoever.
It responded to the inputs, dare I say it, deftly.
Hey, that’s not what I was expecting. Because of it’s CUV proportions and high stance, I had begun rehearsing what I was going to say to the EMT’s after I told them how many fingers they were holding up. With its tri-shield badge mounted on the waterfall grille I expected the helm to call out “aye cap’n, hard to port!” and perhaps a bit of sea spray to splash over the bow when I turned the wheel, but nothing like that happened. It responded to the inputs, dare I say it, deftly. It simply moved left, then right, without massive body roll or tire squeal. I guess this new Buick Encore turns out to be more like an America’s Cup catamaran than a Boston whaler.
The Encore won’t be confused with a V-hulled ski boat, though. A turbocharged 1.4-liter motivates the 3300 pound vessel with 138 hp @ 4900 rpm. That’s not a tremendous amount of power for an all-wheel drive, one-and-a-half-ton plus trucklet so you won’t be hoisting any Wallys, but in daily driver duty the Encore deserves some applause thanks to its 6-speed automatic and 148 lb.-ft. of torque at a barely off idle 1850 rpm. I was a bit leery of the 1.4 in a package this weighty when I first received the Encore, but the drivetrain is well matched in both city and highway driving. Surprisingly, it feels eager to go at any pedal position.
Buick’s fuel economy estimates turned out to be right on target for the Encore in my experience.
With light pedal application the transmission upshifts quickly to take advantage of the low rpm torque peak, while at all ahead full the transmission shifts just past peak power without endlessly over-revving, which diminishes fuel economy, while still providing satisfying acceleration. Buick’s fuel economy estimates turned out to be right on target for the Encore in my experience. It returned about 25 mpg in town and rural driving (which is a bit better than the 23 city estimate), and hit the 33 mpg number on the highway despite 75 to 85 mph cruising with the AC on most of the time. Because of the good torque number the little tug was only spinning at about 2200 to 2500 rpm at speed in sixth gear.
There was plenty of room to flex my arms and legs while traffic crept along and the upright seating position was comfortable.
Before my rim chipping altercation with that chunk of concrete, I had plenty of time to reflect on the interior of the Encore while idling through the “no wake” zone of the New Jersey Turnpike for about ninety minutes while an overturned truck was cleared from the Cross Bronx. Our Cocoa Silver Metallic tester came with the $29,690 AWD Premium Group option package’s saddle-colored leather seating and two-tone brown interior. The seats and steering wheel are heated and both seats are power-actuated six ways, including lumbar adjustment, with the exception of the recline function which is a sensible place for a manual adjustment. Despite the Encore’s Lilliputian footprint there was plenty of room to flex my arms and legs while traffic crept along and the upright seating position was comfortable.
Buick added the optional Bose audio system with XM, Buick’s IntelliLink system and Navigation to the standard 7″ display atop the dash for $795. In the Encore it’s not voice activated so they also installed about forty buttons to work all the features. Be careful while driving if you want to use them. The most often used buttons are located at the top so you wont have to take your eyes very far off the road, if that’s any consolation. The Premium Group also includes almost every safety and convenience option Buick can fit into a vehicle. There are twelve airbags in total for front and rear outboard passengers, forward collision and lane departure warnings, ultrasonic front and rear park assist with a backup camera, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, remote start, StabiliTrak with traction control, Active Noise Cancellation, Bluetooth with steering wheel mounted controls for phone and audio and, … well, you get the point.
For such a small CUV, I was surprised how much U they actually fit into the Encore’s interior. With the rear seat up you get almost 19 cubic feet of space. Plenty of room for groceries or a couple medium-sized flat screens. It’s also a cozy place to open the hatch and sit in the cargo area to enjoy lunch on a nice day since the load floor is just about the right height to sit comfortably – I did. They need to add some cup holders back there to assist the process, though. Fold the seats down and you get 48.4 cubes to fill. Room enough to take a large Fido for his vet check-up, cage and all. If you’re not averse to making your passenger ride coach, (sorry, mom!) you can fold the front passenger seat forward to gain room for longer objects. In my case, an 8 foot long 2×8. I did have to wrap one end in my sweatshirt because it was laying on top of the dashboard and I didn’t want to cause any damage, but it did fit. For the record, mom thought the back seat was comfy, too.
Besides the Navigation option, the only other added option on the Encore tester was the upgraded eight-spoke chromed aluminum wheels for $995. With the $750 destination charge it adds up to $32,230. Not a bad buy for what you get in this top-of-the-line version. There’s a lot to like in the little Encore. It has enough power and handling ability to be enjoyable, enough luxury to be very comfortable and enough fuel efficiency to be economical.
With the $750 destination charge it adds up to $32,230. Not a bad buy for what you get in this top-of-the-line version.