More Power? Buick Encore Buyers Don't Want It

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
more power buick encore buyers dont want it

Buick’s smallest model might not be what most TTAC readers want to see in their driveway, but it’s nonetheless popular with the American buying public. The subcompact Encore is by far the brand’s best-selling vehicle, making up nearly half of Buick’s sales volume. We’ll probably see a next-generation model debut later this year or early next.

What buyers won’t find when they check the coming year’s offering is the availability of an uplevel engine, however. For 2020, the hotter of the two turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinders vanishes from the Encore line, and it probably won’t be missed.

According to CarsDirect, which discovered the engine cancellation via 2020 Encore order guides, buyers weren’t interested in upgrading their vehicle’s thrust. Automakers staring down the barrel of reduced sales volumes are busy dropping unpopular build configurations left and right, and Buick followed suit.

This means that, for 2020 (and possibly onwards), the Encore will carry on with the same Ecotec LUJ engine that’s powered the model since its 2013MY debut. The mill, found in the Chevrolet Trax and Sonic, generates 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, compared to the 153 hp and 177 lb-ft offered by the upgraded LE2 motor.

GM’s LE2 is an all-aluminum powerplant, unlike the LUJ, and once served as the sole engine in the discontinued Chevy Cruze (which continues in overseas markets). The Encore’s sister car, the Chevy Trax, does not offer an engine upgrade.

Still, despite offering better power for tackling highway passing and hilly terrain, buyers stayed away from the $250 engine upgrade. After confirming the change, Buick spokesperson Renee Ketels told CarsDirect that only 12 percent of Encore buyers opted for the more potent engine in 2018. Note that the LE2 engine is only available on the uplevel Sport Touring and top-flight Essence trims.

The Buick Encore, which comes in two distinct variants in China for 2020, continues to find favor with Americans. GM sold 93,073 of the things last year — the model’s best annual tally to date. And, while overall U.S. Buick sales declined 8.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, Encore sales fell just 3.4 percent.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on May 23, 2019

    The long skinny pedal is often neglected and then there's question about why acceleration is sluggish. I was riding with my mom the other day in her Mazda3, with similar power numbers (not sure about weight). She was attempting to merge, but wouldn't go any faster that 2500 RPM up an onramp that's fairly short and steepish. I told her that if she wanted to speed up she'd need to punch it. Incidentally I drove back and had 0 issues.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on May 23, 2019

    I'm shopping one of these for my mom. She's the type that thinks "bluetooth" requires a trip to the dentist, so getting a trim level with more tech is a net negative. She'll do fine with the base engine, but for $500 or less I would have given her the cash to take the upgrade if it wasn't trim-restricted. The Buick dealers around here are only stocking the base engine regardless of trim so I guess it's moot.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on May 23, 2019

      I've noticed with the Envision anything greater than the 2.5 naturally aspirated motor is thin on the ground (even though it's available with the 2.0T on upper trims.) And similarly I largely see the Envision being driven by blue haired old ladies who need more legroom in the back than the Encore buyers.

  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).
  • Master Baiter New slogan in the age of Ford EVs:FoundOnRoadDischarged