Entry Price: $22,990
Price as Tested: $29,250
This week, we’re reviewing the 2018 Buick Encore, a compact SUV dressed in Sport Touring trim with AWD mechanicals. Notable is more horsepower on all models and a recent cosmetic upgrade that features a new grille, hood, headlights, fenders, rear taillights and the noted Buick emblem front and center.
The 2018 Encore lineup includes the entry Encore ($22,990), Preferred ($26,355), Sport Touring ($25,600), Preferred II ($26,900) Essence ($30,095) and Premium ($31,595). For AWD models, add approximately $1,500 to the above prices as our AWD Sport Touring started at $27,100.
Keep in mind Encore is not an “off-road-bully” vehicle although it’s a fun car to take on light duty trails for camping or a day fishing at your favorite stream. As for towing duties, leave that to sibling Enclave, a seven passenger SUV that is completely re-designed for 2018.
An important mechanical upgrade the last few years is Encore’s standard across the board, 11-percent more powerful (153 horses) 20 percent more torque (177 lb. ft.) turbo inline four-cylinder that used to be an option. It replaces the less powerful 1.4 turbo from last year that delivered just 138 horses and 148 lb. ft. of torque. This is a good move as the Encore’s Achilles heel has always been a lack of horsepower and torque. Power is delivered to the ground via a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts well.
Encore’s AWD is fully automatic and when combined with GM’s Stabilitrak traction controls, four wheel ABS disc brakes, electronic brakeforce and solid Five Star government safety ratings, you can be assured of secure motoring in all types of weather. Overall all Encores, be it front drive or AWD, are fun to drive, handle decent and are easy to park.
Now, a bit of Buick history.
For all you trivia enthusiasts out there, it was the Buick and not Cadillac or Chevrolet that holds the coveted position of being the very first General Motors brand back in 1903. Through the years, Buick has been one of the few American brands that has consistently received high reliability and customer appreciation honors, most recently a Kelly Blue Book “Five year cost to own” citation and a “recommended” checkmark in this year’s Consumer Reports 2018 Buying Guide.
Considering Buick’s “first born” significance, it’s no surprise the brand survived GM’s streamlining that found both Oldsmobile and Pontiac eliminated from the company lineup. The main reason Buick survived (in addition to legacy) is its tremendous popularity in China. Further, it was the China consumer demand that led GM to construct a state of the art assembly plant in Bupyeong Gu, South Korea, where the Encore is built. This new factory also impacts transportation costs, as China is just a short trip north of the factory.
Back to the 2018 Encore.
Encore’s cabin is well appointed, regardless of trim selected. You’ll be pleased that every Encore, from base trim to Premium, arrives with standard power driver seat, rear view safety camera, Android/Apple compatibility, keyless entry, OnStar, Sirius/XM, air conditioning, all the powers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
You also receive at no extra cost Bluetooth, 4G WiFi hotspot, input jack, a six-speaker Bose sound system, eight-inch touchscreen and a USB port interface. Also included is Buick’s IntelliLink and interior noise cancellation technology that makes the cabin extra quiet. Sport Touring also features a 120-volt outlet that is not available on lesser priced models. The Sporting Package features 18-inch tires on special Midnight Silver aluminum wheels and a winged rear spoiler.
Underneath there’s a MacPherson front strut coupled to a rear torsion suspension that results in comfortable and secure road manners. Fuel mileage is decent as the Encore with AWD comes in at 24 city and 30 highway while front-drive models deliver 25 city and 33 highway.
There are some Encore drawbacks, especially if consumers are looking for an interior that’s spacious. The rear seat is tight and cargo room is at a minimum unless you utilize the 60/40 seating capability. Additionally, the higher tech safety items like forward collision alert and lane departure are only available on the Premium. Other safety inspired items come in optional packages and include park assist, rear cross traffic and side blind zone, which is not available until you get to the Sport Touring trim.
Options include a $175 interior protection floor mat package, the above noted Safety Package for $495 featuring side blind zone mirrors and rear cross traffic alert, a $65 rear cargo net and a $595 Bose Premium seven-speaker sound system. With $995 delivery, it brought the final retail to $29,250.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 100.6 inches, 3,397 lb. curb weight, 18.8 to 48.4 cu. ft of cargo room, 14 gallon fuel tank, and a 36.7 ft. turning circle.
In summary, Buick Encore is a fine little SUV that offers attractive pricing. Although some of its competitors offer better fuel mileage and more interior room, Encore is wrapped in the mechanical and creature comfort craftsmanship Buick is noted for.
Check with your Buick dealer about current incentives, especially a current $5,000 allowance on in-stock Encores. It’s a great enticement, as it lowers our tester’s price to $24,250. (Remember, it always pays to buy from a dealer’s inventory).
Likes: Looks, more powerful engine, Buick heritage, fun to drive.
Dislikes: Top line safety features only available on Premium, tight rear seat.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications.