2013 Buick Encore offers luxury in a crossover
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media January 25, 2013 4:01PM
2013 BUICK ENCORE
ENGINE: 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 25 city/33 highway
BASE PRICE: $24,200
AS TESTED: $33,804
Buick believes there’s a new untapped crossover segment: the compact luxury CUV.
The compact luxury CUV segment Buick is carving out targets empty nesters or young professionals who want a luxury-appointed CUV or SUV, but don’t need or want a midsize or full-size vehicle.
On the outside the 2013 Encore looks exactly like what you would expect, with a waterfall chrome grille, sculpted body lines, chrome accents and tall roofline capped by a standard roof rack, which is needed — otherwise the Encore looks like a tall wagon.
The Encore is available in four trim levels: Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium. Base starts with an inexpensive monotone cloth/plastic interior that cries out for some color. Convenience and Leather add leatherette, more standard features and leather, of course. The Premium model offers a Bose audio system, automatic wipers, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
In Premium form the interior has a great-looking two-toned treatment complete with faux wood trim and chrome pieces. At first blush it looks like Buick simply shrunk the interior of one of its luxury vehicles and put it in the Encore. All levels of Encore have a nice array of features overall, and the interior (except for Base) looks more expensive than the pricing indicates.
A great feature available in all trim levels is Buick’s Bose noise-canceling technology, which works quite well using a counterbalanced sound wave to cancel out unwanted sound intrusion. I also liked the ice blue dash lighting and ambient lighting.
Additional features include a 7-inch, high-resolution, full-color display for the standard IntelliLink voice-activated infotainment system. The system also features SiriusXM satellite radio and standard rearview camera, and if selected, the available GPS-enabled navigation system.
I found the Encore’s seating to be supportive and the space up front comfortable, but other drivers/passengers may find the interior on the small side if they are accustomed to a mid- or full-size SUV. Access to the second row is good via large doors, and headroom is excellent, but foot room is a bit tight. With cargo space at 18.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, don’t expect traditional SUV-like space
The 2013 Buick Encore comes courtesy of the Chevrolet Cruze/ Buick Verano, so it features the sedan’s 1.4-liter, turbocharged, inline, four-cylinder engine developing 138 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 148 pound-feet of torque at a modest 1,850 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive is the starting point or all-wheel drive is an available option.
If you opt for AWD you will get a variable, on-demand 50/50 front/rear power split. The magnetically charged clutch system is activated from the start and reverts to FWD as speed increases and if it determines no wheel slippage is occurring.
During the preview drive I found the power from the turbo 1.4-liter engine just adequate. For a premium price in a premium vehicle you expect more than Cruze horsepower level. I also thought that even with the noise-canceling technology the engine sounded and felt strained under hard acceleration. The six-speed automatic changes gears smoothly but seemed to be playing catch up when I asked for hard acceleration, like from a standing start to 60 mph or pulling out into traffic.
On the road Encore delivers a competent Buick ride; considering its wide, stubby stance I did not feel the choppy ride I anticipated. In the curvy, undulating roads we drove on outside Atlanta, the Encore gripped the road very nicely. Like most vehicles today, the Encore has electric power steering that felt a little disconnected, but braking was competent. I had to use them unexpectedly to avoid a deer and a distracted driver who pulled out in front of me.
Overall Encore is a decent addition to the Buick line and a pretty good value for a premium vehicle. That said, I would like to see more horsepower, better steering feel, a tighter transmission and some more color in Base model. Buick is on to something with the Encore, which opens up a new segment that other manufacturers are soon to follow.
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