2016 Buick Encore Sport Touring
Buick is a bit of an old-timer when it comes to brand perception, usually offering up models better suited to hitting up the local Bingo game than the club, but that hasn’t stopped it from attempting to reinvent itself with models like the Encore. First breaking cover at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and going on sale for the 2013 model year, the Encore has seen a good deal of success, with sales increasing 29 percent for the first six months of 2015 to 30,549 units sold. Unfortunately, it’s Buick’s only really successful model, as the automaker’s overall sales fell 6 percent to 106,314 units sold, with every model in its catalog (besides the Encore) seeing a sales decline.
For that reason, it’s not a surprise to see the Encore back with this more “spirited,” high-end variant.
“Encore is a driving force behind Buick’s expansion and a catalyst for introducing a new generation of customers to the brand,” said Duncan Aldred, U.S. vice president of Buick, who added that the new Sport Touring broadened Buick’s customer’s base with more choices, as well as more performance, technology and efficiency.
Sounds good. But does it work?
Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Buick Encore Sport Touring.
2016 Buick Encore Sport Touring
Horsepower @ RPM:153
Torque @ RPM:177
0-60 time:10.5 sec. (Est.)
Top Speed:115 mph (Est.)
You’d be forgiven for failing to differentiate between the Encore Sport Touring and its standard-spec sibling just with a quick visual comparison. The exterior styling between the two is more or less identical, with chunky proportions, gentle lines and a high stance – typical stuff for a compact crossover.
The front is rounded and comes with accents like large, polished slats in the central grill and faux chrome louvers along the hood.
The front is rounded and comes with accents like large, polished slats in the central grill and faux chrome louvers along the hood. A silver-colored lower front bumper section offsets the flat-black trim lining the ground-facing section of the body, which is a cue that’s repeated under the rear hatch. A raked window line emphasizes the bulbous fifth-door area.
However, there are a few extras Buick threw on to entice customers looking for a more upscale Encore. These include a winged rear spoiler that extends the roofline off the top of the rear hatch, 18-inch, premium finish, forked-spoke design aluminum wheels, and door handles that match the body color (the standard Encore has polished door handles).
Other standard features include halogen composite projector-beam headlamps (complete with blue accents to give off that HID look) and heated side-view mirrors with integrated indicator lights.
Note: 2014-2016 Buick Encore interior shown.
On the inside, the Encore manages to stand out among its rivals thanks to an overall impression of quality that belies its price. The layout, materials, technology – even the available space makes it all feel plush.
The layout, materials, technology – even the available space makes it all feel plush.
In the Sport Touring, Buick adds to this with a brace of new standard features. On the tech side of things, customers get an IntelliLink infotainment system with voice-activated control and a 7-inch, high-resolution color display. A 4G LTE WiFi hotspot from OnStar keeps up to seven devices connected, and includes a free 3-month/3-GB data trial plan. A rearview camera system provides improved visibility when reversing.
There’s also QuietTuning active noise cancellation technology from Bose, which blocks or absorbs sound and dampens or eliminates vibrations. By installing microphones in the ceiling, the system detects audible noises, then processes the frequencies and emits counteracting sound waves through the sound system. The result is a comfortable, unobtrusive ride.
The Sport Touring now includes as standard the Convenience package, normally a $2,090 option on the regular Encore. This throws in stuff like a 120-volt accessory power outlet, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, fog lamps, rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert and remote starting.
Available options include a premium audio system from Bose, a nav-equipped radio and a moonroof.
Space-wise, there’s enough room to seat five comfortably. There’s also up to 48.4 cubic feet of storage available. A flat-folding front passenger seat extends the cargo area to swallow up larger objects, offering enough space to accommodate items up to 8 feet in length.
Finally, for safety, there are 10 standard air bags, including side-curtain and knee protection.
The new exterior bits and extra interior equipment are pretty sweet additions, but the most important feature and defining aspect of the Sport Touring has to be its new engine.
Like the standard Encore, the Sport Touring’s powerplant is a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four cylinder, but from there, Buick changes it up to bless the crossover with a more “spirited” attitude.
Output from the four banger sees a bump, rising to 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque over the standard Encore’s 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.
Output from the four banger sees a bump, rising to 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque over the standard Encore’s 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. That’s nearly an 11-percent increase in power and 20-percent increase in torque, which Buick says is particularly useful at low and mid-range engine speeds.
The engine is part of General Motors’ latest Ecotec engine family, and can also be found in the 2016 Open Astra. It has direct injection (versus the regular Encore’s port-injection setup) as well as an aluminum block and head for reduced weight and increased efficiency. Also increasing efficiency are low-friction piston rings, a low-friction camshaft drive, a low-friction oil pump and low-tension piston rings.
Other features include a steel crankshaft that reduces engine vibration, powder-metal steel connecting rods and hypereutectic-alloy aluminum pistons for reduced noise.
A variable-flow oiling system is used to maximize fuel efficiency. Driven from the crankshaft, the oil pump matches oil supply to the engine load, altering its capacity based on the engine’s “demand” for oil. This helps eliminate parasitic loss when full pump pressure isn’t needed. Finally, piston-cooling oil jets keep things running at the optimum temperature.
All told, Buick seems focused on giving this new Encore a bit more power while still offering high efficiency.
Speaking of keeping things frosty, the cylinder head uses a water-cooled exhaust manifold integrated into the aluminum casting. The single-piece design improves durability by eliminating the need for gasket sealing around the exhaust ports and offers better under-hood packaging. Interestingly, this piece also reduces emissions by helping the engine warm-up to operating temps and heating the catalytic converters in the exhaust.
Buick prides itself on offering a premium feel when it comes to engine refinement. To boost this, the new engine comes with a variety of NVH (noise) reducing features, including: a camshaft drive chain that uses an inverted-tooth design and chain architecture for quiet operation, a lower, stamped steel sump at the bottom of the aluminum oil pan, a front-end accessory drive that uses an overriding alternator coupler that removes the effects of crankshaft oscillations and improves efficiency with reduced friction levels, an acoustically optimized engine cover and crankshaft isolation with iron main bearing inserts.
The engine is equipped as standard with stop/start technology to reduce fuel consumption.
All told, Buick seems focused on giving this new Encore a bit more power while still offering high efficiency. There are currently no official mileage figures, but those numbers should surface as the Sport Touring’s release date gets closer (expect around 25 city/33 highway for FWD, and 23 city/30 highway for the AWD model).
Other standard features include fuel-saving electric power steering and four-wheel disc brakes. Routing the power is a six-speed automatic transmission that feeds the front wheels. Buyers can also opt for AWD.
The 2016 Encore Sport Touring is scheduled to hit dealerships in the U.S. sometime this fall.
As of this writing, no official word on pricing has been revealed. However, considering the 2015 Encore comes with a base price of $25,565 and ranges up to $30,395 for the Premium model, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Encore Sport Touring tips the $30K-mark.
Offering car-like handling characteristics from its sport-tuned suspension, freshly revamped exterior styling and a fun attitude, the CX-3 feels like the good-time alternative to the Encore Sport Touring. While the Mazda’s 146-horsepower, 146-pound-feet-of-torque inline four-cylinder engine is slightly outgunned by the Buick’s 1.4-liter unit, you wouldn’t know it given the CX-3’s sprightly sub-3,000-pound curb weight. Drawbacks? The interior is decidedly less upscale than the Buick’s and there’s less space for people and cargo, but you’ll also pay substantially less money: the CX-3 starts at $20,000.
Read our full review here.
Adding a solid dose of crossover-ness to the staple Fiat 500, the 500X comes with everything offered in its compact counterpart, but with… more. The exterior is still fashionable and the interior is well-laid out, capable of carrying a good amount of stuff if properly arranged. Engine options start with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, while speedier variants come with a 180-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter unit. FWD is standard while AWD is available. Pricing starts at $20,900, up to around $30,000 for the top trim level.
Read our full review here.
For the Sport Touring, Buick essentially kept all the good stuff from the original Encore, then added more. The exterior additions are subtle, but they work (I feel like that wheel design is better suited to a RWD sports sedan, but that’s just me). The interior is plush and techy. The new engine should provide excellent refinement and a little more pep, possibly cutting the 0-to-60 time down to break into the 8-second barrier.
But in a world flooded by crossovers, how does the Buick stand out?
It’s not as fun as the Mazda and not as flamboyant as the Fiat, but in the end, you can’t deny the premium approach. Customers looking for a compact crossover that’s a bit more grown up should find the Encore Sport Touring very much to their tastes. It’s like a nice red wine at a frat party.
Hopefully, Buick will set the price so that all its premium, quality feel shines above its competitors, rather than slotting the Sport Touring too high. In top-spec it’s already one of the priciest cars in its segment. Keep it below $30,000, and I can see the Sport Touring continuing the Encore’s streak of sales success.