2020 Buick Encore GX Essence Review – Pleasantly Surprising

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The new Encore GX is much better effort than the tiny Encore

We tested the Buck Encore last year and found it to be a comfortable crossover that was short on space and was odd looking thanks to a really short wheelbase. GM really needed a bigger crossover to fill the gap between the Encore and the Envision, and thus the Encore GX, sharing a platform with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, was born. Firstly it looks a whole lot better than the smaller Encore with its Pixar looks thanks to it riding on a longer platform measuring 171.4 inches long by 71.4 inches wide by 64.1 inches tall, making it longer, lower, and wider than the Encore.

The rest of the car has some nice styling features including a clean looking front grille, swooping tail lamps, 18 inch swirl-spoke wheels and a curved roof line enhanced by chrome roof rails on my Encore Tester model. My 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD loaner had Chili Red metallic paint and a Signet interior with Ebony accents.

Where is it made?

The Encore GX is built at two plants around the world, the GM Bupyeong plant in South Korea produces the crossover for North America and SAIC-GM Dongyue South plant in China produces the crossover for China.

It’s surprisingly zippy for a 1.3 liter 3 cylinder

What’s under the hood?

The Encore GX is available with 2 engine options, a 1.2-liter or 1.3-liter, both inline 3 cylinders and both of which are turbocharged. Front-wheel drive is standard across the range, if you want all-wheel drive, you get the larger inline-three. I haven’t driven the smaller of the two since my Essence tester had the larger 1.3 liter. The 1.2 liter 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, the 1.3 liter gives you 155 hp and 174 lb-ft @ 1,600rpm. All front-wheel-drive models use a CVT, never my favorite but this one is pretty good, and finally the 1.3 paired with AWD gets a nine-speed automatic.

How does it go?

Better than expected since based on raw numbers my expectations were quite low. To get the best out this engine you need to use the 177 ft-lbs of torque since there’s not much go in the upper rev range. Driven within the torque band though the GX is quite zippy and the CVT does a respectable job of helping the car off the line. The key here is drivability, I’ve driven cars with more power and less torque and come away dissatisfied with the overall power delivery. In stop start traffic the Buick is easy to drive, has power to dart into gaps in traffic and it’s light steering is great.

Push on to higher speeds and the chassis feels well sorted it does a great job of keeping the car very stable and will take turns at pretty good speeds with little body roll. The Encore’s suspension has no trouble soaking up the bumps on San Diego’s acne ridden roads and the brakes are solid and but easy to modulate.

On the freeway the Encore GX feels like it will cruise all day, it’s easily able to sit at high speeds without wandering out of lane and will deliver 32 mpg in driven with restraint. In our lead footed . hands we averaged 22.1 mpg for the week.

QuietTuning™ Technology works

Small engines, especially ones with odd numbers of cylinders can be somewhat harsh and not as well balanced as an even number cylinder count, however, Buick uses its QuietTuning™ technology to good effect here by using triple sealed doors and acoustic laminated glass which block and reduce unwanted noise in the cabin. It’s pleasantly quiet inside.

Interior

With more wheelbase to play with the GX adds more shoulder room front and rear, as well as more legroom in both front and back, it doesn’t feel small. The front seats are supportive and comfortable offer power adjustment all round except for the seat back adjustment on the passenger side, which is manual.

Interior quality is a bit of a mixed bag, with soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard and front door panel but lower down below knee level, hard plastic resides. The good news is Buick has sculpted out eh center console on the driver’s side to prevent your knee from chafing said hard plastic. The dash looks good too, it’s a nice design with an integrated touch screen and nicely sculptured surfaces.

The interior is a mixed bag with some hard plastics below knee level

What’s also good is the multimedia tech since every GX comes standard with Buick’s excellent and easy-to-use infotainment system, in that aforementioned 8-inch touch screen. It’s very easy to use, has large easy to read icons and has fast response times. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and Amazon Alexa integration is available.

Al Encore GX’s come standard with a suite of driver-assistance systems including forward-collision warning with pedestrian braking, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning. Adaptive cruise control is an option, checked in my tester, and is part of the Advanced Technology Package ($1,790) that also includes surround-view cameras, head-up display and navigation. The head-up display is a bit weird since it’s one of those where a small screen flips up when you start the car. I’d give that a miss.

How would I spec it?

My tester’s base price was $28,500 and the out the door price was $33,465, quite a lot since Buick is attempting to compete with the likes of the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, both of similar size but with more power. Since the GX is likely to spend most of its life running errands and commuting in traffic, I would ditch the Tech Package, the Convenience Package and get the price down to a more reasonable $30,905.

This is a very competent car from Buick, just a little more car and attention on the cabin plastics and this is a winner.

2020 Buick Encore GX Essence

BASE PRICE: $28,500
PRICE AS TESTED: $33,465
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, Front-wheel-drive, 5 passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: I.3 liter turbocharged and inter-cooled DOHC inline-3
POWER: 155 hp @ 5,600 rpm
TORQUE: 174 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable automatic
0-60 MPH: 9.0 seconds (est)
CURB WEIGHT: 3,094 lbs
CARGO VOLUME: 23.5 ft³, 50.2 ft³ with seat area
FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 31/30/32 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 22.5 mpg
PROS: Super quiet, feels quicker than the numbers, smooth and silky ride quality
CONS: Some cheap plastics lower down

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