“Micro Sized Luxury”
I was 16 years old with a fresh new license and a desire to drive anytime I could get behind the wheel of a car. It didn’t matter if it was to start it, back it up in the driveway or to go across the border to fill up gas. One of the first cars I drove and the car I learned to drive stick on (manual transmission) was a 1990 Chevrolet Sprint. Some of you may remember this car, it was a compact budget hatchback with a 1.0L inline 3 cylinder engine. Before you ask, no it was not the Sprint Turbo. Although, I have to say I thought the Turbo Sprint looked cool for its time. The engine was good for a meager 48 hp and 57 lb-ft of torque. However, it had something cool going for it. If you have ever had the opportunity to be in a car with 3 cylinders they produce a very unique sound. It cannot really be explained, but, it is a unique, raspy, almost sporty if you will, sound.
The reason I walked down memory lane with respect to my time with the Buick Encore is that it instantly brought back those feelings, because at its heart the 2021 Buick Encore GX has a 1.3L Turbo inline 3. It produces a more respectable 155 hp and surprising 174 lb-ft of torque, the latter available as early as 1600 rpm; however, it sounds that same unique way. The Encore GX is not fast by any stretch, but having that torque available from almost idle really assists in making the Encore feel quick around town. The further benefit of the Turbo 3 cylinder is fuel economy and in AWD form the Encore GX returns a decent 8.5 L/100km. In comparison, the Mazda CX 5 returns 9.75 L/100km, although, the CX 5 produces 227 hp and 310 lb-ft on regular (87 octane) pump gas. In AWD form the power is routed through a nine-speed auto that is smooth on shifts and finds the right gear for the task easily and without fuss.
The GX, unlike the previous generation Encore, is an all new chassis from the ground up. It’s longer by 3 inches and wider. This results in a welcome bump in leg room and shoulder room. My six foot plus frame easily occupied the front seats, still leaving room for an average sized adult in the back. The previous generation Encore looked bubbly and soft, whereas the GX offers a more bold and aggressive grill design and more raked back silhouette and longer bonnet. The design makes it look like its cutting through the air. So what the GX lacks under the hood in comparison to other luxury brands like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, it makes up in looks. The same upscale feel flows into the interior. It has quality materials on most surfaces, although some hard plastic can be found. Overall the interior environment is quiet and it’s a pleasant place to be and feels airy when equipped with the panoramic moon roof. The GX also comes equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto and a built in Wi-Fi hotspot. This is all accessible through an 8 inch infotainment screen that integrates Alexa Built-In. All in all, a great suite of features.
What does all this greatness cost you ask. The GX starts at just under $26,000.00. However, when fully equipped like our tester in Essence Trim (the top trim level) it tops out at $40,533.00 including freight and PDI. By comparison, a fully spec’d Q3 will run you north of $51,000.00 albeit this is a more driver orientated compact SUV with higher levels of performance. This is where the conundrum begins. The GX sits in an unusual place. It is far better equipped and refined than the likes of the Nissan Kicks or Subaru CrossTek. However, it lacks the thoroughbred nature of the European luxury rivals.
I feel Buick has placed the GX nicely from both a price and features perspective to attract the more discerning buyer. A buyer who is looking to standout a bit, but, not necessarily make that crossover (pun intended) to the full luxury offerings from Europe. Simply put, the younger buyer looking to stand out from the crowd and walk to a different beat.