I'm just back from test-driving the new Buick Encore for our SUVs site, and I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a car* -- let alone a Buick. Why do I like the Encore? Besides the fact that it's *seriously* cute, this is the type of vehicle -- actually, two types of vehicle -- that I've been eager to see in the States.
(* Okay, maybe that's not entirely true, because when I got off the plane from the Buick drive in Atlanta, there was a red Porsche Boxster waiting for me. And that was pretty darn exciting.)
The Encore is based on the Opel Mokka, a Euro-market mini-SUV. In terms of length and width, the Encore isn't much bigger than a Chevrolet Sonic, not that you realize that standing next to it, because it's as tall as any other crossover. From behind the wheel, it feels like a proper SUV... at least until you slip into some impossibly small gap in traffic. The light really came on for me when a bus up ahead stopped at a light, his left side about a foot into my lane. I was able to slip up next to him with plenty of room on my side of the double-yellow. The Dodge Durango following me couldn't fit and had to wait behind the bus.
The other aspect of the Encore is that it is a proper luxury vehicle, at least as Buick defines it. You all know that I was a bit disappointed in the Opel-based Buick Regal. It drives beautifully, but inside it's a bit cold and stand-offish -- an Opel, not a Buick. That's something they've managed to work around with just the right combination of trim -- the Encore's cabin is warm and welcoming, as a Buick should be.
Rounding out the Encore is a firm but quiet ride and a 1.4 liter turbo engine that delivers acceptable (if not stunning) fuel economy -- all stuff I'll detail in my full review, which should be posted next week. Suffice it to say it will be largely positive -- I think this is a great little vehicle. The fact that it's a Buick is all the more surprising. -- Aaron Gold
Photo © General Motors