By Mary Lowry
For a while it looked like Buick might join Oldsmobile and Pontiac on the highway to oblivion, but Buick could be turning into the brand to beat. According to Buick marketing vice president Tony DiSalle, Buick is outselling Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Lincoln, and now has a 43-percent conquest rate, meaning 43 percent of current Buick buyers are coming from non-GM brands.
Close on the heels of its 2013 Enclave unveiling in October, Buick has rolled out an all-new, five-passenger small luxury crossover vehicle called the Encore. It’s available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and has the highest fuel economy rating of any front-wheel-drive crossover offered by a U.S.-based automaker: 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. For all-wheel-drive models, the numbers are 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
Encore’s overall length is 168.5 inches. To give you a visual of what that length would look like, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 is 178.7 inches long, not including a rear spare-tire cover. For the record, though, Encore isn’t competing with the RAV4. It’s going into the ring against the Volkswagen Tiguan, for one.
With Encore’s rear seat folded, total cargo space is 48.4 cubic feet; with the seat up, the cargo area measures 18.8 cubic feet.
All Encore models are powered by an Ecotec 1.4-liter VVT four-cylinder turbo engine generating 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and takes regular-grade gasoline.
There are four different trim levels: the base Encore (1SB) with an MSRP of $24,950; Encore Convenience (1SD), $25,760; Encore Leather (1SL), $27,460; and Encore Premium (1SN), $28,940. These prices include the destination charge, which is $750. All-wheel drive is available on all models for $1,500 above these prices.
In addition to features expected on cars in this price range, the base Encore comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a rearview camera, 7-inch full-color display radio with IntelliLink connectivity, and QuietTuning with Bose Active Noise Cancellation.
Along with IntelliLink comes a CD player, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB port, voice recognition, and Bluetooth phone and audio.
QuietTuning is the name Buick gives to the exceptional and successful methods it uses to reduce noise and vibration within its vehicles. Bose Active Noise Cancellation is a computerized system that “erases” noise by sending counteracting sound waves through the audio speakers and subwoofer.
To the Encore base model, the Encore Convenience adds dual-zone climate control, a 120-volt power outlet, auto-dimming rearview mirror, fog lights and remote start. To that, the Leather group adds leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable front passenger seat, and driver-seat memory. The Encore Premium piles it on with everything in the Leather and Convenience packages, plus rear park assist, forward collision alert with lane departure warning, a seven-speaker Bose premium audio system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a cargo net and a cargo-area mat.
A navigation system and power tilt and sliding sunroof are among the optional equipment items.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution, cornering brake control, brake assist, stability control, traction control, and OnStar.
This is just a preview of the 2013 Buick Encore, which is scheduled to arrive at dealerships on Feb. 1, 2013. As with all vehicles, a review will appear after I’ve had the Encore for a weeklong test-drive, sometime after it’s on the market. I did spend a day driving the Encore on highways and winding two-lane roads in and around Atlanta during Buick’s media launch for the vehicle, and I will say this: So far, real good.