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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The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is show in the Overland trim level.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been redesigned but we'll only see a three-row version for the 2021 model year. If you want the two-row, you'll have to wait another year. In the new Grand Cherokee L, a freshly refined interior and exterior is joined with off-road prowess and next-generation technology to make the Grand Cherokee worthy of a cross-shop.

Which Grand Cherokee model is right for you? Scroll down to see the features and specs of each of the SUV's grades, including price. All prices exclude a $1,695 destination charge.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo

The base model Jeep Grand Cherokee L is no low-tech slouch. It comes standard with a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen and a 10.25-inch frameless digital instrument cluster. Below the infotainment screen is an 8.4-inch touch screen. The SUV's Uconnect 5 operating system offers customization, a one-touch Home Screen, five user profiles, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are 12 USB ports, split between Type A and Type C, covering all three rows of seating.

The Laredo trim level seats six or seven, depending on the buyer's choice of second row seats. The second-row seats feature standard tip and slide functionality.

Among the roster of standard safety equipment and security features are full-speed collision warning with active brake assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, brake assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear park assist.

Keyless entry, automatic headlights, LED daytime tuning lights, and LED taillamps are standard.

The Laredo model is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It rides on 18-inch aluminum wheels, and also has heated fold-way mirrors, roof rails, cloth seats with power-adjustable eight-way driver seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, and Bluetooth.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is listed at $36,995 for the rear-wheel drive model and $38,995 for the 4x4.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Altitude

The Cherokee L Altitude builds on the Laredo grade adding gloss black appearance details, including 20-inch aluminum wheels, exterior accents and badging, roof rails, and a unique seven-slot grille.

Upgrading to the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Altitude will cost $40,195 (4x4) or $42,195 (4x4).

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited

Like the Altitude, the Limited builds on the Laredo model of the Grand Cherokee L. The exterior of this model includes automatic high beam headlights, LED fog lamps, power gloss black side mirrors with heating element, blind spot monitoring, and additional turn signals.

Four-wheel drive models get a Selec-Trac traction management system with five available terrain modes (Auto, Sprot, Rock, Snow, Sand/Mud).

The interior of the model gets upgraded to standard Capri leather seats and comes with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory, four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat with memory, and heated steering wheel. The second row seats are also heated. Active noise cancellation and single-color ambient lighting is standard.

Remote start, a universal garage door opener, and an adjustable height power liftgate are also standard.

Buyers can get the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited for $43,995 in the 2WD variant and $45,995 for the 4x4.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland: Seating & Cargo Areas

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland has a refined seating and cargo area.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Buyers of the Overland grade get a unique Overland appearance on their Grand Cherokee L. That includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, Black Noise pockets, chrome front tow hoods, a gloss black roof rack with stainless insert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, approach-lit door handles, trailer towing, rearview mirror puddle lighting, power-folding gloss black mirrors with a chrome insert that auto-tilt down when in reverse, auto-dimming glass not eh driver's side, courtesy lighting, a windshield wiper deicer, and keyless entry.

Buyers can opt for a Gloss Black roof to give their model a two-town paint scheme starting with this trim level.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland is the first trim level that offers buyers the opportunity to get the standard V6 engine or upgrade to a 357-horsepower V8 that delivers 390 pound-feet of torque. With the V8, the Grand Cherokee L Overland is capable of towing 7,200 pounds.

Overland 4x4 models get Jeep's torque-vectoring Quadra-Trac II system when equipped with available Off-Road Group and earn the Trail Rated badge. The equipment package also includes high-strength steel skid plates, electronic limited slip differential rear axle, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and all-season tires. A Select-Terrain system and Hill Descent Control are standard on Overland.

The model's interior features Nappa leather seats and door panels, ventilated front seats, a leather-stitched instrument panel, navigation, a nine-speaker Alpine audio system, dual-pane sunroof, and five-color ambient lighting. Front seat passengers get length-adjustable cushions while. power-folding third-row bench seat is also standard.

An electronic remote release in the rear cargo area is designed to quickly folding the second row flat. A hands-free liftgate is also standard.

Buyers will pay $52,995 for the 4x2 model with a V6 under the hood. A four-wheel drive Overland with the V6 costs $54,995. Upping to the V8, which is only available paired with a 4x4 brings the price up to $58,290.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit

This model is available with either the V6 or V8 powertrain. They deliver the same output in the Grand Cherokee L Summit as they do in the Overland.

The Grand Cherokee L Summit raises the bar further into luxury territory with premium appointments including Nappa leather leather seats with quilted seat bolsters and perforated seat inserts on all three rows. Absolute Oak wood, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Berber floor mats, and 16-way power-adjustable adjustable front seats are standard on Summit. For the first time on Grand Cherokee, front-row seat massage functionality is available.

Quad-zone automatic climate control is standard and second-row passengers have access to a second-row floor console with two illuminated cup holders and a two-tier armrest with additional storage.

The whole rig rides on 20-inch polished cast-aluminum wheels in Mid-Gloss Clear and has Sumit-specific LED fog lamps, power-folding Gloss Black side mirrors with a Platinum insert, a 360-degree camera, illuminated door sills, and roof rack with silver rails and a gloss black insert.

Jeep has also added more standard safety features on this model including active driving assist, driver attention monitor, intersection collision assist, traffic sign recognition, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

Rear-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summits powered by a V6 cost $56,995. The four-wheel drive version of that model is $58,995. Changing out the V6 for a V8 in the 4x4 brings the price up to $62,290.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve: Exterior rear 1/4

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve is the most premium model.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve is the most luxurious Grand Cherokee L that you'll be able to get straight from the factory. It features a hand-wrapped, quilted Palermo leather, ventilated front and second-row seats, memory and massage front seats and choice of a new Tupelo interior color add distinguishable details to the model.

The interior features open-pore Waxed Walnut wood and wrapped, suede-like fabric on the A-pillars and headliner.

Jeep has given this version of the SUV 21-inch wheels and a 19-speaker McIntosh audio sound system.

The Summit Reserve trim is only available as a 4x4. Getting with the V6 costs $61,995; the V8 is $65,290.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is scheduled to start arriving in Jeep dealerships in the second quarter of 2021.

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The Acura TLX offers buyers a good time behind the wheel and true premium appointments.

Photo courtesy of Acura

The Honda Accord is a really decent car. It's perennially one of the top sellers in the U.S., and for good reason. But, sometimes the Accord isn't enough. That's where the Acura TLX comes in.

Acura has completely redesigned the TLX for the 2021 model year. It's made the car into a sharp-looking and better handling machine that is designed to remind buyers what Acura was all about in its 1990s and 2000s heyday. One quick trip around the neighborhood will show you that it achieves that, in spades. A longer trip will make you realize that it's okay to say "no" buying an SUV.

2021 Acura TLX Advance Diving the TLX is a pleasure. It's both comfortable to be in and engaging to toss around on the road.Photo courtesy of Acura

2021 Acura TLX Advance

The exterior of the car looks good. It has LEDs in the right places for its premium price point and styling that makes it stand out (for all the right reasons) more than it blends in. The car is athletic in its state and a bit moody and aggressive while fitting in with the rest of the Acura family, which includes the redesigned 2022 MDX. Every bit of that is a positive.

The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord by a few inches in each direction.

The suggestion of performance extends from the outside to the inside though the cabin does not set aside the comfort and convenience features one typically wants from a sedan for the weight-saving suede substitute upholstery or unique and different-just-to-be-different knobs, dials, and buttons that make operation more complicated than it needs to be. The TLX is more than properly trimmed out for its price point.

One of the best features of the TLX is its space. The waterfall dashboard design gives the front passenger the illusion of having more space to occupy in front of them. There is more passenger volume in the 2021 TLX versus the 2020 - slightly more room - and all other -room metrics are nearly the same from the old generation to the next. The Accord has more headroom, three cubic feet more cargo space, and nearly 10 cubic feet more passenger space.

The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord.Photo courtesy of Acura

The center console's side bolsters, with their interiors accented in real wood add to the premium look and feel of the vehicle in an unexpected way. Between those bolsters are the Acura's climate controls. They are button-operated and match what is in the RDX and MDX. They're not as fancy as what you'll find in a luxury car, but for the premium segment, they're attractive enough and extremely easy to use, which makes them winners.

Putting the Dynamic Mode drive mode selector front and center in the TLX, RDX, and MDX makes it easy to use and puts it front of mind. The shifter being directly under it frees up center console space, a logical layout that is an equal part practical.

Speaking of dynamic, the TLX is a dynamic dream, for a non-sports car. While the tester was not the TLX Type S (that super sporty variant is coming later this year), it does have quite a bit of dynamic difference form the Accord. The TLX with all-wheel drive grips the road, even when you're pushing the limits of what it can handle.

Steering is accurate and properly weighted, and allows the car to easily go where you want it. The TLX takes corners with ease and little body lean. There's no need for super bolstered seats as the TLX doesn't toss you around unless you make it.

The car's waterfall dashboard gives the interior a spacious feeling.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acceleration from its 2.0--liter turbo-four is plenty for daily drivability, and even when you want to go have a riot behind the wheel on the weekend. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that delivers the 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque smoothly and relatively efficiently. Changing to the Sport drive model gives the TLX noticeably shorter shifts and changes up the throttle response and damping capability, and tightens up the steering. It's a proper Sport mode.

While you're at speed, or idling, there's a lot to take in on the driver's information display. Smartly, Acura has put the necessary information front and center. If you're looking for your trip meter, fuel efficiency, or odometer information, you're doing to need to look to the smaller area of the screen. While you might strain your eyes to see it, you don't really need the info displayed there on-the-go.

There are folks out there that complain about the Acura touch interface for the infotainment system controls. Spend some time with them and sincerely get to know them and they suddenly become incredibly easy to use. Just remember, unlike a mouse, there's no swiping to move the selector. It's a touch-for-touch system like on an iPad.

The touch pad interface and wireless device charging are well placed.Photo courtesy of Acura

The space where Acura has elected to fit the wireless device charger is also its own type of genius. It's below the center console bump out wrist rest for the touch interface, which holds it in place when carving corners, and keeps it close enough to the driver that you can look down and see what alert has popped up if you're not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at the time.

Acura's long list of standard and available safety and driver assist features help keep you going down the road without nagging. The car also has Acura's new airbag technology for the front seat passenger.

Pricing for the TLX starts at $37,500. As tested, the car was nearly $50,000. The TLX blows away its closest premium competition by a mile. Maybe more. It's also a lot better at $48,000 than what you'll find in many other luxury cars for the same price.

Most importantly though, Acura has put significant daylight between its Honda brother, not just in price, but also in materials, drivability, maneuverability, and design. That's a big step in the right direction for the brand.

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