2013 Buick Encore Review

2013 Buick Encore - Buick's 2013 Encore is its first small crossover vehicle.


The new 2013 Buick Encore is the automaker's first small crossover vehicle. It comes with front- or all-wheel drive and has luxury, nimble handling, four-door hatchback versatility and decent fuel economy.

The Encore also has just adequate open-road acceleration from its small, turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder 1.4-liter engine. It's fairly heavy at 3,180-3,309 pounds, so Encore buyers shouldn't expect it to be a fireball with its 138-horsepower engine. Rather, it's meant to give miles per gallon, not m.p.h.

Still, the Encore is rather fun to drive. It's nimble, and my all-wheel-drive test Encore tenaciously gripped the road despite some body lean. The steering was quick, with decent road feel, and the turning circle was small. The ride was supple, and the brake pedal had a progressive action for smooth stops.  

Buick feels it's looking ahead with the Encore because it expects compact crossover sales to increase significantly by 2015. As of now, most Encore rivals don't look as good or are  costlier.

The Encore's smooth engine moderately drones when pushed. It works with a six-speed automatic transmission that combines a short first gear with a long overdrive to improve initial acceleration and open-road fuel economy, while providing lower engine noise at highway cruising speeds.

The transmission works efficiently, but has an awkward manual-shift feature controlled by pushing the top of the console shift lever. A driver pushes the "plus" sign for upshifts and the "minus" one for downshifts.

Estimated fuel economy is decent, but not terrific. It's an estimated 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on highways with front-drive and 23 and 30 with the heavier all-wheel drive version.

The short, high 100-6-inch-wheelbase Encore is from South Korea and is based on Chevrolt's small Sonic auto. This new Buick comes in various trim levels and has list prices ranging from $24,960 to $29,690.

I tested the $29,690 all-wheel-drive Encore with the Premium Group. It was loaded with luxury and convenience items. They included Bose Active Noise cancellation technology, which made the Encore as quiet as a big Buick luxury cruiser.

There also were power and heated leather front seats, heated tilt/telescopic wheel with controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose premium audio system with a color display radio screen, remote vehicle starter system and cruise control.

Some of these items, including  forward collision alert, lane departure warning and front/rear park assist, are available for other Encores versions

Safety features for my test car included remote keyless entry, ten air bags, side curtains, a stability control system with traction control, all-disc anti-lock brakes, forward collision alert, lane departure warning and a rear back-up camera.

 While all Encore's have an upscale cabin and plenty of equipment, my test Encore's accessories included shiny $995 chromed 18-inch aluminum wheels and a $795 audio system upgrade with a navigation system. This $29,690  all-wheel-drive model thus had a bottom-line price of $31,675, without the $750 destination charge.

The Encore is narrow, but there's decent room for three tall adults and a shorter one behind the driver. Front occupants sit high for a good view of the road. Large power outside mirrors assist rear visibility and can be folded against the front windows to avoid parking lot damage.

Front seats provide decent side support, but could use more thigh support. (So could the rear seats.)

The cargo areas has room for six large grocery bags and such with the 60/40 split rear seatbacks in their normal position. Significantly more space is provided when they are folded forward.The front passenger seatback folds forward for extra-long objects. The hatch has a rather high opening, but an interior pull-down area to help close it.

Large chromed door handles facilitate entry, and the driver faces backlit gauges that can be easily read. A helplful digital speedometer accompanies the conventional one. But the dashboard is loaded with small control buttons.

There are plenty of cockpit storage areas, and front-console cupholders and rear ones in a fold-down armrest are easily reached.

I expected the hood to be held open with at least one hydraulic strut in such an upscale vehicle, but it's kept open with an awkward prop rod. The four-cylinder looks  small in the engine compartment. In most vehicles, that compartment has an engine that makes it overcrowded.

The Encore expands Buick's portfolio and it's hoped that it will attract a larger, younger group of buyers. Older buyers in crowded urban areas also might find it appealing.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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