As recently as the 2002 model year, Buick didn’t have a single SUV in their lineup. Now, SUVs make up almost 90% of their sales. So, adding another one into the mix seems like a no-brainer. It’s time now for a “rendezvous” with an all-new Encore GX!
Buick, like many crossover providers these days, has found space for one more utility in their lineup; this 2020 Encore GX, slotting between the subcompact Encore and compact Envision.
But, when it comes to engine choices, your options are small and smaller. Base engine is a 137-horsepower 1.2-liter I3 turbo; with the upgrade being a 1.3-liter I3 turbo with 155-horsepower and 174 lb-ft. of torque.
With apologies to Pontiac fans, that’s a whole new kind of tri-power.
Stick with front-wheel-drive and you’ll get a CVT; opting for all-wheel-drive will replace it with a 9-speed automatic transmission, but you can only do so with the 1.3-liter.
Our tester, the 1.3-liter front-drive CVT combo. And while it feels quite peppy on the street, and there’s enough torque to get a little wheel spin at launch; the overall track experience was less than thrilling. It took 8.7-seconds to hit 60; which is a tenth slower than the smaller Encore with a bigger 1.4-liter engine.
On the plus side, engine noise is well-muted, and the CVT does a great job of fooling you into thinking it’s a traditional smooth shifting automatic. The tiny-turbo seems to deliver max power the whole way down the track without feeling like it’s being overworked. We finished the ¼-mile in 16.7-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
Even with a quick to engage stability control system, the GX got through our cone course with a surprising amount of quickness and agility. And while we appreciate the “light on its feet” feel, the downside of that is that it doesn’t have quite the solid presence of most of its European competitors. Still, even with some squishy body roll, the GX proved to be quite competent.
Panic braking from 60 was quite good as well; great stability, and a consistent feel that is more luxury smooth than soft. Stops averaged a short 118-feet.
Now, as for the exterior design, it’s much more polished and even a little cute; something we never said about the original Encore. It’s 3-inches longer than the Encore, and rides on a platform shared with the upcoming Chevrolet Trailblazer.
The Sport Touring package adds aero treatments, unique grille, and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Inside, style and functionality are addressed with equal measure, featuring materials that are a noticeable step up from the Encore. Top Essence trim comes with leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, and power seats for both front occupants. A panoramic power moonroof requires a further upgrade to the Buick Experience package.
The 8-inch touchscreen is well integrated, and physical controls are both plentiful and logically placed. Though there are a few oddities like the button to engage the 4-way flashers that’s so well integrated it’s hard to find it when you need it.
Front seats are a little narrow, but offer good overall comfort.
The practicality aspects really kick in when you move rearward and find rear seats that are extra roomy and fold completely flat; the front passenger seat folds flat as well, to hold extra-long items.
Doing so, adds to the maximum cargo capacity of 50.2 cubic-ft. Seats up luggage space is 23.5 cubic-ft., 4.7 more than the Encore.
Standard safety systems include Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, and Front Pedestrian Braking. GM’s rear camera mirror is available as well.
Pricing ranges from Preferred trim at $25,095, to Essence at $29,495. You can add both all-wheel-drive and the 1.3-liter engine to any trim for 2-grand more; adding just the bigger engine costs only $395.
While it’s easy to question Buick for shoehorning another SUV into their lineup; they’re just giving the people what they want, and you can’t blame them for that. The 2020 Buick Encore GX is much more than just a bigger Encore; it feels like a real Buick, which to be honest, is something the original Encore fell short of. This Encore is what the crowd was expecting all along, and should have them leaving happy.
Engine: 1.3 liter
Torque: 174 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 8.7 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.7 seconds @ 87 mph