Buick’s Encore GX Essence delivers comfort and utility

Judy Rae

By Jeff Mitchell

Beach Wheels

The completely new Buick Encore GX Essence is a vehicle that does many things right in an urban setting — especially if you have kids to get somewhere and errands around town to run.

Riding on a platform shared with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Encore stations itself between the slightly smaller Encore and the ever-so-slightly larger Envision in Buick’s all-crossover fleet.

My tester featured 18-inch steel alloy wheels and LED head and tail lights and definitely resists the egg-like look of its sibling, the regular Encore. Believe me, that’s a good thing, too.

Step inside the cabin and there’s no doubt that you’re sitting in a Buick — but one might not completely deliver the fit and finish of your dad’s old land yacht.

My tester, with leather seating and a spacious power moonroof, will hold four adults comfortably. Cargo is admittedly tight, with the Encore GX offering just 23.5 cubic feet of space and you can add about 30 cubic feet more with the rear seats folded flat.

My Encore Essence also came with a hands-free power liftgate which is height-adjustable and very handy while shopping.

Buick provides an intuitive and easy to use 8-inch touchscreen which, yes, runs Apple CarPlay, Android Auto. The system also nicely integrates Alexa.

Driver-assistance systems include automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning with pedestrian braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning. My tester also came with a rear-view camera which thankfully is quickly becoming the norm these days. But even on the Essence trim level, adaptive cruise control remains optional where it’s part of a $1,790 Advanced Technology Package that also includes a surround-view camera and a head-up display.

My tester came with an interesting 1.3-liter 3 cylinder turbocharged engine and that generates 155 horsepower and 174-pound feet of torque.

Front-wheel-drive models use a continuously variable transmission while all-wheel-drive units get a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The Encore GX Essense largely competes with the Honda CR-V and the Audi Q3

Steering on my Encore GX Essence was light but precise and the vehicle’s suspension handles the pothole-strewn streets of the city effectively. My tester’s brakes were decent but don’t expect the 3-cylinder power plant to vault you into hyperspace anytime soon (i.e. be careful when passing.)

My tester, as trimmed out and with extra safety options added, has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just over $38,000.

In terms of mileage, the EPA rates the Encore Essence at producing 30 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Final thoughts: While I would take the Encore Essence on a cross-country trip, it definitely merits your serious consideration as a small family city hauler. It’s comfortable and well made. Buy with confidence.

Jeff Mitchell is a Los Angeles-based automotive writer and reviewer. Check out his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/beachwheelsreviews

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