Bettering a Best Seller
The best-selling Buick, at over one-third of North-American sales is coincidentally the nation’s best-selling small CUV, so to reward its little trooper, for 2017 the brand has bought it a stem-and-stern fluff-n-buff with a bunch of interior spiffs to boot. It all looks lovely, but even when we squint at this stubby little spud we have trouble appreciating “cues first shown on the award-winning Avenir and Avista concepts,” which design director Holt Ware says informed the design.
Up front there’s a new fascia, grille, hood, fenders, and headlamps (boasting big-boy full-LED illumination on the top two trim levels, which typically attract 40 percent of buyers). Naturally the new grille gets the winged design with the newish tri-color triple-shield insignia that first appeared on the Avenir concept and LaCrosse production car. Walking around the side you’ll notice fresh new base 18-inch wheels and body-colored heated mirrors. At the rear, take note of the new LED taillamps and chrome exhaust outlets. Oh, and of course three new colors are rolling out as well: Black Cherry Metallic, Ebony Twilight Metallic, and White Frost Metallic.
Inside there’s a spanking new dash and center stack stuffed with an au courant 8-inch touchscreen and 4.2-inch full-color driver-information center. New gauges flank the latter, and the former now hosts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It almost goes without saying nowadays that standard equipment across all trim levels includes a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot to which seven devices can connect — presuming your data plan is paid up — and keyless entry and push-button start replace the old-fashioned column ignition switch (fitting those things is just asking for trouble). Speaking of trim levels, there are five: base, Sport Touring, Convenience, Leather, and Premium.
Powerwise, the 138-hp, 148-lb-ft 1.4-liter turbo I-4 soldiers on as the base engine, and a fancier direct-injected 1.4-liter turbo with auto start/stop based on the Volt engine’s architecture that makes 153 hp and 177 lb-ft. That one appeared in the top variant of the 2016 Encore, but for 2017 it becomes standard in the Sport Touring and optional on all higher trim levels. Both engines are bolted to a six-speed automatic with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Final EPA figures are still to be determined and may differ a bit from what should be mechanically identical fitments in the 2016 model, due to changes in the testing and correction protocols at the EPA.
Nothing changes on the chassis front aside from the different wheel designs, and as before, Sport Touring models are not upgraded in terms of brakes or stiffened dampers. They do, however, get body-color door handles.
The changes give the little Encore a welcome update and the various new horizontal elements of the front end serve to visually widen and lower the car. That’s also a welcome improvement. With these changes, Buick hopes to greatly extend 26 months of increasing sales for its littlest SUV. The Encore is facing new and invigorated competition, but we’re not ready to bet on any of these newcomers unseating Encore at the top of the sales heap.
|2017 Buick Encore|
|BASE PRICE||$25,500-$27,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.4L/138-hp/148-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.4L/153-hp/177-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,250-3,350 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||168.5 x 69.9 x 65.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.8-9.6 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Fall 2016|