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  • Drew Dowdell
    Drew Dowdell

    Buick Week: 2013 Buick Encore First Drive

    December, 6th 2012

    Drew Dowdell

    Managing Editor – CheersandGears.com

    Day 4 of Buick Week and we're talking about Buick's new 2013 Encore

    Buick Week:

    Day 1 – 2013 Buick Verano Review

    Day 2 – 2013 Buick Enclave First Drive

    Day 3 – 2013 Buick Verano Turbo First Drive

    Day 4 - 2013 Buick Encore First Drive

    Buick is betting that the next big thing in the crossover category is being little. Little SUVs and CUVs in the past have not sold well or grew up in size until their sales numbers increased. A big part of the reason they haven’t sold in the past could be because they were typically penalty boxes in terms of amenities and driving capability. Buick submits their new 2013 Encore as evidence that neither need be true. Does this diminutive CUV have the goods to change people’s minds?

    Buick invited me to Atlanta, Georgia to prove it to me.

    Think Small

    At just 168.5 inches long, the 2013 Buick Encore is the polar opposite of 222.4 inches the Chevrolet Suburban checks in at. In fact, the Encore sits right between Chevrolet's two sub-compact entries, at 4.6 inches shorter than the Chevrolet Sonic sedan sub-compact and 9.5 inches longer than the 5-door version of that car. The Encore wears its size well though, and while it will never be mistaken for a Suburban, it looks bigger than those numbers suggest.

    In spite of its trim exterior dimensions, Buick has packaged the Encore well to enable a good amount of room. The interior dimensions are fairly close or even equal to larger-on-the-outside competition from the Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan. Me and my two driving buddies from other media outlets had no trouble finding comfortable seating positions.

    With a wheelbase just a hair over 100 inches, the Encore excels in maneuverability. When I first arrived at the location in Atlanta, I took the Encore for a spin around a shopping complex. The ease of darting around looking for a parking spot will satisfy many an outlet shopper. For those trips to Ikea, the front passenger seat folds flat allowing for long boxes to be brought home. Turning radius is a scant 36.7 feet, about a foot shorter than the Mini-Cooper Countryman.

    What is a crossover without cup holders? Though the Encore only seats 5, it has 8 beverage holders. Designers included storage pockets everywhere with four bins in the dash, door pockets, rear seat pockets, a bin under the passenger seat, and bins under the rear cargo floor.


    Up next: The Drive

    The Drive

    A tall, narrow, short wheelbase car is not typically a prescription for great handling but Buick manages to overcome this disadvantage. Steering feel from the all-electric power steering is light to the touch at parking lot speeds and firms up for a more sporting feel when under way. Steering response and feel is excellent and would be at home in a sportier car than the Encore. MacPherson struts up front and coil springs with twin-tube shock absorbers tuned specifically to the standard 18” wheels do a great job of keeping the Encore planted in turns and soaking up rough highway pavement, again giving handling feel that would be just as appropriate in an entry level, low-slung sport compact.

    More in tune with the Encore’s mission, the highway ride again is contrary to the smaller stature. The suspension and Buick’s Quiet-Tuning soak up road noise to create a much quieter cabin than one might be used to in a car of this size. Part of that quiet comes from the Bose active noise canceling (ANC), a first for Buick, installed in the car. The system uses three headliner mounted speakers to detect engine related noise entering the passenger compartment and cancels it out using the audio system’s speakers and sub-woofer. The Buick engineer riding with us told us that the ANC system does its best work when the engine is running above 3,000 rpm. The Quiet-Tuning does have a downside though; on the highway you have to watch your speed because you can easily end up going faster than local law enforcement would like.

    The 2013 Encore is powered by a 1.4 liter turbo charged Ecotec engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission driving the front or all wheels. It generates 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,850 and 4,900 rpm. That may not sound like much, but compared to rivals such as the RAV4, CR-V, and Escape in the next size class up, it is a torque deficiency of no more than 24 ft.-lbs. against vehicles that weigh 300lbs. – 500lbs. more. I would bet that anyone trading from a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 would feel that the Buick Encore is a perkier driver resulting from its lower curb weight and early peak torque curve. Running around town and even under full throttle, the engine is very smooth. I felt the Encore could use more power at full throttle, but again I feel that CR-V and RAV4 owners wouldn’t notice a difference.

    Buick claims the Encore will be among best fuel economy in the segment with estimated fuel economy of 25 city / 33 highway / 28 combined for front-wheel drive models and 23 city / 30 highway / 26 combined for all-wheel drive models when compared to automatic transmission equipped competitors.

    Buick is expecting a 5-star crash test rating when the Encore is tested; a justifiable expectation as the Opel Mokka which shares much of the Encore’s structure received top ratings in the Euro NCAP safety tests, including a 100 percent safety rating in the safety assist category for the electronic stability control.

    The Encore boasts a whole host of safety features to get those ratings:

    • 10 standard airbags
    • Collapsible brake pedal
    • Side Blind Zone Alert
    • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
    • Rear Vision Camera
    • Forward Collision Alert (optional)
    • Lane Departure Warning (with Forward Collision Alert)

    But what’s it cost?

    One of the bigger stories with the Encore is in the pricing. Unless you are trying to squeeze out every last penny of value per square inch of interior space, the Encore’s pricing is very competitive to the larger crossovers in the next size class up. I already mentioned that next to the Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan, you would give up very little in space in an Encore. Though they start with a Optioning up those vehicles with similar equipment and the Encore starts a large price in various configurations.

    For example, we built these three example vehicles on their respective manufacturers’ websites:

    2013 Ford Escape SEL 4WD - $35,525

    • 1.6L Ecoboost
    • Parking Technology Package
    • Sync with MyFord Touch and Navigation
    • Leather Interior (non-heated seats)
    • Panoramic Sunroof

    2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4motion - $33,055

    • 2.0T Engine
    • Sunroof
    • Navigation
    • Leatherette interior with heated seats

    2013 Buick Encore AWD - $32,035

    • 1.4T Engine
    • Buick IntelliLink w/ Navigation
    • Leather Interior (includes heated seats and steering wheel)
    • Premium Group (Includes safety assist technology, rain sense wipers)
    • Sunroof

    The prices speak for themselves.

    Buick is targeting two specific sets of consumers with the 2013 Encore. The first group is young professionals who want to move up to a more premium vehicle from their “first car”. They don’t yet have families and the need for a large crossover, but they do like to sit up higher, have the option for AWD, and fuel economy is a concern. The second group is “empty nesters”; people who no longer need to haul the kids around and do not want to haul around the baggage of a large SUV anymore. They are looking for easy to drive, easy to park, yet still versatile enough to fit their daily lives. Both groups are looking for more premium features in their vehicles but are particularly attracted to refinement.

    In the 150 miles I logged in the 2013 Encore, I found it to be a perky little SUV with a surprising amount of interior room for its small foot print. The quiet and comfortable ride makes it a suitable long distance companion. This is not a car for gearheads, but for those who want a premium crossover without all the weight associated with the segment. Buick might just be on to something here.

    Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly listed the Buick Encore as 4.6 inches shorter than the Chevy Sonic hatchback. It is 4.6 inches shorter than the Chevy Sonic Sedan. The Encore is actually 9.5 inches longer than the hatchback.

    Drew Dowdell is Managing Editor of CheersandGears.com and can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter as @Cheersngears

    Disclaimer: Buick provided transportation to, and accommodations in Atlanta, Georgia for this test drive.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    I'm glad you like it. Hopefully yous can get one. I like the blue with the 5-spoke wheels. Convenience, AWD and Bose. $27,855. Manufacturer websites say Sonic hatch is 159" long, Encore 168.4".

    Edited by ocnblu
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    Sat in a 2013 Honda CR-V tonight. Ain't. No. Way. There is huge difference in interior quality.

    I agree, people who shoped the CR-V against the Encore were shocked at how cheap the interior was in comparison to the Buick and that they would rather have the Buick over the Honda.

    Will be interesting to see how many conquest customers Buick can win with this hot little number.

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    I was notified by Buick that I had a stat wrong in my article. The Encore is shorter than the Sonic sedan, not the 5-door. It is actually 9.5 inches longer than the Sonic Hatchback.

    The article has been updated.

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