2020 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD by Ben Lewis

Have you ever been at a pizza place and seen something called “The Meat Lover’s Pizza”? Or a place that has “The Veggie Lover’s” sandwich? It’s called specialization – and why should food have all the fun. Introducing the all-new 2020 Buick Encore GX – we call it “The Tech Lover’s Buick.

Stylish SUV

Before we go any further, we need to point out that the Encore GX is not related to the previous Buick Encore, which is still available – small, fun, funky, and frankly one of our favorite small SUVs. But between the much larger Enclave and Envision models and the compact Encore there was a gap to be filled.

It’s an appealing design. The larger size moves it away from the “cute” smaller Encore, and has a modern, sporty look that is the current trend in smaller SUV’s. Which isn’t to say it’s bland. The front end is especially handsome with a large black mesh grille, upscale chrome accents and a fresh LED signature headlight design. The familiar Buick logo sits proud in the center – an American icon in a very Euro -ooking front end.  

The profile is sporty with muscular wheel arches, and a kicked up C-pillar. We especially liked the 18-inch machined alloy wheels with painted inserts, filling out the wheel wells, it gives the Encore a chunky stance.

At the rear, a faired-in spoiler above the rear window gives an aero look, while LED taillights echo the front LED’s and look modern, crisp and clean. A little chrome on the rear skid plate fascia adds some  luxe to the sporty vibe. All in all, a handsome vehicle – especially so in our tester’s rich Chili Red metallic.

Deluxe Accommodations

Inside, the GX really steps up the game with an interior that is particularly handsome. Being the top of the line Essence trim opens you up to a perforated leather-lined interior in a tasteful signet/ebony two-tone that would look at home in a Lexus or Audi. Contrasting stitching throughout the cabin catches the eye. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated too, and an in cabin air ionizer is a nice touch.

The front seats are very comfortable, with a 10-way power adjustable memory driver seat, and the rear seats will happily hold adults – a nice upgrade from its smaller Encore sibling. The larger body style also allows great luggage carrying, rear seat up (25.3 cubic feet) or down (94.3 cubic feet). A two-stage load floor gives some hidden storage or can max out cargo space. Our tester’s hands-free power liftgate made access easy, and there’s a handy control for how high the liftgate opens – great for people with low garages.

There’s plenty of tech in the Encore GX to satisfy today’s driver. The dash has a nice analog speedo and tach, plus a driver’s 4.2-inch color info display. The 8-inch info-tainment display is beautifully integrated into the dash, and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB-C ports, wireless charging and available 4G LTE Wi-Fi. GM has really improved the software in the systems, and our smartphone hooked up quickly and effortlessly.

Our tester also had the Advance Technology Package, which adds a Head-up display, which makes for a quick read, the HD Surround Vision Camera with a 360-degree view for easy parking, and Adaptive Cruise Control for an easier commute. All the modern tech you could want.

Surprisingly Sporty Performance

The tech comes through to create a fun drive as well. It’s interesting, you have a choice of two turbocharged engines a 1.2-liter and 1.3-liter, but Buick seems very cagey about mentioning that these are three-cylinder engines –maybe they’re concerned people will be scared off.

They shouldn’t be though, the turbo 1.3-liter in our tester was a great engine. It’s a little powerhouse with 155 hp, and 174 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm. It feels like half of a V6 –which technically it is – and it has a nice subdued growl that makes it sound lively.

The turbo gives plenty of low-end power, and our front wheel drive tester’s CVT transmission was one of the best we’ve driven – which is to say, it acts like a regular auto. You can even manually shift it by way of a little rocker button on the shift lever, and it’s fun and responsive in that mode. Stay out of the turbo zone and you should be able to average 30 mpg – impressive.

All-Wheel Drive is available, and if you opt for that, you get a more traditional 9-speed automatic.

Although the Encore GX is larger than the original Encore, we were glad to see it still has that small-vehicle chuckability, that makes it fun to zip around town, slice and dice traffic, and tear up  curvy roads. The ride is a nice blend of Buick traditional smooth, but it never gets wallowy. It’s an enjoyable drive.

Buick even uses active noise cancellation to keep the interior quiet – and it’s a relaxed and easy freeway cruiser. And that little 3-cylinder turbo has plenty of punch for passing, even at higher speeds. Another high-note, the brakes have excellent feel, making it even more fun to use the power.

Good Value

The Encore GX adds to the list of goodness with reasonable pricing. You can start with the Encore GX Preferred FWD at $25,095, which includes a full raft of safety features, including Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and Following Distance Indicator. Safe and stylish, it’s a bit of a bargain.

Luxury-minded buyers should step up to the top of the line Essence trim like our tester, which starts at $28,500. Not bad for a handsome exterior and leather-lined interior. Our tester was nicely optioned out, with The Advanced Technology Package ($1,790), Navigation Convenience Package ($770) which also includes Auto Parking Assist, Wireless Charging, Rear Camera Mirror and more. We also had the Power Liftgate Package ($520), Chili Red Metallic Paint ($495), and the larger 1.3-liter turbo engine ($395). Add in $995 for destination, and we totaled at $33,465.

There are loads of vehicles to cross shop with the Encore GX. At the lower end of the price spectrum, is the new Kia Seltos, comparably priced at $29,000 – it’s not as luxurious as the Encore GX, but an excellent value play. Luxury buyers could look at the Lexus UX,  comparably-equipped it comes in at $41,475. We say the GX finds a comfortable middle ground. Nicely priced.

We love the way the Encore GX brings loads of tech, luxury and style, and throws in a great drive.

The encore to the Encore, the GX is the Tech-lover’s Buick that every SUV buyer can enjoy.