Sibling rivalry. When Buick announced the launch of the 2020 Buick Encore GX, it sounded like a sub-trim of the existing Encore crossover. Somewhat confusingly, it’s not.
Instead, the Encore GX is an all-new model for 2020. It slots above the Encore and below the Envision in Buick’s lineup. It’s unclear how long the existing Encore will be sold, but for now, the two will be sold simultaneously.
Size advantage. The biggest difference between the Encore GX and the standard Encore is the size. Both vehicles are technically subcompact crossovers, but the Encore GX gains 3 inches of length and 1 inch of height over the smaller car. This translates to an extra 4.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up. Rear passengers get a little extra legroom and head room, too, although the difference isn’t as large.
Both use the same 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, but the Encore GX has rearranged the climate controls and moved the central vents above the screen. Neither design is offensive, but to our eyes, the Encore GX has a more cohesive interior.
Power options. The Encore GX gets two new engines to complement the new body. Both use a turbocharger and only three cylinders: one displacing 1.2 liters, the other 1.3.
The base 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine produces 137 horsepower, nearly matching the standard Encore’s 138 hp. We haven’t driven using this powertrain, but our guess is that it'll be a leisurely performer with the Encore GX’s increased weight. The upgraded 1.3-liter engine, with its 155 hp, will likely suit the vehicle better.
The new engines may be another attempt by the automaker to differentiate the Encore GX from the standard Encore, and it’s another notch in the Encore GX’s favor. All the same, the Encore GX remains down on power compared to rivals like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.
Even with the extra power and weight, the Encore GX is impressively efficient. In front-wheel-drive configurations, the 1.3-liter engine gets an EPA-estimated 31 miles per gallon combined. That’s excellent for a crossover, and all-wheel-drive models still achieve 28 mpg combined.
Perplexing pricing. In base models with FWD, the Encore GX starts about $900 above the regular Encore. As soon as options are added, however, the difference evaporates. With all-wheel drive, even a base Encore is the same price as the base Encore GX.
This makes the Encore GX a bit of a no-brainer over the older model, especially since it comes with standard safety features like automatic emergency braking. Though the two cars use the same infotainment software, every Encore GX gets smartphone compatibility as well.
Buick’s usual strategy is to price vehicles as a bridge between mainstream and luxury. The Encore GX follows the trend, positioned above mainstream runabouts like the Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V, but below luxury competitors like the BMW X2 or Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. The Encore GX’s closest competitor maybe the Ford Escape, a similarly priced domestic crossover. The Escape has the edge on size and power.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Buick Encore GX isn’t an immediate home run, but there’s reason to be optimistic. This is a crossover that's better calibrated than the standard Encore, which was already a strong seller for Buick.
If you’re shopping between the two, the Encore GX is almost certainly the better buy. The powertrains look anemic on paper, but if the Encore GX can offer a refined experience at the current price, Buick may have a winner on their hands.
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