2013 Buick EncorePosted on October 14th, 2013
Premium compact crossover
By Nina Russin
It wasn’t that long ago that Buick seemed destined to go the way of the Packard. Two things turned the company’s fortunes around. First, a talented group of designers revised the model lineup to include vehicles relevant to younger buyers. In addition, customers who prior to 2008 bought luxury brands saw the value in more competitively priced premium products.
This put Buick back in the position it held in the 1960s, where its upscale cars filled the gap between the value-driven Chevrolet brand and Cadillac luxury. The 2013 Encore compact crossover is a poster child for the new Buick: stylish yet practical, offering exceptional fuel economy and a high level of standard convenience features for a $26,710 base MSRP. That’s almost $4500 less than the average transaction price of a new car according to the research and analytics firm, TrueCar Inc.
Everything about the 2013 Buick Encore test car looks and feels premium, from its toothy chrome grille to the soft leather upholstery, large touchscreen with voice-activated infotainment, navigation and Bose audio system. Options include a power sunroof, navigation, satellite radio, the audio upgrade and IntelliLink, bringing the final MSRP to $29,650.
Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a nice, well-balanced block, but in this writer’s opinion, a bit small for the product. Although turbocharging is an effective way of increasing power, there’s a limit to what it can do.
Pushing 3200 pounds of sheet metal around is a lot to ask of an engine this size. As a result, I found myself having to dig deep into the throttle to accelerate on freeway ramps.
The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears, and is notable for the lack of shift shock considering the small engine it’s paired with.
An electric power steering system eliminates weight under the hood and reduces internal pumping losses. Although on-center response is a bit on the soft side, I felt well in control of the vehicle and had no problems making quick lane changes. A 36.7-foot turning circle is adequate for making U-turns on wider suburban roads.
The suspension consists of independent MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. Although an independent rear suspension would be more desirable, I didn’t notice any harshness or hop when driving on the highway.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Buick is known for its quiet interiors: the Encore lives up to the brand’s reputation with no obvious wind, engine or road noise inside the car.
Visibility to the front and sides of the car is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. The rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass. It also makes it easier for the driver to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
Designers have produced one of the best interiors in the compact crossover segment. Not only is it stylish, but versatile as well. Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The front passenger seat also folds flat so the Encore can hold extremely long items inside the vehicle. Standard roof rails make it easy to add a carrier up top.
I was especially impressed by the center stack, which in some Buick models suffers from a lot of clutter. Designers have solved this problem with the Encore, making infotainment controls easier to reach and more intuitive to use.
Dual-zone climate controls and heated front seats keep front row occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. The power controls on the driver’s seat were easy to use, but I needed to fiddle some with the manual recline lever to get the seat into a comfortable position.
Although the Encore seats up to five passengers, four will be more comfortable on longer road trips, simply because of its compact dimensions. The quiet tuning makes it easy for both rows of passengers to converse on the highway and enjoy the premium sound system.
The Buick Encore comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and the rearview camera.
Standard OnStar automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision. The Encore received five-star crash test ratings for both rows of passengers for frontal and side impacts.
The stylish Buick Encore is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordable, stylish premium compact crossover vehicle with a high level of standard safety and convenience features.
Dislike: Engine is too small for the car, most noticeable during hard acceleration. Driver’s seat recline feature is awkward to use.
Model: Encore FWD with leather
Base price: $26,710
As tested: $29,650
Horsepower: 138 Hp @ 4900 rpm
Torque: 148 lbs.-ft. @ 1850 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 25/33 mpg city/highway2013, Best Value 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Buick, performance, pricing, standard safety
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