2015 Encore New Car Test Drive
Buick Encore is an entry-luxury, compact crossover utility vehicle. Encore is a small vehicle, significantly shorter in overall length than the Ford Escape and just slightly longer than the Mini Countryman.
After climbing in, however, Encore feels so spacious and commodious that it's hard to remember the smallness that's so striking when looking at it from the outside. Encore offers 48.4 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats folded down, 18.8 cubic feet with those seats up.
The cabin feels upscale and luxurious, due its elegant design, fine instruments and high-quality switch-gear. Optional leather upholstery add to its beauty and richness and make it feel like a luxury crossover.
Its small size means the Encore will fit into countless environments and driving conditions. Its outside dimensions are so compact that whenever we came upon another Encore on the road, we were stunned at how diminutive it looked while moving through traffic. The Encore we were driving, identical to the one seen out the window, seemed sumptuous inside, a satisfying vehicle that suited all our needs. With smoke-and-mirrors design like that, the Buick stylists have shown themselves to be wizards of clever packaging.
Encore was designed to be a nimble, agile SUV that would be easy to park, maneuver, and have an excellent turning circle (a mere 36.7 feet). It should have available all-wheel drive, the plan said, extremely flexible stowage adaptability, carry five passengers, and provide advanced technology in combination with real luxury. The good news is, that's the vehicle we tested on the urban and rural roads of Georgia.
But the good news continues: This little/big package showed very efficient over-the-road performance. Being physically small and light, at 3190 pounds for the front-wheel-drive model, the Buick Encore requires only an absolutely tiny 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, coupled to a 6-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission, to deliver adequate local and Interstate performance. Even with the heavier 3309-pound all-wheel-drive model, the Encore delivers an EPA-estimated 23/30 mpg City/Highway. The front-wheel drive Encore gets an estimate of 25/33 mpg City/Highway, which was claimed to be the highest fuel economy of any front-wheel-drive crossover.
Encore's performance equation seems to be extremely well balanced. It delivers thrift and luxury in generous degrees, available for a very attractive price. Many starter families are likely to be enticed by this vehicle. But we suspect that just about as many empty-nesters, no longer needing their huge, now-empty Enclaves, will flock to this mini-Enclave, happy to have a familiar taste of their Enclave's comfort and elegance.
Encore was launched as a 2013 model. Newly available safety equipment for the 2014 Encore includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert. An enhanced IntelliLink system gains text message support for 2014, as well as Siri Eyes Free, and smartphone voice-recognition pass-through.
Buick Encore can be cross shopped against the Ford Escape, Mini Countryman S, and Volkswagen Tiguan. Buick's crossover, when equipped with front-wheel drive, beats all three of those rivals in fuel-economy estimates.
The 2014 Buick Encore is offered in one basic model, but three step-up levels of trim and equipment are available: Convenience, Leather, and Premium. All feature a 138-horsepower Ecotec 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, mating with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Each Encore comes with front-drive or all-wheel drive ($1,500).
Encore ($24,160) comes standard with fabric upholstery, single-zone manual air conditioning, seven-inch full-color CD/SiriusXM//USB infotainment system with voice recognition and Bluetooth audio, Quiet Tuning with Bose Noise Cancelation technology, rearview camera, 6-way power driver's seat with lumbar, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, heated mirrors, cruise control, ice-blue interior ambient lighting, heated power mirrors, driver's express up/down window, passenger express down window, rear cargo cover, roof-mounted luggage rails, dual gloveboxes, theft-deterrent system, variable-effort power steering, 18-inch cast aluminum wheels, and compact spare tire. The Convenience edition ($25,785) upgrades with dual-zone automatic climate control, electrochromic inside rearview mirror, remote start, 120V power outlet, and fog lamps. Also added are the Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert systems. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The Leather edition ($27,485) upgrades further with leather upholstery; a heated steering wheel; power passenger seat; heated front seats; and driver memory settings for seats, outside mirrors, and climate control. The Premium version ($28,965) adds rain-sensing wipers, premium Bose seven-speaker audio, front and rear park assist, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, cargo net and cargo mat.
Options include satellite navigation ($795), 18-inch chrome wheels ($995), sunroof ($800), roof rails ($245), and Bose premium audio ($595). Some options are not offered on the base Encore.
Safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection, rearview camera, and OnStar. That amounts to 10 airbags in all. Active safety features include four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, EBD, electronic stability control. Optional safety features include all-wheel drive. Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert systems are installed in all but the base Encore.