QOTD: Is the Encore the Worst Buick Ever?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
Electra. Wildcat. Grand National. Riviera. Buick has some storied names in its history. Unfortunately, as we wind down 2016, all of those nice names remain long gone, never to return.In their place, throughout the decades, there have been some awful sedans, a truck-based item, even a minivan. We’ve also got some tasty crossovers which may or may not be propping up Opel’s failing product line across the ocean, and also appealing to and/or made in China.So, let’s decide if the Encore is actually the worst offering Buick ever unleashed, all things considered. Shall we?
Our first awful nominee is the Skylark of the early 1980s. Sister of the Citation, this little Malaise Crap Box was an affront to the Skylark name. But downsizing and efficiency were the games to play, and Buick had to be ready to go — miserable Iron Duke and all.
Next up is the gorgeous, krill-seeking Skylark from about 10 years later. This new midsize sedan and coupe cribbed the styling from the Roadmaster, shrunk it 35 percent, and added a heaping helping of “sports appeal” by making it extra pointy. But hey, at least this N-body was incredibly slow. Its 2.4-liter eight-valve engine produced a shocking 120 horsepower, 40 hp less than the contemporary DOHC Quad 4 engine. By the end of this generation, however, it hosted the reliable 3.1-liter V6, and all was (relatively) fine.
This brings us all the way to near-modern times, and the Rainier model of 2004 through 2007. I happen to know that our own Chris Tonn currently runs the Rainier’s mechanically identical sister, the TrailBlazer. So, as I sat down with him virtually the other day, I gained some special insight into his experience with his ’06 4WD (now 2WD) model, which he’s owned since ’07 and driven for over 90,000 miles.Regarding the Atlas inline-six engine:“All of the fuel economy of a ’70s big block, with none of the power. 12 mpg in city driving. Around 14 on the highway. 12 mpg when towing a rusted-out racecar through West Virginia.”Regarding reliability:“Lunched a transfer case. Ignition switch is a wear item… we keep a spare in the glove box.”And finally, serviceability:“But at least the front suspension is strut based, so it’s a bitch to replace. Power steering hard lines sit in a trough over the strut tower, collecting rainwater, so the hard lines rust through. And they were the first things installed on the bare frame, so damned near everything has to come out to replace them when they rust through. Inner door panel popped off when the driver’s door shut — can’t get it to stay in place. Just a standard door shutting.”I don’t think we’re quite finished yet, because we’ve not covered the two simultaneous offerings that sat alongside the Rainier in the showroom — the Terraza “ luxury crossover sport van” and Rendezvous.
Just look at this pair. These were two U-body holdouts (hey, 1990!) that had quite a few flaws. However, their sibling was the love-it-or-hate-it Pontiac Aztek, which was arguably ahead of its time on the multi-purpose and car-based activity vehicle front, and has many fans today.So, I think my Worst Buick Ever award is still reserved for something which combines almost all the aforementioned qualities. The small stature and compromised styling of shrunken Buick models of yore. The rather ugly hatch form factor like those above. In an age of big horsepower figures, it lacks much power — just like the Malaise Skylark. A little front-wheel drive hatchback that’s masquerading as something it’s not, for the sake of fashion over true utility, luxury, dignity, or driving pleasure. And under all the tinsel applied so liberally at its South Korean manufacturing facility, it’s still an Opel Mokka.
Here’s the brand new 2017 model, which continues Buick’s signature “crappy utility vehicle” scheme of reddish paint with grey cladding. Unless the B&B can point me to a more awful Buick model my brain missed, congratulations Encore — you win.H/t to Tim Cain for today’s question idea.[Images: General Motors; Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY 2.0)]
Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 198 comments

    See? It's a Phoenix . . .risen!

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jan 17, 2017

    A couple of thoughts... First, hat tip for the Wildcat love right off the top. Second, I always had a soft spot for the '92-'95 Skylarks; I thought the grill was reminiscent of the '65 Wildcat. Third, may I add a late nomination for the Buick Somerset? Digital dash but GM beancounters underspec'd the alternator and you know what happened next. Also, the shape of the dash was such that it had wound up with a funny bend in it as the plastic aged and deformed which looked like hell.

  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.
  • Carson D I thought that this was going to be a comparison of BFGoodrich's different truck tires.
  • Tassos Jong-iL North Korea is saving pokemon cards and amibos to buy GM in 10 years, we hope.