Buick’s Luxury Sub-compact Crossover
Buick was a brand that many thought would be dumped during General Motors’ bankruptcy last decade, but the brand has done a remarkable turn-around and has become a big part of GM’s resurgence. It’s now building models that are attracting a younger demographic. Buick’s expanded lineup now includes two crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). The larger of the two is the full-size Enclave and here we will be taking a look at the 2015 Buick Encore FWD Premium, the subcompact CUV that is the best-selling vehicle in the Buick lineup (and the best-selling compact CUV on the market).
Sharing the same powertrain as the Chevrolet Trax, the 2015 Encore comes in front wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD), both of which are powered by GM’s Ecotec turbocharged 1.4L
DOHC 16-valve I-4 engine, with sequential multi-port fuel injection running unleaded regular. Mated to a smooth operating six-speed automatic transmission, it puts out 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s FWD Trax was EPA rated at 25 City/33 Highway/28 Combined. In 276 miles of 65-percent-Highway/35-percent-city driving we averaged 28.1 mpg, which if the 14-gallon fuel tank was run dry would have taken us about 390 miles down the road.
Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway/55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 65-percent/35-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you. If opting for the AWD Encore, the EPA fuel economy ratings are 23/30/26, so a few less than the FWD version, but still a solid member for CFR’s AWD 30 MPG Club.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our Encore, weighing in at 3,237 lbs., had a suspension that could have been firmer for our liking. Composed of front McPherson struts with coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar—and rear coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers—this suspension delivered a smooth ride on the highway and around town. But, the electric assisted power steering was too vague, resulting in body roll and an uneasy feeling when pushing the Encore hard around corners or in emergency maneuvers at highway speeds.
The 1.4L turbo engine ran smooth and was not buzzy, even when pushed hard. It was quick enough to get up-to-speed for freeway merging, but more overall power would have been appreciated. To get maximum fuel economy at freeway speeds the automatic is in sixth gear. However, when it came time to pass, the Encore lacks torque in sixth gear and a couple of seconds of lag occur before the turbo kicks in and the transmission drops down a gear or two. This lag became predictable after a while, so it was a declining issue as the week wore on.
The Encore felt solid to the road with 215/55R18 Continental Conti Pro Contact All-season tires mounted on 18-inch painted, seven-spoke cast aluminum wheels. Stopping was straight from power-assisted ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, cornering brake control, brake assist, with a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) and stability and traction control.
Driving Experience: Interior
Offered in four trim levels—Encore, Convenience, Leather and Premium—Clean Fleet Report drove the Premium version that Buick says is “unmatched in the luxury segment.” No argument as
there is leather with top stitching throughout the cabin, starting with the seats, steering wheel and shift lever. The steering wheel is heated as are the front seats, which are also six-way power adjustable.
To target and reduce unwanted noise, Buick offers the Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology. This system strategically places microphones in the cabin to monitor powertrain (engine and transmission) noise. When targeted frequencies are identified, an acoustically opposite signal is produced and fed through the seven Bose speakers to cancel the unwanted sound. But here is the really cool part—the system operates whether the audio system is on or off, resulting in a quieter ride all the time.
The Encore dash layout is simple and straightforward, featuring an analog tachometer and digital speedometer as part of the 3.5-inch driver information center. All controls are within easy reach and easy to understand. If you have read many of our reviews, you know Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. Buick got it right as the climate control knobs, large enough to use with gloves, are centrally placed just above the gear selector and the infotainment volume and channel selection knobs are smack dab in the middle of the center stack. Of course, you also can control the audio functions by the steering wheel-mounted controls.
Popping out of the top of the dash is the seven-inch, high-definition color touch screen, housing the main controls to operate the Infotainment system and Buick’s connected car technology, what they call Intellink. Here you will find the rear view camera plus SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), the Bose Premium seven-speaker AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 sound system, USB port with iPod connectivity, aux-in jacks, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. To take the connectivity technology a step further for iPhone users, the Encore had Siri Eyes Free and Text Message Alert. You also get OnStar and 4G LTE for Wi-Fi, (three-month, three-gigabyte data trial) that turns your car into a hot spot.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM has been the industry leader and after the introductory service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.
Our Encore Premium had a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces and comfortable seating for four with good rear head and legroom. The rear 60/40 seats both fold flat in a system that starts with flipping the seat bottom towards the driver seat and then dropping the seat back to the flat position. Storage is ample with the rear seat up, but expansive when the rear seat is folded flat. Access to the storage area is through a manual liftgate and a convenient low lift-over load height leading to a flat floor.
Our Encore interior color was ebony (i.e., black) with tasteful brushed aluminum accents on the center console and steering wheel and surrounding the air vents and instrument cluster. The six-
way power adjustable front seats provided good support and a comfortable driver seating position. We felt that only having a center armrest for the driver was an unnecessary omission from what was an otherwise complete interior.
Other nice interior features are a power moonroof, 15 storage compartments, tilt and telescoping steering wheel column, cruise control, cup holders, Automatic Dual Climate Control, power windows (with driver-side express up and down), power door locks, power and heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear window defroster and wiper, front reading lights, air filtration system, compass, carpeted floor mats, removable cargo security cover, exterior temperature display, remote keyless entry and vehicle start systems, Auto dimming day/night rearview mirror, illuminated driver and passenger visors with vanity mirrors, 120V and 12-volt accessory outlets.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Buick Encore, built in Korea, comes in eight exterior colors. Ours was a deep Ruby Red Metallic. The most identifying design feature is right up front with the waterfall chrome grill and Buick’s three-shield logo badge. The Encore exterior design is safe and sculpted, but with a retro touch. Many Buick models over the decades carried the branding design trait of three- or four-hole Ventiports on the fenders. On the 2015 Encore, the three-hole tradition continues with them reappearing on the hood.
The Encore is a tall vehicle and a bit boxy that offers good outward visibility, with one minor note. The top edge of the outside mirrors have a downward angle to them that cuts-off just enough mirror surface to create a blind spot. No matter how much you try to adjust the mirrors, they cannot be positioned so the top edge is parallel to the ground. It’s classic form over function.
Safety and Convenience
The 2015 Encore Premium has a 5 Star Government Rating and comes with safety and convenience features including 10 air bags, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Parking Assist, Remote Start, Halogen headlights, front fog lights, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), content and vehicle theft alarm and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist.
Pricing and Warranties
Pricing for the 2015 Buick Encore FWD begins at $24,065 with the AWD version starting at $25,565. Clean Fleet Report’s Encore FWD Premium had an MSRP of $30,830. All prices do not include the $925 Destination Charge.
The 2015 Encore comes with these warranties:
- Bumper-to-bumper Four-year/50,000-mile
- Powertrains Six-year/70,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance Two-year/25,000-mile
- Factory scheduled service Two-year/24,000-mile
- Rust-through perforation Six-year/100,000-mile
Observations: 2015 Buick Encore FWD Premium
The 2015 Buick Encore is the best-seller in the very competitive and growing subcompact part of the small CUV category that includes the likes of the Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade, and Honda HR-V as well as the Encore’s General Motors sibling, the Chevrolet Trax. Got up in size a bit and you find the sales powerhouses of the segment like the Honda CR-V and contenders like the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
What Buick is successfully betting on with the Encore is that even in the base trim level, it is the most luxurious CUV of the lot. By the time you get to the fully loaded front-wheel drive Premium version Clean Fleet Report drove for a week, between the interior appointments, infotainment system and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, you will be hard-pressed to find a more luxurious small CUV.
Since there are so many very good vehicles in this segment your consideration list will be and should be quite long. Drive as many as possible, getting to know each one’s strengths and attributes. The beauty of a small CUV is their nimble handling, good fuel economy and not-so-large size that makes around town trips a breeze.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade
First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.