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by Sommer Thornton
Buick’s 2014 Encore is quite the ambitious CUV. Its design includes a little luxury, a little technology, and a hint of athleticism to compete with small SUVs from Toyota, Honda, and Ford. The big picture is that Buick says the new Encores are flying from dealerships and it’s ranked high among SUVs because of its EPA and reliability. Despite a few functionality flaws this tech savvy CUV has a lot to offer.
Optional Premium Lux Here and There
Buick uses words like “premium” and “luxury” to describe the design of the 2014 Encore. Premium with this whip comes in the form of chrome accents on the hood vents, door panels, and lower panels, as well as 18” aluminum wheels and blue accented headlamps. Sure…
Available in the optional Encore Leather package is heated leather seats and a heated steering wheel. The Encore Convenience package adds radar technology like Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. If buyers want the Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and front/rear Park Assist they’ll have to purchase the Encore Premium Package.
Tech Savvy Interior with a Few Disappointments
We tested the fully-loaded Buick Encore that still left much to be desired. The main issue with the Encore wasn’t its underwhelming powertrain or its design cues that resemble a less thought out mini Enclave. The 2014 Buick Encore’s biggest problem is functionality. Loaded with optional luxury flair, the Encore is still missing the mark where logic lies. For example, the driver’s seat is very uncomfortable. I’m 5’ 5” and I found the hip/leg area to be disproportionate. I had to adjust the seat and mirror before and during trips. The leather wrapped steering wheel is so abrasive it left blisters on my hands. I haven’t got blisters since the monkey-bar days. Passengers complained about the lack of spaciousness and about there being no center console for an armrest. The driver gets an armrest. The front passenger must lean against the door. There isn’t adequate center storage for CD’s or my stash of snacks. There is a storage “inlet” that’s barely big enough for an iPhone. I had to tuck things in the small glove box. How can a crossover truly call itself an SUV while lacking significant storage space?
Then there this notion of a “driver focused” interior that’s more like a driver distracted interior. The driver’s seat has a motorized seat adjustment for forward motion and for the lumbar, but utilizes a lever for leaning back. Then the driver cannot easily reach the center infotainment controls that adjust media and navigation. The steering wheel controls are helpful as is the customizable dash. But the buttons on the media unit bitch-slap logic. The most important information is left out. There’s no button for “enter” or “select”. Enter is actually the tuner button. Then there’s no button to switch between radio, satellite radio, cd or Bluetooth. Drivers would have to press the “source” button as many times as needed, then find their radio stations through the “fav” button. This is too distracting.
The biggest example of dysfunction is with the trunk space. Barely 18 ft2 behind the rear seat the trunk allows for very little storage. Then there’s this trunk cover that cuts the storage space by 1/3 because with it on top of the rear storage, things cannot be stacked high.
Folding the rear seatsdown allows for 48 ft2 of total cargo space, but two issues arise. Drivers would have to move the front seats up for the rear seats to fold down completely, and they’ll then have to figure out where to put the annoying trunk cover.
Unmatched EPA and Smooth Ride = Happy Drivers
Luckily functionality still plays a role in the Encore’s powertrain. The Encore has a 1.4 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine matted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 1.4 liter offers 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, which makes for a sluggish but efficient ride. With an EPA of 28 mpg combined, the Encore is said to have the highest fuel economy of any crossover. Contributing to its efficiency is the electronic returnless fuel system and deceleration fuel cut-off. Quiet Tuning employs Bose Active Noise Cancelation to keep the ride tranquil with the help of MacPherson front suspension and the urethane spring isolator in the rear suspension. The Buick Encore doesn’t accelerate quickly but holds its power steady. Braking and cornering is optimal. Yet when I decelerate it feels more powerful than when I accelerate.
High Marks for Media and Safety Technology
Standard or not, the 2014 Encore has some great features like the backup camera, the 7-speaker Bose Sound System, the optional sunroof and the IntelliLink technology. The Encore has IntelliLink technology for media apps like Pandora and Smart Radio, and voice-activated Bluetooth commands. Also included is Siri Eyes Free that allows for drivers to integrate their smartphones with voice-activated functions to read and respond to text messaging, utilize calendars, and access media via steering wheel controls. Sirius XM is also offered.
Optional safety features like the Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Front/Rear Park Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Side Blind Zone alert make the Encore worth owning. While I think it works better for a young adult than a family, with a few tweaks, the Buick Encore could prove to be a worthwhile competitor with the Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, and the Ford Escape.