First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick
2013 Buick Encore. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s Website
GM Canada

Review by Lesley Wimbush, photos by Lesley Wimbush and courtesy GM

Photo Gallery:
2013 Buick Encore

In their quest to attract an increasingly younger demographic, Buick has introduced a new compact premium crossover to the fold, offering utility combined with premium features to the urban buyer.

The 2013 Encore slots in size-wise under the mid-size GMC Terrain (Buick does not have a mid-size crossover of its own) and full-size Enclave. Built in Seoul, South Korea on GM’s Global Small Crossover platform, it will be marketed in North America, Mexico and China.

Apparently, some 52 percent of vehicles sold here in Canada are either cars or small crossovers – a category that GM expects will grow 25 percent by 2017.  Buick is hoping to grab a share of that burgeoning market with a utility vehicle for young urban professionals, or empty nesters looking to downsize without sacrificing their creature comforts. The Encore boasts a 5.1-metre turning radius and decent fuel economy, which makes it a more sensible choice for city driving than the typical urban utility behemoth.

Visually, the Encore resembles a shrunken Enclave, but stubbier. Softly rounded, with that enormous waterfall grille, it puts me in mind of a guinea pig grinning through chrome braces.

First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick
2013 Buick Encore. Click image to enlarge

There’s no shortage of brightwork to complement that grille – and though all models ride on 18-inch rims – premium Encores boast chrome-clad wheels. Sheet metal surfaces are broken up by some interestingly sculpted character lines and culminate in a much more elegantly sculpted rear end than the squarish Terrain’s. Adorning either side of the hood are Buick’s signature portholes – and whether that’s a good thing is entirely subjective.

Under that hood is the familiar Chevy Cruze sourced 1.4L turbocharged Ecotec inline-four, putting out 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s the single available powertrain, but the Encore can be had in either a standard front-wheel-drive, or optional all-wheel-drive configuration.

The Borg-Warner AWD system requires no driver engagement, it’s available on demand. Automatically engaged at launch (when most needed during slippery weather) the system splits power evenly between the front and the rear. If no slippage is sensed, the magnetic clutch disengages over 5 km/h and the drivetrain reverts to FWD, thus conserving fuel.

The Encore is the fourth vehicle in the Buick lineup to feature a turbocharged four-cylinder – and the first non-hybrid Buick to boast fuel consumption ratings of 6.0 L/100 km highway, even lower than the Verano and Regal’s best efforts, which in their most efficient configurations NRCan rates at 6.2. It does so by a number of measures, many of which we’ve seen before in the Cruze Eco. Low rolling resistance tires help overcome the effort expended to resist inertia, and electric power steering reduces, if only by a small amount, the engine power scavenged by a traditional belt-driven system. The Encore also features a high-efficiency alternator, idle speed reduction and deceleration fuel cut-off. Estimated NRCan fuel ratings are 8.2L/100 km city/6.0 highway/7.0 combined for the FWD and 8.8/6.7/7.9 for AWD equipped models.

Of course, Buick’s claim to fame is its reputation for quiet opulence. Buick goes to great lengths to ensure that its “Quiet Tuning” provides a ride that’s one step removed from a sensory deprivation chamber. It does this through a three-step process that reduces sounds at the source, blocks whatever it can from entering the cabin, and absorbing those sounds that inevitably make their way through. Subframes are tuned through MIG-welding and glue to reduce any vibration, and sound-deadening foam insulation is blown into hollow pockets in the body.

The Ecotec engine’s integrated turbo produces very little whine, complemented by an ultra-quiet alternator and electric steering. Mirrors have been designed to resist wind noise and shake. But despite an acoustic laminated windshield, flat wipers and triple door seals – “noise inevitably will find a way to come inside” according to Harry Ng, Product Manager for the Encore. Any that does will be absorbed by several levels of acoustic insulation – or eliminated by the standard Active Noise Cancellation – which outputs counteractive sound waves through the stereo system.

There will be three trim levels available when the Encore arrives in Canadian showrooms early this spring. Convenience starts at $26,995 and includes air, six-speed transmission, 10 airbags, leather-wrapped wheel, fog lamps, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, Intellilink and an optional premium Bose sound system.

The Leather trim starts at $30,190 and includes everything in the Convenience trim, adding: dual zone climate control. Auto-dimming rear mirror, heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, rear vision camera and optional Bose sound system, sunroof and navigation system.

First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick
2013 Buick Encore. Click image to enlarge

The range-topping Premium model starts at $32,505 and adds lane departure warning, rain sensing wipers, premium Bose audio with XM satellite radio tuner, front & rear park assist, forward collision alert, with optional navigation and sunroof.

Add all-wheel drive to any of the above for $1,950, or a variety of accessories such as all-weather floor mats, roof rails, splash guards or cargo net.

We spent time in both AWD and FWD vehicles in Convenience and Premium Trim.

The Encore presents a tidy package with plenty of front head and legroom, although its claims as a five-seater are a bit ambitious. This is a very compact compact-crossover with a wheelbase that’s shorter than the Verano’s.

The interior is attractively designed and every touch surface is well padded. Two-tone models are particularly striking with chrome and wood trim augmented by ambient blue lighting. Centre stack design is ergonomically friendly and houses the IntelliLink infotainment system’s seven-inch display.

First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick
2013 Buick Encore. Click image to enlarge

Seats are comfortable and the heated steering wheel in the upper trim level is a lovely feature for those cold winter mornings.

Rear cargo is 532.4 L, which increases to 1371 L with rear seats folded flat.

The Encore fulfills its lofty claims of silent riding – over country roads and through downtown Toronto rush-hour traffic we travelled in quiet serenity – although the rushing wind did become noticeable on the highway.

There’s nothing exciting about driving the Encore. The four-cylinder Ecotec manages to propel it smoothly enough, although it does labour a bit when pushed.  It will never be mistaken for a sport utility vehicle, nor as a heavily laden people hauler, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. GM claims that 60 percent of the targeted demographic is female –and apparently females don’t like sportiness. Who knew?

Handling is decent without undue body roll and bumps and thumps were absorbed nicely. Steering is light, but not insubstantial – good for easy execution of downtown parking lot maneuvers.

Although it’s unlikely that the Encore will appeal to young men, who generally prefer a touch more testosterone in their ride (with the exception of several gay friends who insisted it was “elegantly cute”), it may just find favour with urban dwellers looking for quiet refinement in their practical vehicle – and without sacrificing fuel economy.

First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick First Drive: 2013 Buick Encore first drives buick
2013 Buick Encore. Click image to enlarge

Pricing: 2013 Buick Encore
Base price (Convenience): $26,995
Base price (Leather): $30,190
Base price (Premium): $32,505
Options: All-wheel drive ($1,950), Navigation ($995), 18-inch chrome wheels ($995), sunroof ($1,100), Bose Sound system ($775, standard on Premium model).
Freight: $1,550

Competitors:
BMW X1
Hyundai Tucson
Mercedes-Benz B 250
Mini Countryman
Volkswagen Tiguan

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)




About LesleyWimbush

In 5th grade, Lesley traded drawings of muscles cars for chocolate bars and things really haven't changed much since then. When not cursing the gremlins behind the insidious check engine light on her 400 hp modified Dodge Dakota, Lesley can be found lapping her Mazda MX3 KLZE at Mosport.