14. November 2013
The Camera Doesn’t Lie
So I am parallel parking in downtown Plymouth. I check the 7-in. diagonal LCD display in the center console and think to myself that it is a bit disappointing that the virtual lines that provide an orientation of where the rear of the vehicle is in space are lacking. It is simply a camera image of what’s behind the crossover. As I look at the screen as I back into the space, it seems that there must be something wrong with the perspective of the camera because the front of the Encore is within the white line perpendicular to the curb designating the parking spot while the screen shows that there is plenty of room before the rear end would be near the white line on the pavement behind the Encore. But I shut off the ignition and go around back to see where the rear of the car is, and discover, to my surprise, that there actually is a whole lot of acreage between the bumper and the white line.
The Encore is remarkably compact. And that’s a good thing when you’re doing things like parallel parking in urban environments. Which is probably why the Encore exists.
Another Urban Aspect
The Encore has a 138-hp engine. It is a 1.4-liter, turbocharged I4. “Turbocharged” sounds good. It has a six-speed automatic.
Drive around town. Nice. Get on a freeway ramp and accelerate. Get (finally) to freeway speed and try to pass the poky person in front of you. You wonder whether there is some old-school continuously variable transmission in there because you hear it winding and winding and winding and you’re not catching any additional forward momentum in a big way. You wonder if the 138 hp is enough to move the 3,199 lb. of car.
Around town: good. Out on the highway: not so good.
A tagline used in Encore ads is “The next big thing in luxury is small.” Small, of course, as in the Encore.
But I don’t get the “luxury” part.
Definitionally, luxury ordinarily has to do with characteristics like opulence, grandeur and magnificence. But maybe that’s the “old luxury.”
I thought Cadillac was the GM luxury brand.
Anyway. . .there is nothing in the Encore that you can’t find in a Korean vehicle of approximately that price point (as Driven: $28,985, before $750 destination), whether it is the leather seating surfaces, the nice audio (Bose), or the sensors that beep like mad when you’re pulling out of a parking space (there is no directional information regarding what the sensors are picking up, so you have to look here, there and everywhere to try to figure out what you may be closing with).
Oh, and I didn’t use “Korean vehicle” because I think it might evoke some negative connotations, because that’s far from being the case when it comes to contemporary Hyundais and Kias.
I use it because the Buick Encore is built in Bupyeong, South Korea.
Which brings up another Korean OEM, Daewoo. That company’s assets were acquired by GM back in 2001. It was known for a few years as “GM Daewoo,” a name that has given way to “GM Korea.” Daewoo had a sedan, the Leganza. It marketed it with the line “Affordable luxury.”
It was affordable.
Rather than simply be critical of the Buick advertising effort for the Encore, I’d like to provide something that would be more to the point: “Good things come in small packages.”
It is good. It is small. It is not luxurious.
Proof point: the driver’s side has an arm rest. The passenger doesn’t get one. Luxury?
One of the things that Apple has done is make its devices so simple that the consumer is meant to figure out how to use a given device without having to resort to a manual. If only auto companies were quite as clever.
I attempted to use the navigation that’s part of the Buick IntelliLink twice. In both cases, I failed to be able to enter the addresses. In one of the two cases, I sat in my driveway for 10 minutes trying to get it to take. I ended up grabbing my sub-$200 Garmin (which was Apple-like in the non-instructional manual requirement) and putting in the necessary address post-haste. Seemed sort of silly to have the Garmin stuck on the windshield above the 7-in. screen, but there it was.
(I understand that some people argue that if I owned the car rather than simply driving it for a week I would know how to do things like getting the navigation to work. True. But shouldn’t the electronic interfaces be really, really easy to master without time and instruction?)
How to Know It Is a Buick
The roofline and the stance of the Encore remind me of the last-generation Saturn Vue. The Encore is about a foot shorter than the ’09 Vue (168.5 in. long vs. 180.1 in.), but the proportions are close.
An Encore to a Vue?
How can you know it is a Buick? Because it has ventiports (faux) on the hood. Someday someone at GM Design is going to realize that stylistically, ventiports are like an appendix, a vestigial structure.
What Would You Put in There?
Remember a few years back when the passenger-side airbag door was clearly evident due to a rectangular seam running across the expanse of plastic on the IP? That has gone away thanks to the use of laser technology, as a laser is used to scribe the surface without marring the skin, yet providing the means to allow the airbag to pop out as intended.
When I looked at the passenger side of the Encore, I thought they were going old school with the airbag door. But as it turns out, they hadn’t, and what I thought was the airbag door was the door to a moderately useless storage area.
As shown here, the container can handle a case for a pair of glasses and a cell phone. It is not very capacious by any measure, and it is awkwardly proportioned, probably to accommodate the HVAC ducting behind it. What’s more, there is no lock on the door to that storage area. Sure, if someone is going to break into your car to steal stuff, a lock cylinder on a glove box isn’t going to be much of an impediment. Still, you don’t have to make it easy. (By the way: there is a normal-sized glove box below that unit.)
Things I Like About the Encore
1. People often buy crossovers because of the higher seating position than that found in a sedan. Even though the Encore is a small vehicle, the seating position is quite high, providing good visibility. In a car of the size of the Encore, you’d be comparatively subterranean.
2. I averaged 30.5 mpg. The combined number on the sticker is 28. Usually you take the sticker number and knock off about 20%. This was not the case with the Encore.
3. Although it is small, it offers plenty of cargo room: 18.8-cu.-ft. with the rear seat back in place; 48.4 cu. ft. when it is folded down. Given that this probably won’t be selected as a family vehicle and will probably transport one or possibly two people on a regular basis, having this capacious cargo capacity is a helpful features.
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged DOHC I4
Horsepower: 138 @ 4,900 rpm
Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm
Materials: Cast iron block, aluminum head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 100.6 in.
Length: 168.5 in.
Width: 69.9 in.
Height: 65.2 in.
Cargo volume: 18.8 cu. ft.
Max cargo (2nd row folded): 48.4 cu. ft.
EPA: 25/33/28 city/highway/combined mpg