2020 Buick Encore GX Essence: A bigger round of applause?
Price: $34,965 as tested. Advanced Technology Package adds adaptive cruise, surround camera, and more for $1,790; Experience Buick Package adds a moonroof and 18-inch wheels for $1,500; Convenience Package adds parking assist and rear camera mirror for $520. Red paint, $495. More mentioned below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it's "spacious inside," with a "subdued three-cylinder, comfortable ride," but not that it's "slow, not that much nicer than its less-expensive Chevrolet Trailblazer twin, a general lack of enthusiasm for existence."
Marketer's pitch: "Meet the first-ever Encore GX."
Reality: Not quite a standing ovation.
What's new: With the Encore GX, Buick adds a new step in its luxury SUVs. Slightly larger than the Encore, it offers new standard safety technologies as well, according to Buick's press site.
A lasting first impression: I managed to grab half an hour for an errand on the first day I had the Encore, and it impressed me on mountainous country roads. The main road out of the township was closed after Hurricane Isaias barreled on through, and the more challenging alternate route told me almost everything I needed to know.
Up to speed: The Encore came with the 1.3-liter EcoTec turbo three-cylinder ($395, a 1.2-liter four is standard). It offered a peppy start like many small vehicles, but with decent acceleration on the way up, unlike most of them.
The 155-horsepower engine gets the Encore to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, according to MotorWeek, so it's not a rocket.
But in addition to the solid performance throughout the power curve, hill climbing — tested on a long, steep incline — is also a breeze in the Encore GX.