Behind the Wheel

2020 Buick Encore GX Review: This may be the best SUV Buick makes, but it’s not all roses

The Buick Encore GX is a fresh addition to the company’s lineup for 2020.

Photo courtesy of Buick

Why would Buick go through the trouble of making a 2020 Buick Encore GX? The already popular though smaller Encore subcompact SUV has outlasted two of the three SUVs it matured alongside (Rendezvous and Rainer). The larger Envision is just now, after some engine changes and design tweaks, getting to the point that it's a good consideration for U.S. buyers. The larger Enclave can be found in most suburban American grocery store parking lots on the regular.

The Encore GX name has some immediate brand equity from the smaller Encore and fills a lineup spot the same way the Rogue Sport does for Nissan and the Kona does for Hyundai. It's priced that way too, with the model lining up to start around $25,000 and topping out near $30,000.

2020 Buick Encore GX The Encore GX is easy to maneuver and park.Photo courtesy of Buick

Buick's newest model seems to be a step in the right direction for the company, which has seen its entire cars lineup cut in favor of more profitable and better-selling SUV models. The Encore GX doesn't rock the boat, but merely elevates it.

The car's upgraded turbocharged 1.3-liter three-cylinder power plant is a study in small but mighty. Its 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque easily prove plenty for daily driving activities though it's not terribly efficient (26 mpg in the city and 29/30 mpg on the highway, depending on trim level). However, and this is big however, there's a ridiculous amount of turbo lag. This combines with the SUV's light steering and easy maneuverability to make navigating city traffic a challenge.

Think back to the last time you sat in traffic. Imagine, if you will, that the entire left lane has gone and emptied out while you, in the right lane, end up stopped behind a bus, waiting for the throngs to get through the turnstile and seated. There's enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you to maneuver out of your lane and get on your way. You check to make sure it's clear, nudge your way out, and step on the accelerator as to not impede the flow of traffic in your new lane. Now, you wait. Then, eventually, the turbo-three kicks in. That wait is just long enough not make you think, “Should I have done this?" Every. Time.

2020 Buick Encore GX The Buick Encore GX has enough cargo space to meetPhoto courtesy of Buick

That's the type of logistical challenge that's very real to drivers. Now, whether or not they're able to test that in a dealership loop is another story. What they will see when they're at the dealer is a well-appointed interior in high trim levels, with materials as nice as Hyundais and Kias in the same price range (if you haven't checked out their lineups lately, you're missing out). Its seats are comfortable and the model feels spacious enough for two adults up front for extended periods of time behind the wheel.

The biggest difference between the Encore GX and Envision (from a typical shopper's perspective) is in the back row and cargo area. While most adults will be comfortable in the back row of the GX, taller adults will likely want more room to stretch out when traveling for any extended length of time. Premium amenities like leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, as well as a heated wheel, heated front seats, and remote start are available in top trims.

2020 Buick Encore GX The car's various dials and buttons are easily reachable inside the cabin, as is the infotainment screen.Photo courtesy of Buick

The Encore GX's cargo area is plenty big for daily use. On a call with a representative from Buick, he said that he had enough space for all his hockey gear in the back of the Encore GX, which seems like a pretty reasonable way to say that unless you're packing for a weeks long road trip without laundry facilities, the Encore GX has enough cargo space for you.

General Motors has made significant improvements to its infotainment systems in recent years and how you navigate them. Using the SUV's system was a breeze, especially with Apple CarPlay hooked up. One new feature for the company is touting is Amazon Alexa connectivity, which can run directly though the vehicle rather than vehicle to phone to sky and then back. Some like the option and find the innovation delightful.

2020 Buick Encore GX Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.Photo courtesy of Buick

The Encore GX also has Android Auto and comes standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen, USB ports, and Bluetooth in every trim level.

Buick has given the Encore GX a suitable amount of standard and available safety technology. It's nothing that will blow anyone's socks off, but for the price range, it's a good level of offering, and perhaps more importantly, works as advertised.

With the Encore GX, Buick has put a foot forth on sold ground for its future. It's a right level of premium at the right price at what should be the right time.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition is a throwback to a 1969 MINI.

Photo courtesy of MINI

The MINI 1499 GT Special Edition pays tribute to the iconic 1275 GT from 1969 while the MINI Countryman Oxford edition offers unique value proposition. The two models are new for the 2021 model year.

2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition

Photo courtesy of MINI

MINI has given the 1499 GT a Midnight Black Metallic exterior complete with gold 1499 GT side stripes. There's a Piano Black grille frame, door handles, and headlight rings, which surround LED headlights. There are Piano Black taillight rinks and Union Jack taillights.

The addition of the MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) styling package adds JCW front and rear bumpers, side skirts, split level spoiler, and door entry plates. The MINI 1499 GT rids on 17-innch Track Spoke Black wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

Under the hood, the model has a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The car can get from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. A six-speed manual transmission is standard while a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available.

MINI refines the interior with more JCW accents including Sports seats in Carbon Black Dinamica/Cloth, a JCW steering wheel in perforated leather with Chili Red stitching and multi-function controls, along with Piano Black finishing throughout the interior with an Anthracite Headliner. The list of standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation, MINI Assist eCall, remote services, Apple CarPlay, and a digital instrument cluster.

The MINI 1499 GT will be offered with a starting MSRP of $27,040 plus an additional $850 destination and handling fee.

MINI Countryman Oxford Edition

MINI's small SUV, the Countryman, is getting a budget-friendly version that available with front- and all-wheel drive. It comes with the standard equipment list of the Classic Trim, which includes leatherette upholstery, an 8.8-inch display with Bluetooth, rear camera, rear park distance control, seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a panoramic sunroof. The Countryman Oxford Edition also has LED headlights and fog lights and Union Jack LED taillights.

MINI has given the model standard 18-inch wheels (Silver of Black) that are wrapped with run-flat tires, an anthracite headliner, heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a choice of six exterior colors, including metallic paint options. Those options include British Racing Green IV metallic, Midnight Black metallic, White Silver metallic, Moonwalk Grey metallic, Chili Red, or Island Blue metallic. Exterior options also include body color roof and mirrors, or choice of a contrast white or black roof and mirror combination.

The staring MSRP for the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman Oxford Edition is $26,500 and the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4 Oxford Edition is $28,500, plus an additional $850 destination and handling charge. This means the MINI Countryman Oxford Edition is specially configured with $5,600 worth of optional equipment as standard at no additional cost.

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Ford has launched its new Bronco configuration tool.

Photo by AutomotiveMap with screen image courtesy of Ford Motor Company
How would you build it? Now you can find out. The new 2021 Ford Bronco build-and-price configurator is live on the Ford website giving buyers the opportunity to customize their pick without having to commit to a deposit or trip to the dealership. Ford has received over 190,000 reservations for the Bronco to date.
It's also a great way to kill some time between Zooms.

"The color and material offerings of the all-new Bronco and Bronco Sport are genuine and trusted, and establish a visceral connection between nature and the authenticity of this new family of rugged SUVs," said Missy Coolsaet, Bronco color and materials designer. "They motivate our customers to return to the wilderness and challenge themselves – and Bronco takes them there in a carefree, spontaneous way."

2021 Ford Bronco configurator options

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The configurator works in a traditional sense, asking users to first enter their ZIP code then taking them to a menu where they choose a trim level. Ford offers the Bronco in seven trim levels: Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak, and First Edition.

Buyers are then asked to choose a two- or four-door model. The 2021 Bronco is available in a wide variety of colors, including some with deep Ford heritage, and wheel varieties.

Powertrains components are trim level-dependent and some paint and wheel color combinations are not compatible with the seven-speed manual transmission or the Sasquatch Package.

All-terrain, mud, or all-season tires are either standard or available depending on trim level and wheel choice.

Buyers can check options boxes for a hard top, sound-deadening headliner, roof rails with crossbar, splash guards, an upgraded bash plate, paint protection film, brush guard, keyless entry keypad, wireless charging pad, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, a 12.0-inch infotainment touch screen, 10-speaker B&O sound system, and LED headlights, depending on trim level. Higher Bronco grades get much of these features as standard.

Cloth, vinyl, or leather-trimmed seats are available. An Ebony black or Medium Sandstone interior are the only options, but Medium Sandstone is not available in all trim levels.

A variety of equipment groups and packages are available as well, including a graphics package that will put the profile of rolling hills on the lower quarter of your Bronco's door panels.

Check out the configurator now at Ford.com/Bronco.

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