As of this year, Buick no longer sells any sedans, coupes, or wagons in the North American market. Considering it dispassionately this makes sense as the buyers simply stopped showing up for them some time ago. A little over a decade ago when the first Buick Enclave SUV was introduced it was noted that it became a bit of a success and also brought some newer, younger blood into the marque. Then a few years ago the small Encore was introduced and became a surprise hit, it has been the best selling Buick for several years now.
The lineup was also expanded with the short-lived Regal and Tour-X courtesy of Opel (since cancelled again once Opel was sold) as well as the Envision mid-size CUV. And lastly, our featured vehicle, the Encore GX, which confusingly is not just a fancy Encore but a completely different (and larger) model than the Encore you are likely familiar with already, which continues to be sold alongside this one. Perhaps GM should have looked to their GMC Yukon model and simply badged it Encore XL to make it more obvious. Or Encore Encore. Or perhaps Encore²?
The Encore GX is larger than the regular Encore in every dimension (Wheelbase +1.6″, Length +2.7″, Height +1.8″, Width +1.3″, Track +0.4″F and 1.3″R). When seen by themselves it’s not obvious and even side-by-side it takes a few glances back and forth to see, thankfully besides the general shape being similar, there are enough detail differences to make it obvious once you know what you’re looking for.
There are three trim levels (Preferred, Select, and Essence), FWD and AWD options, and two engines as well as two transmissions on offer. We were graced with a top of the line trim level (Essence) with an upgrade to the larger of the two engines, but FWD which was interesting insofar as usually if something is available, it’s on the test car. Absolute base price is $24,100 but ours was obviously more, we’ll get to that in a couple of thousand words so refill that coffee cup now.
Having owned two Buicks myself over the years (’88 LeSabre T-Type and ’98 Regal GS), as well as having considered an Enclave at one time, I’m no stranger to the more modern era of Buick but do admit to some surprise when the original Encore was introduced along with the bigger surprise that it turned into a success. Then I actually looked at a slightly used one a year later and began to understand the attraction.
The same thing occurred here. As delivered in my driveway it looked good in its Deep Azure Metallic paint. The Buick grille is there. The Tri-Shield is once again in color. There is some chrome but it isn’t dripping with it. The 18″ wheels look good, the stance isn’t goofy, and while it’s small, it doesn’t come across as ridiculously tiny unless there’s a Roadmaster in the garage.
Pulling the door handle with the fob in my pocket unlocked and opened the door, presenting the Ebony interior with Ebony accents, i.e. black on black. Hopping in was easy with just a simply lateral slide and after pulling the door closed again it became obvious that there is simply a fairly large amount of room around the front seat occupants, it’s as if there was a large cockpit bubble.
Legroom aplenty, logical places to rest elbows without banging into things, good sightlines all around, and a generally chair-like seating position. For a small car, it’s very usably large inside especially as compared to a few recent small luxury sedans that cost quite a bit more and while larger outside felt smaller inside.
The black leather seats which were perforated with a pattern were easy to adjust and stayed comfortable, this model included seat heaters for the front occupants, a heated steering wheel, and every expected power accessory including powered seats (10-way driver, 8-way passenger, both with 2-way lumbar) paired with a memory setting for the driver. The dual-zone HVAC was logically laid out and easy to adjust, and the GM 8″ touchscreen atop the dashboard was its usual model of clarity and user-friendliness with perhaps a backup camera that could be of somewhat higher resolution, especially at night.
The radio for once was not a “premium”-branded system and while thus not as loud or clear than many of what are available, worked just fine for my slightly damaged ears. Hooking up the phone to the Bluetooth system was easy (it almost always is nowadays) and making a hands-free phone call was and is easy with good voice clarity both ways. The electronic Voice Assistant confirmed the correct recipient immediately upon my verbal request and connected the call.
At the bottom of the center stack was a large cubby that came equipped with a wireless phone charger that fired up after just sort of dropping/tossing the phone in there, precise placement didn’t seem to be a requirement, and allowed an easy grab to retrieve it at any time. Two cupholders and a storage bin under the elbow with an internal removable shelf unit along with door pockets and a decently sized glovebox rounded out the storage options up front along with providing USB A and C ports and an Aux input in the lower cubby.
The door panels were soft in the upper half or so as was the dashboard. Perhaps the plastic coverings atop the doors and dash had a little too much gloss, toning that down a bit more would make things appear richer. Along the upper dash is a glossy plastic textured-metal-look panel that worked in the overall scheme of things. All in all not an uncomfortable place in which to go about one’s day. One unexpected but very welcome occurrence was that somehow when the air vents were adjusted just right the combination of airflow, my particular seating position, and the interior architecture created a sensation of air circulating right around my head instead of just being pushed toward it.
Rear seat access was decent, and once back there, contained enough space for shorter trips. Or longer trips with shorter people. My 6’1″ with 32″ inseam frame fit, but legroom was on the tight side. The upper door panels back here are of harder materials than up front, however there was still a soft fold-down center armrest with cupholders and headroom along with lateral space aplenty for two, but three would be a tight squeeze. Once again there are USB A and C charging ports back here. Again a car without a sunroof (it’s an option), these guys are getting to know my personal preferences!
Cargo room around back was abundant, there is a hard cover that lifts out of the way on top to hide valuables, and the trunk floor panel could be rearranged in some sort of shelf format if desired as well. A spare tire is under the floor and the rear seatbacks can be folded down in a 60/40 split format. The liftgate on this one was powered so I didn’t have to work up a sweat when opening or closing it. There’s also a feature wherein a small Buick logo is projected onto the ground when within range of the pocketed keyfob and if you kick your leg into that image just right, it causes the liftgate to open. Handy when both hands are filled with large items and the ground is wet. A button closes it again.
Gauges ahead of the driver are clear and easy to understand and between the two main gauges is a digital interface that curiously only uses the lower portion of the available area. This looked odd to me but worked just fine. Various menus are toggleable via steering wheel controls in order to display various bits of information as desired. This car was equipped with stop/start and GM uses a welcome system wherein the tachometer needle doesn’t just go to zero, rather it holds in a “stop-start” zone just above “off” to make it known at a glance that the engine is merely slumbering and not actually off.
(Please select page 2 to continue)
Pages: 1 2