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Back, For the First Time

2013 Buick Encore

It was quite by accident that I parked this week’s test car, a 2013 Buick Encore, outside of the Clarence town government building right in front of a sign which read “Compact Car Parking Only.” Years ago there wasn’t a Buick made which could have been legally left there. The Buicks of the 1940s and 1950s, and most of the Buicks of the 1960s and onward, were giant, wallowing luxo-barges—and proud of it.

The newest Buicks of the 21st century are a whole different breed. The luxury is still there, but they are no longer the car of choice for the AARP crowd, a mantle they wore proudly until they realized that most of the AARP crowd eventually disappears “somewhere.”

My stop at Cappellino Buick in Williamsville, where I was met by Brian Cappellino, revealed not only the Encore (which Buick confusingly refers to as a crossover SUV—usually they’re one or the other), but the compact Verano sedan, the family-sized Enclave SUV, the sporty Regal, and the luxury Lacrosse sedan. Not your grandfather’s Buicks.

The Encore is new this year, a five-passenger compact wagon-like vehicle available in both front- and all-wheel drive versions. Power comes from a 1.4-liter Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. The turbo provides quick power when needed; otherwise the car runs quietly and shifts crisply. My drive through the back roads of Clarence showed the Encore to be a good-handling little vehicle with responsive steering, but I found myself backing off a bit around those curves due to the car’s high center of gravity (not a problem in everyday driving though). The Encore is EPA-rated at 25/33 miles per gallon city/highway. Also a far cry from the big Buicks of old.

The test car’s titanium leather-appointed seats were comfortable enough, although there’s not much side support. One of the high ride height’s bonus features is ease of entry. And once inside the head room is vast—even with the optional power sunroof. Leg room and shoulder room were also generous. Climbing in the back seat I found similar accommodations, although if you’re planning on putting three people back there, they’d better know each other pretty well. If they don’t, they will by the time they get to where they’re going as it might be a bit of a tight fit (unless of course, they’re all kids). Rear seat passengers can be treated to an optional 120-volt electrical outlet located on the back end of the center console, allowing you to take your espresso machine on those long trips to help keep everyone awake.

Behind the 60/40 folding rear seat you’ll find almost 19 cubic feet of cargo space—or over 48 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. That should be enough room for a family of four and their luggage for a weekend excursion. The front passenger seat also folds flat, so if need be you can have an eight-foot-long, fully-enclosed platform for carrying home those extra-long items from the big-box store.

Standard equipment on all Encores includes: rear-vision camera; six-way power driver’s seat; Sirius/XM satellite radio with three-month subscription; and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The test car had the leather option, which also includes: remote starter; dual-zone automatic climate control; the 120-volt outlet; and heated front seats and steering wheel, among other things. A premium package will add lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and front and rear park assist.

Pricing starts at $24,200. The test vehicle, with optional equipment and destination charge, was priced at $30,295. If you like the SUV idea, but not the fact that many of them won’t fit in your garage, perhaps you’d be interested in an Encore performance.

More info at

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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