When your automobile brand is usually thought of as venerable, when buyers associate it with the bad old days of the American auto industry, when your marque is looked upon as staid and old fashioned, you have to do something dramatic to shift the paradigm if you’re going to survive. This is the task handed to the Buick Encore—and indeed all of its siblings currently sporting the tri-shield logo. One of the first of an entirely new class of automobile, the 2016 Buick Encore compact crossover SUV debuted in 2013 as something of a revelation. Small, yet luxurious and fuel-efficient, the Encore also represents a considerable bargain at its starting price of $24,065.
2016 Buick Encore Quick Spin Review
What’s New For 2016?
The 2016 Buick Encore comes into its fourth year with only a few changes (the 2015 Encore was fitted with OnStar’s 4G LTE connectivity and WiFi hotspot capability as standard equipment). For 2016, the marque is offering the diminutive crossover with a new Sport Touring trim package, three new exterior colors (River Rock Metallic, Graphite Gray Metallic, and Summit White), and a new set of seven-spoke 18-inch wheels with an “Ultra-Bright” (very shiny) finish.
With the addition of the new Sport Touring package, Encore is now offered in five different states of trim, including Encore, Encore Convenience, Encore Leather, and Encore Premium. Standard features abound: a seven-inch touchscreen interface with smartphone app integration, cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, and a rear-view camera. As you move up through the trim packages, you can add features like full leather upholstery and a Bose sound system. The new Sport Touring package adds a rear spoiler, a specific set of 18-inch wheels, and a new 1.4-liter turbocharged engine to support its decidedly more aggressive attitude.
Like all of its stablemates, the Buick Encore benefits nicely from the brand's contemporary styling language. Signature elements include a waterfall grille, chrome accents and surrounds, portholes on the hood, and painted lower panels. Standard body-color door handles with chrome strips and a styled, stainless-steel exhaust tip add to the small Buick’s premium look. Further distinguishing the little Buick as a luxury model are blue-accented halogen composite projector-beam headlamps and detailed taillamps. Solidly affixing the Encore to the ground is a set of 18-inch five-spoke painted aluminum wheels.
The Encore’s interior styling is anchored by a flowing instrument panel that wraps nicely into the door panels. The upper central instrument panel houses a seven-inch monitor. Nicely simulated wood and soft touch surfaces give the Encore’s handsome cabin a warm and upscale appearance. An all-ebony or a contemporary mix of dark and light tones distinguishes the cabin’s color schemes, which is refreshingly accented with ice-blue ambient lighting—along with judicious applications of chrome and woodgrain embellishments. Trimmed either in a cloth/leatherette combination, or the optional premium leather, the artfully sculpted seats serve as a nice focal point, tying the look of the Encore’s interior treatment together quite nicely.
Comfort & Cargo Capacity
Resolutely delivering upon the demand among crossover SUV buyers for a high seating position , the Encore also gifts its occupants with all-day comfort. While the Encore’s size might lead the prospective buyer to consider it primarily a city car, the Encore is more than capable of holding its own over long distances as well. We’re talking a compact crossover SUV here, though, so be realistic before you try to coerce full-size adults into its back seat. However, if you do and you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of legroom up front, they’ll happily ride to lunch or a ballgame back there. Maximum cargo capacity is 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Photo Credit: General Motors
Garnering top safety scores from both NHTSA and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the 2016 Buick Encore is rated a 5-Star car by NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. Available safety features include proximity sensor arrays; rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. OnStar endows Encore with stolen vehicle tracking and intervention, roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, and automatic crash notification. Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat knee airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, and a rearview camera.
The all-new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Sport Touring engine generates 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. This is up considerably from the 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque from the base Encore’s engine of the same displacement. Both engines are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions and choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Stop/start technology is incorporated to maximize fuel efficiency. Fuel economy numbers have yet to be released for the Sport Touring engine, but the base powerplant is estimated to return 25 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 28 combined in the front-drive powertrain. With all-wheel drive, it’s rated at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, and 26 combined.
Yes, the 2016 Buick Encore might be small in stature, but when it comes to living up to Buick’s reputation for a quiet and smooth ride, the Encore comes across just as big as its siblings. Yes, the ultra-short wheelbase does impose certain limitations in ride quality and choppiness over surface irregularities, but at steady state the Encore’s sophistication is remarkably impressive. Also, we’re looking forward to the performance gains from the new Sport Touring package, as we’ve always known the Encore had the potential to be more fun to drive.
Pros & Cons
Pros: Upscale look and feel, perfectly sized for taming city streets, suitably comfortable and quiet even on the highway, a long list of available tech features, commendable fuel economy.
Cons: Base engine could be more powerful (see the new Sport Touring package for relief).