The marketing folks at Buick have identified a large group of auto buyers who are looking for cars that have a prestige image, contemporary styling, and nicely appointed comfortable cabins. These shoppers want luxury amenities, but are also environmentally conscious and don’t require strong gas guzzling performance. The 2015 Buick Encore was designed with those attributes in mind.
The handsome, rugged exterior styling features sculpted lines from the front clip and steeply raked hood (complete with Buicks iconic Venti-ports) to the character lines running just above the beltline, and door sills. Headlight and taillight treatments are interesting, and the front chrome grill defines the Encore as a Buick. There are a lot of great styling cues to feast your eyes on, including 18” wheels to fill the wheel wells. And they’re all packed into a tidy, trim 168” vehicle, riding on a 100” wheelbase. That makes the Encore nearly 3 feet shorter than the Buick Enclave, and a foot shorter than a Ford Escape, but more than 6” longer than the quirky Mini Countryman or Fiat 500X, and much more room inside than either of those vehicles.
The cabin is very quiet and isolated from road noise. The interior not only feels larger than it really is, it pulls off the premium look and feel of cars costing more money. You get several color choices for the interior, both in monochrome colors, or two tone. Our test car was outfitted in a beautiful chocolate leather with saddle colored seat and door panel inserts, and the right amount of wood trim. The beige headliner and optional moon roof adds to the airy feel. Soft touch materials are located where they’re needed, with the rich looking harder plastic trim in appropriate places.
The seating position is high, so you get a good command of the road. Front seats are comfortable and lightly bolstered, with a fold down armrest for the driver. Unfortunately, the front passenger doesn’t one. The rear seats are comfortable as well. They also offer decent head and leg room, with the front seats raised enough to let rear seat passengers slide their feet beneath them. And when those rear seats fold down, the 19 cubic feet of cargo space expands to a remarkable 50 cubic feet. And the front passenger seatback also folds to carry very long items. So the Encore can be used for all kinds of around town errands. The low lift-over height also makes loading easy.
The Encore has two glove boxes making up for a small center console; the lower one is large, and upper is good for small items. A small cubby at base of the center stack is perfect for holding phones or music devices, and has the 12 volt, USB and aux jacks.
Not everything is hearts and flowers with the interior. The center stack is chock full of dials and small buttons. There is a multipurpose round dial control, like an iDrive dial on BMW’s, but dial is small and not overly friendly to use. The outer ring twists to navigate to certain areas of the screen and then you push that ring in to choose what you want to control. Then there is an inner button you push to with North, South East and West direction to get to other sub-categories, and sometimes, you’re not sure which one to use. It’s more complicated than necessary, and inputting addresses into the Nav system is difficult. The gauge package in front of the driver with large round dials, for tach and speedo, and two smaller ones for temp and fuel, and a good Info screen between them, give the driver all information needed.
Only one engine and transmission is available for all trim levels for the Encore. The fuel injected 1.4-liter turbocharged engine comes from the Chevy Sonic, and makes a modest 138 @ 4900 rpm, and 148 @ at a low 1850 rpm. The 6-Speed automatic transmission is smooth shifting, but programmed for fuel efficiency, so it short shifts. Therefore, once underway you’ll find yourself is a higher gear than you’d like when needing to accelerate for passing or squirting into gaps in traffic. However, accelerating from a stop light is quick enough, since the driver can use the accelerator pedal to keep the revs up before the tranny shifts, so you can scoot ahead of traffic off the line. You may also shift manually by using a simple rocker switch on top of the gear shift knob, which will also aid in acceleration. So by using the rocker switch you can plan your moves in traffic, and have enough boost to make the moves you want to. But still, the all-wheel-drive version of the Encore weighs 3,358 lbs. and that’s a lot of heft for the engine to move with alacrity. The payoff, however, are very good mileage numbers of 23 City and 30 Highway.
2015 Buick Encore COLORS
Despite the short wheelbase and tallish stance, the Encore handles quite well. . The electronic power steering has a good mix of simulated feedback and centering, and feels fairly quick. And the turning circle is very tight, so it’s great for urban warrior use. There isn’t too much body lean in turns, and the ride quality is comfortable and composed. Over certain roads you’ll feel that buckboard bounce when bumps come closely spaced, but the suspension soaks up pavement irregularities and potholes well, and with the aid of those big 18” tires, keeps everybody in the car comfortable. The all-wheel-drive system will also come in handy in the snowy weather in the northern regions of the country.
There are 8 trim models available for the Encore. The base front wheel drive costs $24,065. Then packages add to the cost and comfort, including the Convenience at $26,155, the Leather at 27,950, and the Premium at $29, 435.
Stepping up to the all-wheel drive versions, and the starting price is $25,565. The Convenience package moves up to $27,655, the Leather goes for $29,450, and the top of the line Premium, like our tester, sells for $30,935. For that price you get heated front leather seats, 6-way power driver’s seat, rain sensing wipers, dual zone climate control, auto dimming rearview mirror, and a cargo cover for the rear, front and rear park assist, tilt and telescope steering wheel, heated steering wheel, remote vehicle start, and all the power amenities. Of course, the Encore also gives you all the connectivity you’d expect, as well as power outlets, like a USB port and Input jack. Our test car added $995 for the White Pearl Tricoat paint, $900 for the moonroof, $495 for upgraded audio system with Navigation, and $140 for floor mats. The bottom line came to $34,390 and gives you everything an entry level luxury car should have.
The Buick Encore is a great compact ‘ute, with good room for four, and cargo capacity for active people who want good gas mileage and a well-equipped vehicle.