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