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  • William Maley
    William Maley
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    The Brief: 2015 Buick Encore Leather AWD and GMC Yukon Denali XL

      GM's smallest and largest utility vehicles go under the review microscope

    I remember being at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and being at introduction of the Buick Encore. After seeing the model introduced, I just found myself wondering why. Why do we need a subcompact crossover? Why does Buick have it and not Chevrolet? Wouldn’t it be better as a Chevrolet? Little did I or anyone realize that within a few years, the subcompact crossover would be the hot thing. It seems Buick would be a pioneer in this class.


    The Encore is a rebadged version of the Opel Mokka sold in Europe and somehow Buick was able to make it look a bit more premium. This is due to Buick’s designers making a number of small tweaks such as a new waterfall grille, portholes on the hood, blue tinted headlights, and a set of eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels.


    The same is true for the interior as Buick has added some luxury touches such as faux metal and wood trim, soft-touch materials, and blue backlighting. This particular Encore also came equipped with some handsome two-tone leather seats. Oddly, there are no power adjustments for the seats. To get that you’ll need to step up to the top Premium trim. Personally, I would like to see all Encores come with power adjustments as standard. At least all Encores get Buick’s Interlink infotainment system.


    Now being a subcompact crossover, you might think it is a penalty box for rear passengers and cargo. Not so in the Encore. The rear seats provide more than enough head and legroom, but getting in and out is somewhat hard due to a small rear door opening. Cargo space is decent with 18.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the seats down. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to increase cargo capacity.


    Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired to a six-speed automatic. There is a choice of front or all-wheel drive, with my tester having the latter. If you are planning to stay in urban environments, the 1.4T is perfect as it provides enough squirt to get you up to speed. If your travels take you to the country or highways, then you might want to look at something else. The 1.4T runs out of steam quite fast and you’ll find your foot on the floor to try and merge into traffic or make a pass. Now Buick has a possible solution to the power problem with a new turbo 1.6 on the 2016 Encore Sport Touring. We hope to get our hands on that soon.


    At least Buick got the ride characteristics right on the Encore. The suspension is able to soak up bumps and provides a smooth ride. Also, the small dimensions and light steering makes the Encore very nimble in small spaces. Buick’s QuietTuning makes sure no road and wind noise enters the cabin making the model one the quietest in the class.


    The Buick Encore may now be overshadowed by newer models in the class. But it still is worth of a look, especially if you live in an urban area.


    Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Encore, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas



    Year: 2015
    Make: Buick
    Model: Encore
    Trim: Leather Group AWD
    Engine: 1.4L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-Four
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 4,900
    Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 1,850
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/30/26
    Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Bupyeong, South Korea
    Base Price: $29,450
    As Tested Price: $33,620 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)


    White Pearl Tricoat - $995.00
    Power Moonroof - $900.00
    Bose Premium Audio - $595.00
    Buick Intellilink with 7-Inch Screen and Navigation - $495.00
    Cargo Mat - $60.00
    Cargo Net - $60.00


    The brief on the Yukon Denali XL is on the next page.


    The Cadillac Escalade has been a huge success for the company since being launched in 1999. In fact, many consider the full-size SUV to be the flagship, even with the new CT6 around the corner. But not everyone can plunk down the $72,970 required to get into the base model. So is there a good alternative to Escalade? Yes and it comes from GMC.


    The GMC Yukon Denali was launched a year before the Escalade, offering a number luxury appointments and features not commonly seen on full-size SUVs. Since then, the Denali has become a sub-brand and making some of GMC models feel and look like something you would get a luxury car dealer. But the Yukon has remained the crown jewel for the Denali brand.


    The Yukon Denali and the model seen here, the Yukon Denali XL don’t really differentiate in terms of overall design from the standard Yukon design. But it’s small details that make the Denali stand out. There is a new chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-two inch aluminum wheels, optional retractable running boards, and a number of chrome pieces. It is subtle, but it does make a big difference.


    Compared to the previous-generation, the 2015 Yukon Denali XL shows a noticeable improvement in terms of design and materials. The dashboard layout has been cleaned up and controls are within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are a few steps above what you’ll find in the previous Denali thanks to soft-touch plastics, leather, and faux aluminum trim. I do wish GMC did a little something more for the Denali’s interior to make it stand out just a little further. Maybe real aluminum trim?


    At least GMC got passenger and cargo space in the Yukon Denali XL right. Sitting in the rear two rear rows isn’t a penalty as there an abundance of head and legroom. The only downside might be narrow space to get into the third-row by moving the second-row seat. Cargo space is large with 38.9 cubic feet on offer with both rear rows up. This increases to 76.7 cubic feet with the third-row down and 121.7 cubic feet with the second-row down.


    For power, comes with the 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic comes into play for this year's model. Despite the Yukon Denali XL weighing over 6,000 pounds, the larger V8 shrugs it off like it was nothing thanks to the large torque figure and automatic transmission being smart with its shifts. Now going for the larger V8 means slightly lower numbers of 14 City/24 Highway/16 Combined compared to the 5.3 V8’s economy figures of 15/22/18. Both figures represent models equipped with four-wheel drive.


    In terms of ride and handling, the Yukon Denali XL provides a relaxed ride with bumps and imperfections ironed out. This is very impressive when you consider my tester came equipped with the larger wheels. Thank GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that comes standard. The system also makes a difference when cornering as the Denali shows barely any sign of body roll.


    The Yukon Denali XL starts at $70,220 for the base four-wheel drive model. My modestly equipped tester came in at $78,725. That might seem a bit much, but consider that a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade ESV will cost $10,000 to $12,000 more. So if you want something close to an Escalade without a large pricetag, GMC has got you covered.


    Disclaimer: GMC Provided the Yukon Denali XL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas



    Year: 2015
    Make: GMC
    Model: Yukon XL
    Trim: Denali
    Engine: 6.2L EcoTec V8
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,600
    Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4,100
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/20/16
    Curb Weight: 6,009 lbs*
    Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas
    Base Price: $70,220
    As Tested Price: $78,725 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge and $500 Open Road Package Discount)


    *Note: Weight corresponds to Yukon XL Denali equipped with 20-inch wheels


    Denali Premium Package - $3,165.00
    Open Road Package - $2,860.00
    Twenty-Two Aluminum Wheels - $895.00
    Midnight Amethyst Metallic Paint - $495.00
    Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00

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