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Auto review: Encore GX ST brings Buick manners to small SUVs

By Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

If you've been on Mars for the last few years, you may be disoriented when you see what's happened to America. No, I'm not talking about the coronavirus pandemic and urban riots; I'm talking about Buick's lineup.

America's once-stodgy sedan brand has been transformed into a stable of hip SUVs.

Buick's "mistaken identity" ads featuring utes like the Envision and Enclave were the most watched car ads of 2019, and "That's not a Buick!" has become an American catchphrase. I'm not making this up.

To convince you the world has gone mad, let's unpack the name of this week's tester, the 2020 Buick Encore GX ST.

The 2020 Buick Encore GX sells Buick style and comfort. On Detroit's rough roads, the nicely tuned suspension made for a smooth ride.

It's the bigger brother of the Encore - Buick's pioneering 2013 subcompact SUV. Yes, I just used Buick and pioneering and subcompact in the same sentence. Polling rock-bottom in brand identity and desperate for attention, GM let Buick's product team off the leash to create a segment-busting, entry-level, cuddly SUV. Consumers adored the little pup.

 

Hitting the SUV craze in full stride, Encores flew out of the pet shop, selling 102,000 copies last year. That's more than the Honda HR-V, for goodness sake. It also brought in new buyers to the brand who could move on to Buick's other crossover offerings, the Buick Envision and three-row Enclave.

Buick decided to milk the Encore's success with the Encore GX (for Grand Crossover). In Encore's pioneering spirit, the Encore GX is one of the first subcompact-plus SUVs, shoehorned between the subcompact and compact spaces. Yeah, I'd like a new name, too, to avoid confusion. But Buick's marketers figure they have a good thing going.

The 2020 Buick Encore GX is bigger than its sister Encore, with more interior room and AWD optioned.

Other than its surname, Encore GX shares nothing with little-bro Encore. It's on a longer front-wheel-drive platform, offers all-wheel drive and is more space-comparable to a compact - yet isn't as doughty-looking as the more expensive Envision.

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