The smallest Buick is also a little bit bigger.
Well, except for what’s under it’s hood – where you’ll find the smallest engine ever put in a Buick.
Just three cylinder and 1.2 liters.
There are motorcycles with more engine.
But there is an option to buy a bigger engine – and the Encore GX comes standard with more passenger and cargo room than the Encore without the GX.
What It Is
The Encore GX is the slightly larger version – the encore – of the just-Encore.
Both are compact-sized crossovers – with very compact engines. But the Encore GX’s engines – there are two of them – are even more so.
Prices start at $24,200 for the base Preferred trim, which comes with a turbocharged 1.2 liter, three cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive.
All-wheel-drive is available optionally.
So equipped, the MSRP is $26,700.
A top-of-the-line Essence trim with a 1.3 liter turbocharged three cylinder (and AWD) stickers for $30,600. This trim also comes with leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and the option to buy an automated parking system.
Or you can still pick the other Encore, if you prefer a bigger (1.4 liter engine) and a bit less room for passengers and cargo.
Prices for that Encore start at $24,600.
The 1.3 liter engine that was formerly optional in the top-of-the-line Essence trim is now standard with that trim.
Smaller engine gets bigger gas mileage.
Encore GX is roomier than the just-Encore . . . and costs a bit less, too.
AWD is available with the standard engine.
What’s Not So Good
Mileage gains aren’t big – with either engine.
Bigger engine is only available in the higher (and pricier) trims.
This Buick – either of them – could fit inside the trunks Buicks of once-upon-a-time.
The other Encore comes standard with a 1.4 liter four cylinder engine, its small size boosted by a turbo to summon 155 horsepower and 177 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2,000 RPM.
This engine was – and still is – paired with a six speed automatic and either FWD (standard) or AWD (optionally available).
The FWD-equipped version carried – carries – an EPA rating of 24 city 32 highway; with AWD this dips slightly to 23 city, 30 highway.
The Encore GX comes standard with a smaller 1.2 liter engine, also turbocharged. It produces 137 horsepower and 162 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2,500 RPM – a diminishment in both – for a slight gain in gas mileage, to 29 city, 31 highway.
The optional 1.3 liter three cylinder engine manages to just about equal the output of the other Encore’s standard 1.4 liter engine.
You get the same 155 horsepower- and almost-the-same 174 ft.-lbs. of torque. You also get a nine speed automatic transmission in lieu of the otherwise standard continuously variable (CVT) automatic – when you order AWD.
Interestingly – depressingly – the 1.3 engine that’s optional in the Encore GX does not give bigger gas mileage numbers. Just 29 city, 31 highway – a negligible difference that costs you more to buy it than it did before.
The other Encore, after all, comes standard with the same horsepower (and slightly more torque) and about the same gas mileage numbers that now costs extra in the Encore GX.
On the upside, Chevy did lower the base price of the Encore GX by $400 vs. the other Encore. That plus the increase in the standard 1.2 liter’s fuel efficiency by a handful of MPGs might compensate you a little bit for the engine (and output) downsizing).
The only thing about CVTs that doesn’t suck is that their use results in sucking a bit less gas, the result of the CVT’s slight efficiency advantage vs. a geared automatic. But this advantage is offset by the CVT’s poorer track record for long-term durability (metal fatiguing of the band that allows the ranges to be continuously varied eventually results in the failure not just of the expanding/contracting band but of the CVT transmission itself – the result of metal fragments of the failed band spewed within the transmission) as well as its unrepairability (you replace a failed CVT) and the CVT’s tendency to be noisier – especially in smaller engined vehicles that don’t make much power.
Like this one.
Speaking of that . . .
1.2 liters and 137 horsepower is not a lot to move even this much Buick – which isn’t a lot, in terms of of its size.
But it weighs about 3,300 lbs.
That’s a lot for a compact-sized rig that’s only 171.1 inches long. Which – for reference – is nearly five feet shorter than a Buick like the old Electra 225 sedan – the number proudly touting how long it was.
It was also heavy – easily two tons. But that’s actually not that much heavier than this pint-sized Buick – and the 225 had 455 (cubic inches) of Buick V8 power under its hood.
The Enclave’s standard CVT transmission has no gears at all – just ranges that vary. Which sometimes feels as if the transmission is slipping. The engine revs and the car kind of surges forward. It feels a lot like holding a geared automatic in first.
Sounds like it, too – if the engine paired with the CVT isn’t very powerful. That’s because in order to leverage whatever power it does have, the CVT will let the engine rev to the upper reaches of its powerband – and holds it there, until you back off the gas pedal. When you do, the revs (and sound) decrease – but so does acceleration.
Of which there isn’t much, even if you hold the gas pedal to the floor (and the revs near redline). This Buick is one of the slowest new vehicles on the market, needing 10 seconds to struggle to 60 – with just the driver on board. Add three passengers and you’re in Prius territory – but the problem there is this is a Buick (and not a Prius) it doesn’t give 50-plus MPGs as your consolation prize.
There’s just not enough engine to match the weight – or the badge.
The optional 1.3 liter engine offers only a slight improvement, getting you to 60 in just over 9 seconds. This is glacial, in general. Other small crossovers like the Mazda CX30 and the new VW Taos are two seconds (or better) quicker to 60 and match or beat the Buick’s mileage stats. Besides which they aren’t Buicks – which is to say, they are not attempting to play in the same entry-luxury field as Buick.
On that field, there are models like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The former comes standard with 228 horsepower from its standard 2.0 liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine; the latter also comes standard with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four – and 184 horsepower. To be fair, both cost several thousand dollars more as they come than the Buick costs with everything.
But the Buick can cost well over $30k when ordered with its optional 1.3 liter engine. That’s a lot to pay for not much engine.
But you do get a lot of gears with that engine.
Nine of them (vs. three in the old 225’s THM 400 automatic). There’s a lot of shifting going on. The good news is, you don’t generally notice most of it – because the top three gears are overdrives and the programming slips them in (and out) with the subtlety of shades of gray.
Once you’ve caught up, the Encore is ok. Meaning, it isn’t objectionable in any significant way. It’s even nice in a number of ways. This is a Buick, after all. It’s quiet at speed (once you’ve reached speed) with not much road or wind noise intrusion. The suspension has plenty of give without bounce . . .
This is a Buick, after all.
There are only finely parsable differences in ride quality, noise intrusion and general pleasantness from one crossover to the next. Once upon a time, Buick was the go-to brand for an extra-plush, extra-large boulevard cruiser. Nothing imported was anything like a Buick – and other American brand cars that were similar – like Cadillac and Lincoln – were also very different in other ways.
This Buick isn’t – relative to almost everything. It’s just another crossover. Not bad – none of them are.
Just nothing special.
You almost need a tape measure to tell the difference between the Encore GX and the other (but still available) Encore. They both look essentially the same. But the GX iteration of the Encore is about three inches longer overall than the old version you can still buy.
The slight stretch yields up 23.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of the GX vs. 18.8 cubic feet behind the second row of the just-Enclave. Fold the GX’s rear seats and the total capacity opens up to 50.2 cubic feet (from 48.4 previously/still actually).
Kidding aside, the Enclave is spacious for its size – and relative to others its size. The Mazda CX30 – which is several inches longer – only has 20.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind its second row; the Audi Q3 (also several inches longer) maxes out at 48 cubic feet with its second row folded.
You can also fold the front passenger seat flat – greatly increasing the useable potential cargo-carrying space relative to others that lack this feature.
You also get a few more standard luxury upgrades, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, six speaker stereo with satellite radio, WiFi and keyless ignition. You don’t get some other features – such as climate control AC or a power driver’s seat – which you kind of expect to be standard in a Buick – unless you move up to the Select or Essence trim. The latter comes standard with a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights and the power driver’s seat/climate control AC system.
Buick also limits GPS and other options such as adaptive cruise control and a 360 degree remote-view camera system to the Select and Essence trims – where they are optional.
Options such as wireless charging for your sail fawn, a sunroof, hands-free rear liftgate and automatic/rain-sensing wipers are only available with the Essence trim.
It’s hard to imagine engines getting any smaller than 1.2 liters and three cylinders. Or anything weirder than putting nine speeds behind 1.3 liters.
We are at or very close to the point at which engines will disappear altogether. Because nine speeds, CVTs – and turbos – can only do so much to make tiny engines functionally feasible while achieving compliance with the Green Ukases issuing from the apparat in Washington.
Only motors – as in electric – can appease the apparat, no matter how displeasing to us.
But don’t worry. It’ll be great. You’ll get to 60 much more quickly * and you won’t ever spend a cent on gas ** again.
* You will also wait much longer and won’t go as far before you’re wait . . .
** You will also spend thousands more on the electric Encore, itself. Plus what you’ll spend to wire up your house in order to charge it.
The Bottom Line
Size still matters, a little.
Just not much – especially under the hood.
. . .
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