The Buick Encore is a really interesting and unique proposition. It’s a luxurious crossover SUV that’s not as large as some of the other, more traditional crossover SUVs. It features modern technology, a compact size and one of the best cabins in its class, but can it really be an alternative to the most popular segment currently out there? To find out, we drove a 2017 Buick Encore and reviewed it.
On the outside, it’s all Buick. It’s got the traditional Buick elements, with lines and angles that make it instantly recognizable. Buick is known for making large, luxurious sedans, and the Encore is really no different, despite the different body shape. To keep up with its evolving rivals, Buick decided to give the encore a mild facelift. The front has been subtly restyled with new headlights and a different grille design. At the back we find LED taillights for extra visibility, while inside you can now connect your smartphone as the Encore gets Apple and Android integration.
The design is appealing, even if slightly understated and bland. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however. Most people who buy luxury vehicles, especially sedans and small SUVs, prefer a design that’s not over the top and one which doesn’t draw a lot of attention. The Encore meets both of those criteria. It’s a good-looking car by all standards, but it manages to blend in so well that you have to stare at it to notice all the details and go: “I’ve never seen that before”. If you want your Encore with a bit more presence and flare, you can always go for a more vibrant color. Otherwise, black, grey and dark brown make a really good under the radar vehicle.
The 2017 Buick Encore is offered in five different trims: Preferred, Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence and Premium. The Preferred trim comes with 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, roof rails, air conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, synthetic leather upholstery, cruise control and a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat. OnStar emergency communications is also standard, as is the rearview camera, Bluetooth and audio connectivity and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. For a standard trim, the Preferred offers plenty, even for most people.
The Sport Touring trim adds a rear spoiler, foglamps, remote start, and a Bose audio system with seven speakers becomes optional, just as the blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and even better 18-inch alloys. The Preferred II upgrades on that with a dual-zone climate control (automatic), 120-volt power outlet, auto-dimming rearview mirror and the safety systems which were optional on the Sport Touring become standard. The Essence gives you LED headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, and a six-way power adjustable passenger seat. The flagship Premium trim offers parking sensors for the front and rear, a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning, automatic wipers and the premium Bose audio system.
The interior is undoubtedly the Encore’s party piece. Where do we even begin? The materials are wonderful, with lots of leather and high-quality plastics. The higher trims get simulated wood and metal trim which looks, feels and smells high-end. Everything is soft and pleasant to the touch, just as it should be. You can tell that they spared no expense when it comes to the quality of the cabin. The fit and finish is on another level, matching or even surpassing that of the German rivals. We can’t praise the cabin quality enough.
The high seating position gives you a commanding view of the road, and the seats themselves are very supportive and comfortable, especially the front ones. There’s ample amount of leg and headroom, even for taller people. The sloping roofline means that those sitting in the back may have some discomfort, but only if they’re a lot taller than 6 feet, which rarely happens. Two adults will be able to travel in superb comfort in the back, but three will be a little too much. It’s ideal for kids, and you’ll be able to seat three of them across.
The controls are situated where you expect them, making the entire cabin ergonomic. The 8-inch touchscreen is one of the best features of the cabin. Not only is it fast and intuitive, but the IntelliLink infotainment system running it is just as much of a joy to use as the actual screen. There’s 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which can be extended to 48.8 if you fold the rear seats down. They’re average numbers, but what do you expect from a compact SUV? The fold-flat front passenger seat makes you can fit bulkier items, which is always a plus.
The 2017 Buick Encore gets only one engine, and it’s the well-known 1.4 liter four-cylinder with 138 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The same engine can be had in a slightly more powerful guise, generating 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. It’s available on almost all of the trims, minus the base one. The engine is mated to a six-speed auto transmission, with no choice of a manual. Front-wheel drive is standard on all trims, but you can opt for an all-wheel drive system.
The Encore manages to return 28 mpg on the combined run, a decent figure for the segment. The sprint form 0 to 60 takes 9.8 seconds, which isn’t fast, but it’s not bad either. It right in the middle for this segment, but really, who cares when we’re talking about a luxury SUV? A tenth or two don’t mean anything in the real world. Trust us, the Encore feels really quick on the road.
The light chassis and spritely engine prove to be a great match. It handles great, partly down to the short wheelbase and partly down to the nimble and agile chassis and light steering wheel. The ride is compliant and the suspension absorbs all of the bumps, like any Buick should.
Prices for the Encore begin at $25,700 and can go up to $32,000 if you want the all-wheel drive system as well as some of the higher-end trims. All in all, well worth your money. It’s the best small luxury SUV on the market.