I have to admit a soft spot for Buicks. They’ve long been the serene luxury cars for people who either couldn’t afford a Cadillac or preferred to go without their flashy glitz. Buick is a more authentic brand of luxury, right for today’s understated ethos. Of course, Buicks also have a reputation for being old people’s cars, but you’ll believe that is so far in the past when you check out the 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence.
Handsome Euro Style
Remove the Buick badges and you’d swear it’s German. It’s a compact package with neatly creased bodysides, 18-inch wheels, red grille accents, and accentuated rocker moldings. I especially like the floating roof, chiseled rear fenders, and how the Buick badge is hung on a single chrome lamella up front. It’s all very handsome. It’s also comfortably larger than the “regular” Encore, providing a roomier interior while maintaining trim proportions for urban maneuvering.
The interior is everything you’d expect of a compact luxury crossover. A wide dash with stitched materials and aluminum-look trim is a classy way to house a large touchscreen to command audio, phones, and navigation. Heated leather seats with power lumbar, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and booming audio system add enjoyment. Back seats are a little tight, but provide a roomy cargo hold when folded. I thought the little plastic flip-up head-up display would be goofy, but provides nearly the same view as GM’s more sophisticated projection systems. And unlike competitor’s systems, it was easy to adjust with three buttons on the dash.
Buick keeps its technology accessible. Skipping joywheels and complicated infotainment menus, it instead adopts GM’s corporate system with easy-to-understand icons, voice controls, and swipescreens. Connect easily with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless charging in the console. You can even summon Amazon Alexa to control almost anything. Beyond all that, safety systems include forward collision warning with auto brake, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, and rear seat monitor to keep kids from being left behind.
Peppy Turbo Power
Engineers did a nice job with the powertrain. Behind the red grille slats beats a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque. Base models make due with a 1.2-liter turbo-four that gives up 18 horsepower. Neither engine may sound all that powerful, but placed in a front-drive (AWD optional) compact crossover, it’s plenty. And, I’m also not usually a fan of continuously variable transmissions, but the combination of the turbo’s ample torque and the CVT’s infinite gear ratios makes for a smooth and peppy driving experience. Fuel economy rates a most-excellent 30/32-MPG city/highway.
Take the little crossover for a drive to fully realize LeSabres are dinosaurs of a prehistoric era. Despite a simple torsion beam rear suspension, the firm suspension works with quick steering for a fun drive on curvy backroads and tight city streets alike. There is some harshness from the rear over rough pavement, but nothing that will bother most owners. Active noise cancelling and ample insulation convince you the Encore was created with at least some of its grandparents’ best attributes.
You can expect the Encore GX to become Buick’s best-selling model as it continues to redefine the brand away from large sedans towards Euro-style crossovers with American luxury. It is big enough to be comfortable, small enough to park easily, styled to impress, and loaded with all the technology one expects from today’s best autos. My spot for Buick has only grown softer. A base price of $25,695 rose to $34,115 as-tested, putting it against the Fiat 500X Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Honda HR-V, and Lexus UX.
2020 Buick Encore GX Essence
- Five-passenger, FWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 1.3-liter T3, CVT
- Output: 155hp/174 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Torsion beam
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Comfort
- Fuel economy: 30/32 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Bupyeong, Korea
- Base/As-tested price: $25,695/$34,115