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Fri, Oct 24, 2014

Buick Encore offers elegant package

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Years ago, older and wiser friends and family advised us to travel while we still can, and not wait until it became too difficult because of age and ailments.

With our ages creeping up, we’ve taken that sage advice to heart, and for the last couple of years have tried to take more trips for our own enjoyment and not merely to go on automotive press trips to new vehicle introductions. When we see an opportunity to go, we try to go.

This time it was a trip to the Atlanta area. We’ve been several times and enjoyed the area and the people, so we decided to go back for a few days.

Arriving in Atlanta we arranged to borrow a new Buick Encore from the press fleet. Buick currently builds two crossovers, the full-size Enclave and the more personal size Encore.

The full size Buick Enclave has to be one of the most stylish crossovers on the market with its long graceful lines and plush appointments. However, it’s over 200 inches long, weighs 4,700-pounds and seats seven, and not everyone wants or needs that much crossover.  

Nearly three feet shorter, 1,500 pounds lighter and with seating for five, the Buick Encore brings the opulence of the Enclave to a much smaller size. With styling cues inspired by the popular Enclave, the Encore too, has nicely sculptured lines, the trademark chrome waterfall grille and large 18-inch wheels. Tasteful chrome accents include Buick’s signature portholes mounted on the hood. The overall look has a racy raked-out look that gives an in-motion look even at a standstill.

We arrived in Atlanta just before sunset and picked up the 2013 Buick Encore for our drive to a resort area about 35 miles west of the city. One feature we’ve come to appreciate more and more on new vehicles is a good navigation system. Not only do they help us work our way through a maze of unfamiliar freeway interchanges or dark rural roads, they help avoid wife/husband debates. The Buick system has its own peculiarities but after inputting a couple of locations and doing a search or two, we could work it quite well. We would have appreciated the ability to have the passenger program locations while the car is moving, but Buick systems require you to stop to input new locations.

It’s always challenging to drive unfamiliar roads, especially in the dark, but the Encore was an easy to use tool with good lighting and user controls. The only weak link Bill found was the power, it could use a little bit more, but Barbara explains he says that about most cars.

On our drive to the resort it became prudent to pass a slow moving car that was holding up about 10 other cars. The nicely paved rural road had few short legal passing zones, so when we finally got a turn to pass Bill floored the accelerator discovering it was much slower passing than he expected…fortunately there was no oncoming traffic.

Designed for a global market, the Encore is powered by a 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Needless to say, it’s not overly quick, with 0 to 60 mph taking about 10 seconds.

All Encore models are also available with all-wheel drive ($1,500 option). The EPA rates it at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway making it the highest fuel economy of any FWD crossover offered in the U.S. We averaged 25.4 mpg after four days of driving on all kinds of roads and with a great deal of city sight-seeing in the downtown and in some of the posh neighborhoods.

One very notable feature of the Buick Encore is the quiet interior. Buick is noted for its quiet engineering, and it’s more than a slogan. 

To achieve quiet for Encore, quiet engineers used abundant sound deadening materials and technologies to keep the unwanted sounds from occurring. Engineers have also integrated the same active Bose technology used in the headsets many airline passengers use. The system uses ceiling-mounted microphones to detect noises and identify the frequencies. It then broadcasts counteracting sound waves to mask the unwanted sounds. It sounds like magic, and it works.  

The Encore interior is filled with premium materials, French stitched trims, wood accents and a touch of chrome.  It has a very upscale look that’s available in Ebony, Medium Titanium and Saddle.

Barbara is obsessed with organization and the Encore is a great example of what she likes, with four storage compartments in the dash, seat back pockets, multiple door compartments and even bins under the front passenger’s seat and the rear load floor. 

The interior space is also larger than it would appear based on the petite exterior.  Two adults comfortably fit on the rear bench seat, but three will be tight. Cargo space is nearly 19 cubic feet and expands to more than 48 cubic feet when the rear seat back is folded flat.

Available in four trim levels, all Encore models offer an equipment list that includes features like18-inch aluminum wheels, satellite radio, rear vision camera, Bluetooth®, power driver’s seat and Buick IntelliLink Internet connectivity.  Upper trim levels add equipment like a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, Rainsense wipers, leather seating and park assist.  Standalone options include premium audio with navigation, sunroof and several convenience accessories. 

Encore pricing starts at a low $24,950, including the destination charge, for the FWD base model and peaks at $33,775 for the Premium Group AWD version.

The Encore should have a strong appeal for couples of all ages that want more than the basics.  This is a plush crossover in a convenient personal size.  It makes a nice addition to the good-looking and quality Buick lineup.  

Our only wish for future versions is perhaps using the 250-hp Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Verano as an option for those of us that would like a little more power.

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