Encore GX

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2021 Buick Encore GX Overview

Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and satellite radio join the party in the Encore GX for 2021. Just a year old, the Encore GX is the updated replacement for the current Buick Encore, which confusingly is also still on sale this year. With a wealth of features not usually available at this level, and special attention paid to fit and materials, the Encore GX represents a unique choice in the subcompact crossover category. But while it’s a very impressive vehicle, the price tag means there are other and better, options out there.

This is not to say the Encore GX isn’t worthwhile. With standard features like keyless entry and ignition, heated mirrors, WiFi hotspot, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist, the base Preferred trim level tries to impress. The big drawback here is with the powertrain. A 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine provides an anemic amount of power—137 horsepower, 162 pound-feet of torque—and is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that does its best to manage what’s on offer, but simply isn’t up to the task.

If you move up to the Select or Essence trims, you have the option of a turbocharged 1.3-liter, three-cylinder engine. That’s a worthwhile upgrade, but if you stick with front-wheel drive (FWD) you’ll still be saddled with that CVT. Instead, opt for all-wheel drive (AWD), and you’ll get a better mannered nine-speed automatic that will vastly improve performance, and more importantly, your enjoyment while driving.

There are many reasons to jump up to the mid-level Select trim level, and prime among them is the inclusion of the Cold Weather Comfort package, an option for the lower-level Preferred trim level. Here you’ll get remote engine start and heated front seats, as well as power adjustment for the driver’s seat. But the real bonuses with the Select trim come in the form of standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and dual-zone auto climate control. Roof rails also improve the profile as well as the utility, and rear armrests are a nice plus for passengers as well.

The top-tier Essence trim level seems like overkill, especially considering the price jump, but there are some nice add-ons here as well. LED headlights are nice, but should have been included already at this level, and the same could be said of the auto-dimming rearview mirror—a feature that even some economy cars come with as standard equipment. A heated steering wheel should have come with the Cold Weather Comfort package, and the added power for the passenger seat and driver-seat memory system just makes their previous omission even more upsetting.

For this reason, it’s the Select trim with the Advanced Technology package that I think offers the most value. You’ll get a head-up display, 360-degree camera system, and adaptive cruise control, all features which help the Encore GX really feel like the upper-scale option it’s trying to be. Want your Encore GX to look a bit more flashy? The Sport Touring package will add special wheels, grille and front fascia, unique bumpers, and a blacked-out roof for a very stylish look.

But before you pull the trigger, make sure you have everything you want and need and have checked all the options boxes you’re likely to be interested in. Once that’s complete, see what your price tag comes to and see what else is available at that level. You might be surprised.

Updated

A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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