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Buick's newest SUV has a familiar name: the Encore GX. It slots between the tiny Encore and the larger Envision, and it fits plenty of standard safety features and some upscale touches into a modern subcompact package.
This is part of GM’s plan to add even more SUVs to its lineup, as American shoppers continue to snap them up.
Even though the Encore GX shares part of its name with the smaller Encore, the two cars don’t have much in common. In fact, the GX is a totally fresh design. It's based on an entirely new platform that will eventually be used for other GM compact SUVs, including the upcoming Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The GX also gets a new three-cylinder engine.
We plan to buy an Encore GX for testing, once it goes on sale. Our team caught up the Encore GX this week at the LA Auto Show, and here is what we know so far:
The Encore GX is a brand-new SUV on an all-new platform with new engines. That makes it all the more important for us to test it in depth; we can’t make any inferences about its performance based on vehicles already in GM’s lineup. We’re especially interested in finding out how quiet, fuel efficient, and powerful the new three-cylinder engines are in our tests. On paper, the power looks to be a rather modest for a luxury-branded SUV.
The Encore GX does seem well positioned in an expanding segment. And we appreciate that it comes standard with key advanced safety features.
From Buick’s point of view, the Encore GX is a bit of a Goldilocks story—it’s designed to be just right for buyers who think the Envision is too big and the Encore is too small. It is an open question as to how many people feel that way...
Take a tape measure to the Encore GX and you’ll find that it’s 3 inches longer than the standard Encore and more than a foot shorter than the Envision. This new SUV appears to be a little more substantial than the Encore, but its dimensions still qualify it as a subcompact.
The exterior design appears quite busy, especially when viewed from the side. There’s prominent trim over the wheel arches, cladding at the base of the doors, and lots of what car designers call “character lines”—swoops and ridges pressed into otherwise-flat panels.
The angled second-row door glass and wide, sloped rear pillars conspire to make the interior feel dark and restrict some outward visibility.
Buick says the Encore GX has about 5 more cubic feet of cargo space than the Encore, and 3 fewer than the Envision.
The Encore GX gets a variation on the simplified interior theme that’s common to most new GM vehicles, and we think that’s a good thing. There are buttons and knobs for important audio and climate control functions, while an 8-inch touch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility sits in the middle of the dash.
A six-way power driver’s seat comes standard, as does cloth upholstery with leatherette trim. A power passenger seat, heated front seats, a head-up display, a rear camera mirror, a moonroof, and leather seating surfaces are available.
Three trims—Preferred, Select, and Essence—determine how many of those options are available. Which one shoppers choose determines what competitors the Encore GX goes up against. We don’t yet have pricing data, but we can imagine the base GX competing against a Chevrolet Trailblazer and Kia Seltos, and a fully loaded version may challenge the Lexus UX or BMW X2.
What Drives It
Encore GX buyers get a choice between the 1.2-liter and a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engines. Front-wheel-drive versions use a continuously variable transmission. The top 1.3-liter produces 155 horsepower. When configured for all-wheel drive, this engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Three-cylinder engines are still a niche offering compared with more-common four-cylinders, but they are available as the entry-level choice on the Ford EcoSport and the base Mini Countryman. We’re interested in testing it to see whether these tiny powerplants have enough oomph to deliver on Buick’s promise of “spirited and efficient performance.”
Safety and Driver-Assist Systems
The Encore GX comes standard with a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning.
Optional aids will include adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic warning, rear parking obstruction warning, rearview video mirror, and heads-up display.
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