I was excited by the opportunity to switch from the 2017 Buick LaCrosse into Buick’s new Encore, because it was going to give me perspective. Having just driven the biggest sedan Buick offers I was now stepping into the other side of the spectrum, driving their smallest vehicle. In a state that is famous for putting things in terms of scale I was interested in seeing if size matters when it comes to the compact Buick Encore.
I must admit that before I took the keys to the Encore I was already making assumptions, judging its size as another pretender wanting to be a contender. Was it little more than a global car fitted with leather seats and a higher price tag to meet EPA standards for Buick? After spending a week with the silver Encore I can tell you that it was one of the few times where I was glad I was wrong.
EXTERIOR: The Encore is an aggressively refreshed design for 2017. The previous model reminded me of a bunny with its ears folded back; in short, cute. This new design has taken a razor to sharpen the old model’s rounded edges, giving it a more aggressive, confident look. Like a teenager who was blessed by puberty over the summer and comes back to school to turn heads. I especially like the front headlamps with LED’s that make it look like it has eyebrows. The Encore’s face is chiseled with a sense of determination. It wants to be the best at what it works so hard to be, a luxury crossover. I caught myself admiring the Encore more than the LaCrosse because it looks so endearing.
Also new for 2017 are the 18-inch wheels this particular Buick Encore is sitting on. Not sure what it is about modern Buick’s but they seem to look their best in silver. In my opinion, of course.
INTERIOR: One thing that still haunts me from my brief time working as a rent-a-car employee is remembering how often people complained about the size of cars. God forbid a customer had to go from their usual Altima into a Sentra. They would complain as if we had given them a unicycle to take to the airport. Flashbacks of this came to mind when I reached for the door to step inside the Buick Encore for the first time. Once inside it was a completely different story. It’s small on the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside, like Mary Poppin’s travel bag. The Buick Encore has a spacious interior that is misleading for its size. But, the Encore is narrow, so expect to rub elbows if you are a wide (or wider) individual.
I felt just as comfortable in the compact Buick Encore as I did in the full-size LaCrosse. I had heated/cooling seats, Apple Car-play and Wi-Fi, keyless door entry, push-button ignition, moon roof, blind spot warnings, front collision sensors, backup camera displayed on an 8-inch touch screen, 10 airbags, and a quiet cabin to enjoy satellite radio with the Bose equipped stereo.
The great thing about crossover vehicles is that due to their taller roofline they are very easy to get in and out of. It’s like hopping onto a bar stool. You open the door and just slide in. The electric seats and armrest in the Encore allow you to adjust the driver and passenger seats to feel like you’re sitting on a traditional rocking chair. I never felt tired while driving the Encore in rush hour, holiday traffic, or my morning commute. It makes the Buick Encore a good travel vehicle if-and-when needed.
SPECS: The Buick Encore gets around thanks to a 1.4 liter DOHC ECOTEC turbo four cylinder engine that puts out 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. Bolted to a 6-speed automatic, the 1.4-liter engine makes a nice little rumble when you need to overtake someone on the highway. Granted, the Buick Encore is a bit of a heavyweight, tipping the scales at over 3,000 pounds, so do not expect it to perform like a nimble hatchback. Gas mileage for the Encore is 27mpg in the city and 33mpg on highway for an estimated average of 30 mpg, but I only averaged 26mpg throughout the week. All-Wheel Drive is available on the Encore, and you do have an option for a more powerful 153-hp engine, which has been recommended by journalists who’ve driven it.
OWNERSHIP: The Buick Encore is available in five different trim levels. Base, Sport Touring, Convenience, Leather, and Premium, which is the one I was testing. Price range for the 2017 Buick Encore starts at $25k and quickly jumps to $35k with options. The one I drove had a sticker price of $34, 075.
During my week with the Encore, I had to do my holiday shopping. That meant using my entire Saturday to drive all over town in search of the perfect gift. I spent close to eight hours in holiday traffic and overcrowded malls, my idea of hell on earth. The Encore’s small size meant I had no trouble zig-zagging through parking lots and its comfort allowed me to decompress before having to endure another store full of last minute shoppers and fed-up retail employees.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A motoring colleague with decades more experience than me assured me that I was going to enjoy the 2017 Buick Encore. He even gave me the old “I told you so” line. When I took photos of the Encore for this review I went to the Pearl district in downtown San Antonio, a place where the Encore would fit right in.
The Pearl was once a brewery, an industrial area with buildings made out of brick fueled by the sweat of testosterone. Since then it has been recycled and turned into one of the hippest places in town. The brick office buildings are now stylish overpriced apartments. Specialty boutique shops circle the apartments and the brewery itself is now a restaurant and luxury hotel. The reason why I felt the Buick would fit in is because I saw at least three other Encores driving around the place. A metaphor for how Buick is trying to recycle its old image of building cars for AARP card holders and using technology to reinvent itself as a brand for all ages, so long as they can afford it.
What I learned from driving the LaCrosse and the Encore back to back is that the Encore is not a small car trying to be a luxury sedan. The Buick Encore is a luxury vehicle that happens to be small. If you live in a city where space is an issue but want a vehicle that has all the creature comforts offered in a full-size sedan then the 2017 Buick Encore is a contender. Size matters when it comes to urban living, and the Buick Encore gives you the luxury you want without taking up space you don’t have.