If you’ve been on Mars for the aftermost few years, you may be adrift aback you see what’s happened to America. No, I’m not talking about the coronavirus communicable and burghal riots; I’m talking about Buick’s lineup.
America’s once-stodgy auto cast has been adapted into a abiding of hip SUVs.
Buick’s “mistaken identity” ads featuring utes like the Envision and Enclave were the best watched car ads of 2019, and “That’s not a Buick!” has become an American catchphrase. I’m not authoritative this up.
To argue you the apple has gone mad, let’s ameliorate the name of this week’s tester, the 2020 Buick Encore GX ST.
The 2020 Buick Encore GX sells Buick appearance and comfort. On Detroit’s asperous roads, the accurately acquainted abeyance fabricated for a bland ride.
It’s the bigger brother of the Encore — Buick’s beat 2013 auto SUV. Yes, I aloof acclimated Buick and beat and auto in the aforementioned sentence. Polling basal in cast character and atrocious for attention, GM let Buick’s artefact aggregation off the bridle to actualize a segment-busting, entry-level, caressible SUV. Consumers adored the little pup.
Hitting the SUV chic in abounding stride, Encores flew out of the pet shop, affairs 102,000 copies aftermost year. That’s added than the Honda HR-V, for advantage sake. It additionally brought in new buyers to the cast who could move on to Buick’s added crossover offerings, the Buick Envision and three-row Enclave.
Buick absitively to milk the Encore’s success with the Encore GX (for Grand Crossover). In Encore’s beat spirit, the Encore GX is one of the aboriginal subcompact-plus SUVs, shoehorned amid the auto and bunched spaces. Yeah, I’d like a new name, too, to abstain confusion. But Buick’s marketers amount they accept a acceptable affair going.
The 2020 Buick Encore GX is bigger than its sister Encore, with added autogenous allowance and AWD optioned.
Other than its surname, Encore GX shares annihilation with little-bro Encore. It’s on a best front-wheel-drive platform, offers all-wheel drive and is added space-comparable to a bunched — yet isn’t as doughty-looking as the added big-ticket Envision.
And aloof to admonish you that it’s a affluence car, the Encore GX comes complete with an alphanumeric alphabet soup appellation like the ST (for Sport Touring) tacked assimilate the end of the name. It’s appropriate up there with the Mercedes GLA 63 GT mouthful.
So acknowledged is Buick’s SUV transformation that it’s agilely dead off its aftermost actual sedans, the Regal and Regal Tour X Wagon. They were my admired Buicks with their auto account and glassy lines. Carrying on their sex appeal, my Encore GX ST was anointed with adorable red lipstick in the grille and a active 155-horse turbo-3 cylinder.
That’s not a typo. I said three-cylinder in an SUV.
Engineers are accomplishing astonishing things with three-bangers these days, and I accept mourned the casual of the Ford Fiesta and its “Godzilla-in-a-box” 1.0-liter turbo-3. It was a joy to drive while abiding 35 mpg. The Encore GX’s 3 isn’t so sippy (just 28 mpg), but when akin to GM’s advanced 9-speed tranny it is affluence zippy.
The cockpit of the 2020 Buick Encore GX ST is a adequate abode to be with big knobs, acceptable ergonomics and lots of abstruse features.
Trouble is, while Buick was re-inventing itself, so was the competition. Lunging out of the subcompact-plus starting gates with the $25,095 Encore GX are two added SUVs from exceptional boilerplate brands: the $23,110 Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30.
Both action alike added able engines: the 175-horse turbo-4 in the Seltos, the 186-horse 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in the Mazda — while abiding comparable 27-mpg ammunition economy.
More important, they betrayal GM’s assiduous abnegation to assimilate technology (a absence best audacious in the $78,000 Chevy Silverado I afresh activated that alone adaptive-cruise control). Adaptive-cruise and blind-spot abetment — two essentials on Mrs. Payne’s arcade account — are accepted in both the Kia and Mazda for hundreds of dollars beneath than the Buick.
Some buyers will cramp at the Kia’s aberrant styling but not the Mazda, which (despite its afflictive wheel-arch cladding) is one of the best ambrosial cartage out there. Then Mazda endless on the value.
An all-wheel-drive CX-30 (with Select trim) able with accepted adaptive-cruise control, blind-spot assist, automated windshield wipers and covering basement clocks in at $28,700. My front-wheel-drive Encore GX ST (in commensurable Essence trim) started at $29,495 afore selecting options that are accepted on the CX-30.
Fold bottomward the rear and advanced commuter bench and the 2020 Buick Encore GX can absorb continued items like winter sleds.
Escape to rural anchorage in the Mazda, feel the paddle shifters in chiral mode and it’s a fun box with bound administration and an acquisitive drivetrain. The GX doesn’t alike appear with paddle shifters.
Reach abaft the GX’s council caster and you can toggle … not about-face paddles, but hidden aggregate and radio base controls. That’s area Buick makes its play. This is a ute for those who appetite that old activity of Buick affluence in a new shell.
Cruise about Metro Detroit and the Buick adroitly soaks up bumps on our oxcart roads. The Mazda wants to bleat the tires; the Buick wants you to apprehend the sounds of your admired Sirius XM station.
Cockpit appearance are accustomed to added GM exceptional products. The infotainment arrangement echoes the Chevy Corvette or Suburban SUV or Cadillac XT4, as did the chic camera mirror in my GX ST tester. There was alike self-park assist, particularly advantageous in an SUV with yuuuge dark spots.
My admired aggregate allotment is the flat-folding advanced seat, which I aboriginal encountered in the wee Encore aback in 2015 aback I had knee surgery. If you’ve had leg surgery, you’ll apperceive the adversity of traveling in annihilation abate than a Silverado pickup. But the Encore and Encore GX acquiesce you to bend the advanced bench collapsed so I could calmly use it as an ottoman from the aback seat.
A added accepted use would be for toboggans that I acclimated to booty to Michigan’s albino hillocks with my kids. GM’s able engineers accept called the appropriate ancillary for the 60 percent breach in the 60-40 rear bench so it aligns with the advanced commuter bench — aperture a alveolate alley from rear bear to advanced glovebox (with the advanced and rear seats flattened).
Three continued sleds aperture in there nicely.
Of course, if you’re branch out in the snow much, you ability adopt the all-wheel-drive option of the Encore GX which gets you into alike pricier territory, some $5,000 arctic of the analogously able Mazda. That’s the downside. But aloof the abstraction of a adolescent ancestors demography the kids to the slopes in a hip Encore GX ST SUV tells you how abundant this cast has afflicted in the aftermost few years.
Welcome aback from Mars. 2020 is one awe-inspiring scene, man.
The 2020 Buick Encore GX is the exceptional brand’s latest SUV access slotted amid the abate Encore and the (slightly) bigger Envision.
Vehicle type: Front-engine, front- and all-wheel drive, five-passenger SUV
Price: $25,095, including $995 destination fee ($34,115 front-wheel-drive Essence ST as tested)
Powerplant: 1.2-liter turbo-3 butt or 1.3-liter turbo-3
Power: 137 horsepower, 162 pound-feet of torque; 155 horsepower, 174 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Performance: 0-60 mph, 9.3 abnormal (Car and Driver)
Weight: 3,094 pounds as tested
Fuel economy: EPA, 26 mpg city/30 highway/28 accumulated (1.2-liter); EPA, 26 mpg city/29 highway/28 accumulated (1.3-liter)
Highs: Bland ride, active engine; able burden storage
Lows: Bound additional row; gets cher about to competition
Overall: 3 stars
Henry Payne is auto analyzer for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or Twitter @HenryEPayne.
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