2021 Buick Encore GX
Slotting in above the small Encore in the Buick SUV lineup, the 2021 Encore GX offers the brand's semi-luxury attributes in a handsome, compact package. Two different turbocharged powertrains are offered here, but oddly they are both three-cylinder engines—a 1.2-liter is standard while a 1.3-liter is optional—and neither provide quick acceleration. If you can get past the poky powertrains, the Encore GX's other traits are more agreeable: it offers a smooth ride and well-controlled body motions, good interior room, and pleasant cabin surroundings. It straddles the line between mainstream and luxury markets, so those comparing it against a Nissan, a Ford, or its corporate twin, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, will find it an attractive and well-equipped alternative. However, when up against premium models from Germany and Japan, the Encore GX isn't nearly as compelling.
What's New for 2021?
For its second year on the market, the Encore GX receives only a few small updates. Both SiriusXM satellite radio and wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become standard features across the lineup, and adaptive cruise control is now available on the Preferred model as part of the optional Safety package. The best value in the lineup appears to be the mid-range Select model. It comes with handsome 18-inch wheels, roof-rack side rails, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a rear-seat center armrest, remote start, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Experience Buick package adds navigation and a power sunroof. All-wheel drive is optional and adds $2000 to the price of any Encore GX.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Encore GX is powered by two different turbocharged three-cylinder engines. The base version is a 1.2-liter that develops 137 horsepower followed by an optional 1.3-liter that makes 155 ponies. The former pairs with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive. While the more powerful engine is available on fancier front-drive models, it's included on every Encore GX with all-wheel drive. Likewise, the slightly bigger engine exclusively uses a nine-speed automatic transmission. At our test track, the Encore GX with all-wheel drive, the nine-speed automatic, and the larger 1.3-liter four-cylinder required a slothful 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. The Encore GX's luxury-branded rivals–the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, and the Volvo XC40–all offer more powerful engines and far quicker acceleration times. On the road, the Encore GX feels peppier than its acceleration results suggest, particularly around town where the small turbo engine delivers good low-end grunt. The Buick's ride is also agreeably smooth and controlled, but it doesn't offer any handling thrills.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Encore GX's quiet cabin features leather upholstery, heated seats, and more passenger space than the smaller Encore. Buick's positioning in the market straddles the line between luxury and mainstream, so it's better equipped than base-level versions of rivals such as the Nissan Kicks and Subaru Crosstrek, but it doesn't provide the same level of fit-and-finish as the Audi, BMW, and Volvo. The Encore GX's front-passenger seat folds flat to aid in loading longer items and we expect the rear cargo area to be more generous than the smaller Encore. We fit five carry-on suitcases behind the GX's rear seats and 16 with the rear seats folded, which is only a few less than the slightly larger Cadillac XT4.