AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

2013 Buick Encore: This is one tiny, yet luxurious car

2013 Buick Encore

by ALAN GELL

I know. You are asking yourself, “What is an Encore?” Doesn't the definition simply mean a repeat? In Buick's vernacular, the simple answer is “maybe yes, maybe no.” The Encore is a very small compact crossover with luxury touches abounding. It is a repeat of the popular Buick Enclave, but on a much smaller scale. It is classified as an SUV – Sport Utility Vehicle.

The Buick Encore was unveiled early in 2012 at the Detroit Auto Show. After 11 months of waiting, journalists were summoned to Atlanta, Georgia. It was the middle of December when media types actually got behind the wheel for test-driving. It was a fun experience and certainly eye opening as to the possibilities in the very small car market.

The 2013 Buick Encore is being called a Small Luxury Crossover. It is built on the same platform as the Chevy Sonic (a repeat?). It is a crossover alternative to the larger, seven-passenger Buick Enclave. Buick is making great strides to move and widen its customer base from older folks to the 'almost retired' or younger professional age group. The Encore and the Enclave are sporty and contemporary and not like your great-grandfather's Roadmaster that resembled a lumber truck with chrome.

The Encore is not designed for the push-the-pedal-down driver, but more for everyday comfort. It is powered by a single choice of engines, a 1.4-liter Turbo EcoTec that produces 138 horsepower, taken from the Chevy Cruze (a repeat?). It is mated to a Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is smooth and can allow you to slightly feel a gear change if you really push hard on the pedal. There is not enough push to throw you and the passengers into the seat back, but it does hold its own in normal traffic situations.

Outside, the Encore is attractive. It has all the anticipated features of a Buick, such as the traditional port-holes, the waterfall grill, and sufficient chrome touches. Because it is an SUV, a roof rack is mounted on the top to carry all that important 'stuff' to the campsite or to grandma's house. Oh wait! grandma might be driving this one. She can use the roof rack to tie down all those necessities when she hauls the grandchildren along with her. Grandmothers are getting much younger these days, aren't they?

Inside, the new Buick Encore will have either leather or cloth seats, depending upon one of three trim levels purchased. The gauge area and center console are within easy reach and fairly intuitive to use. The dashboard area is designed with wood trim and soft-touch materials, combined to offer a noticeable feeling of luxury. There are two, count them, two glove boxes and a lot more storage spaces and cubby-holes. Cargo area? Not much there if you have people with you. The front passenger seat and the rear seats fold flat and that works well in most cases. But the lack of cargo area in the rear explains the need for those roof racks.

There is very little wind and road noise. A lot of that is attributed to the use of a Bose active-noise cancellation system. Buick is emphasizing the use of this Bose system so much that a display and two Bose representatives were omni-present at the media event. It works similarly to the noise canceling headphones many people use on airplanes. There are three microphones in the cabin that allow the Bose system to re-adjust the sound waves and emit a more pleasant sound. This especially helps mask that loud engine nose at the upper rpm range.

The Buick Encore is great for young professionals. However, empty-nesters will also find this to be a terrific choice in vehicles. The base model is in the $25k range. The top-of-the-line trim level will still be under that $30k mark. It is offered in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, costing just $1500 extra.

Most of us in the U.S. measure things by size. We are regularly told, “Bigger is better.” Buick is banking on what they see as an emergence of small luxury compacts, including this little SUV. They seem to be telling us that tiny does not equate as being plain. If you believe that only bigger is better, then you need to talk to some pint-sized athletes that have won Olympic gold medals.

If you need more cargo space or passenger seating space, check out the larger Enclave or maybe some other brands. Buick has combined a lot of sportiness, affordability, technology, and styling into a small package that will probably prove to be the first wave of the future. Compact luxury crossovers will probably spring up in other manufacturers' portfolios.

After the test-drive in Atlanta, I believe that this tiny, luxurious SUV will attract a younger generation to the Buick luxury brand without leaving the older Buick buyers in the dust. It is “big on utility, versatility, and efficiency.” The Encore is not a 'repeat' but unlike any Buick that has been on the market before.



TAWA Spring Challenge 2010

Bugler at FCFBy JUDY GELL, Automotive Journalist


Each year the Texas Auto Writers Association holds two events for the membership, which allow journalists to drive and evaluate new vehicles. One is held in the fall, The Truck Rodeo, and features pickups, SUVs and CUVs to be driven over a challenging off-road course. The other event is called the Spring Challenge, where family and sports cars are driven on the road, and in some cases on a racetrack.

The 2010 Spring Challenge was held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Grapevine, Texas. Since it is one of only two events where a large percentage of journalist members get together at one place at once, there is a great deal of visiting and catching up that highlights the social times and meals. Once we discover the latest family and business news about one another, the conversation inevitably turns to the common passion that unites this group---cars!

There are typically 50-60 vehicles entered in the event; all to be driven by as many journalists as can make it into the driver's seat. Since there are usually about 40-50 journalists, it becomes a very busy day! Safety is the first consideration, with rules and procedures listed and emphasized during the breakfast meeting. At the track the manufacturer representatives are eager to visit with each and every driver, listing the many advantages of the vehicles they have entered. It takes firm resolve and determination to back away politely and slam that driver's side door from the inside so that you can get down to the business of driving. Occasionally you will discover that the rep has raced around the car to join you and is sitting in the passenger seat, continuing to sell you a vehicle you have no intention of buying!

Behind the wheel there are many things to consider as the few miles quickly roll by: I try to follow a routine, starting with my impression of the exterior appearance, followed by the interior and comfort, then the performance of the vehicle. There are no score sheets; the judging is by overall impression in categories such as “Best New Design”, “Best New Technology”, overall choice as “Best Vehicle” for the event, and more. Challenging is an understatement when you have driven as many as 40 vehicles, from roadsters to sedans to mini-vans, in the space of 6-7 hours.

It is several days before the results are sent out, during which the merits of one vehicle over another are discussed in emails and phone conversations. Each journalist is certain that his or her choices were the obvious best. The final results encourage more competitive discussion, but everyone is happy and eagerly anticipating the next event.

The winners of the 2010 Spring Challenge were:

WRITERS' CHOICE – CAR OF TEXAS was the new Cadillac CTS-V             HIGH PERFORMANCE CAR OF TEXAS – Dodge Viper ACR             FAMILY CAR OF TEXAS – Ford Taurus             MOST INNOVATIVE – Mercedes-Benz E350A Cabriolet             BEST NEW DESIGN – Ford Fiesta             BEST USE OF TECHNOLOGY – Lincoln MKT             BEST VALUE – Ford Fiesta


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