The first thing I liked about the 2018 Buick Encore Premium was the interior height. After opening the driver-side door, I did not have to jump up onto or drop down into the seat. Just sway to the right and the seat is perfectly positioned for my ass with minimum effort on my part.
I wonder if that kind of convenience, along with plush interiors and smooth rides, are holdovers from Buick’s old days as your grandpa’s car. General Motors has spent a small fortune running away from that reputation with active celebrity pitch people such as Tiger Woods, Shaquille O’Neal, Peyton Manning and Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition model Marissa Miller.
As you can see from the image above, Buicks no longer resemble wheels for old fogeys. The four-door gives up nothing in the looks department from similar-sized subcompact crossover SUVs.
Where the Encore stands out from the others is in luxuriousness.
And that comes at a cost that is not out of whack with the competition’s prices.
The leather-appointed seats (with heaters for those riding up front), leather-wrapped steering wheel (which can be heated as well) and the QuietTuning cabin noise reduction system allowed for a comfortable ride from Orange County to the Bay Area.
It would have been even more comfortable if I was able to deploy the cruise control more often. Have you tried doing that on the 5 freeway through Central California lately? It’s impossible.
Why in my day, the two-lane portions of the 5 were … OK, who sounds like grandpa now?
No matter the generation, comfort is what has come to be expected from a Buick. What tossed my lasagna was the great gas mileage I enjoyed on the trip. I only stopped to fill up before my destination so I would not have to deal with it before driving back home.
The Encore has a government fuel economy rating of 27 miles to the gallon in the city and 33 on the highway for a combined 30 mpg.
We were kept entertained on the long ride by the Bose Premium audio system with XM radio. You can also create a wi-fi hotspot for your devices.
Encore buyers get trial subscriptions of SiriusXM satellite radio and OnStar, which includes the hotspot, guided navigation and automatic crash response, with the option to renew them.
Speaking of devices, if you have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto apps on your smartphones, you can link them to the Encore audio system through Bluetooth streaming.
All the audio features are controlled via the eight-inch diagonal color screen in the middle of the dash, and there are also some controls on the steering wheel.
One thing I learned to appreciate after the Encore was picked up was the way all the controls on the steering wheel were spelled out for me. Maybe I’m in need of a “Driving for Dummies” refresher course, but I hit a spell of Ride Me vehicles recently that had unrecognizable symbols for dash and steering wheel controls. These had me pulling over and reaching for the owner manuals, especially that time I went to turn up the volume in a foreign car but instead cranked the air conditioner temperature up to 94 degrees. Talk about hot wheels!
My Summit White, front-wheel drive test vehicle was great tooling around the city. Where it disappointed me was jumping onto the freeway and opening it up on the open roads.
First, when stepping on the gas, it didn’t emit the beastly sound I expected it would. Such noises have been a given with other recent crossovers I have tested, from economy to premium brands. Not hearing that in the Encore was disconcerting. If it was simply muffled by the QuiteTuning, I am fine with that.
Often on the open roads, I found myself increasing the pressure on the Encore’s gas pedal but not feeling an immediate quickening response. So, I did some research. I know: Why start now? Stay with me.
My test ride’s sticker indicates the engine is a 1.4-liter turbo with six-speed automatic transmission. Buick offers two different turbo-charged engines in the 2018 Encores: one that makes 138 horsepower and an optional 153-hp version.
As a potential buyer, such a difference would come down to how the thing is actually going to be driven most of the time. Since I mostly drive a few miles here or there, the choice would come down to which is the cheapest to buy and operate.
When it comes to pricing, my 2018 Encore Premium FWD test ride came in with a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $30,515. That includes the features mentioned above as well as a safety package with keyless ignition, a theft deterrent system, stability traction control and forward collision, side blind zone, rear cross traffic and lane departure warning alerts.
Standard interior features include a remote vehicle starting system, an ionizing air cleaner, illuminated vanity mirrors, auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror, power door locks with lockout protection and power windows with express up and down for the driver side and express down everywhere else.
LED headlamps, front fog lamps, heated and power adjustable outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and a roof rack with side rails are among the standard exterior features.
So are 18-inch aluminum wheels, but my test ride included 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels that are part of the $2,390 Experience Buick Package that also features a power moonroof and an upgraded infotainment system. Add nearly two grand for turbo engine options and the destination charge–and then take away $450 in Experience Buick Package savings–and the total MSRP came out to $34,425.
(That brings us to the oft-referenced Ride Me observation about how many of these test rides, no matter how you slice and dice the options, wind up in the thirty-four thousands.)
With Buick, included in the price are the four-year/50,000-mile limited bumper-to-bumper and six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranties. You also get two maintenance visits to rotate the tires and change the oil and filter. Your dealer may include other service specials.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.