By on May 21, 2019

2017 Buick Encore front

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.

2017 Buick Encore - Image: Buick

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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42 Comments on “More Power? Buick Encore Buyers Don’t Want It...”


  • avatar

    Encore owner here. I call bollocks on the “don’t want more power”. In typical GM fashion, they made the engine available only on the top trims. They should have just made the 1.4T DI the standard engine for the Encore and the Trax keeps the regular version. That would have made the Encore more better than the Trax.

    It’s just like GM’s stupid position on active safety equipment. While all of the competition is making it standard or available for a modest price, GM puts it only on the top trim and after selecting some other expensive option packages…. then they claim that “their customers don’t want it”.

    Duh!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Yeah the premise of this article is pure BS. If it was a $250 upgrade across the board, I’m sure many would pick it. As it is, I suspect most Encore volume is blowing out crazy cheap leases on lower trim cars, so sure enough the optional engine is very rare.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “In typical GM fashion, they made the engine available only on the top trims.” In fairness to the General, this is an industry-wide phenomenon. What new car is available in a Bisquick-type configuration? E.g., you only can get a V6 in the XLE or XSE Camry.

      – – – – –

      “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).” Correction: The 2nd-gen Cruze also came with the MDE turbo diesel. And I assume Steph is talking about the 2nd-gen Cruze here. The 1st-gen (in the US market) came with an NA 1.8; the port-injected, iron-block 1.4T; and a 2.0 turbo diesel.

      On a 1.4 I4, incidentally, is there that much to be gained versus an aluminum block (presumably with iron sleeves)?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        The 1.4T SIDI is direct injection and includes stop-start. As noted already it is aluminum and I’m sure much more quiet than the iron block in our old 2013 Encore. Real world fuel economy is also improved for the LE2.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Is 93k a good sales number?

    I feel like that’s failure.

    Not that my example of (IIRC)350k 1995 neons is applicable— but, dang, anyway! There were almost 4 1995 neons sold for every 2018 Encore.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      It remains at the top of, or close to the top of subcompact SUV sales month after month. It is even more impressive when you consider the long list of competitors that have jumped into the market, many the B&B predicted would end the Encore, that just seem to continue to lift the sales of the ute.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Heck many thought the Encore was going to be a flop before release. An awkward looking subcompact crossover? And a premium/near-luxury one at that? Who is going to buy that thing?

        Remember the Encore was the segment leader in the US. There were no Trax, CX3, HR-V, Renegade, etc at the time.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Are we allowed to call the PT Cruiser a premium sub-compact CUV?

          I think the market-segmentation, branding and sales numbers are about equal between the two.

          The Encore isn’t a success story. Its a middle-class boy that took public schooling and bought a suburban 3/2.

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          But there was a Juke.

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          This thing is the Oldsmobile Cutlass (which was a sales leader thoughout the ’70s) of our generation. Slightly nicer than a Chevy, but still reasonably priced. For the “buy American” crowd it’s a perceived step up for short money. No wonder it is close to the top of the market

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I-Neon, the Dodge Neon didnt have the segment competition that Emcore has today.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    250 bucks for more power and torque?!? I find it VERY tough to believe 90% of buyers would NOT take that deal, if it was offered to them. I would happily pay it on any vehicle I own, in fact I’d see if they’d give me 4x the bump for a Grand.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    We’ve had a 2015 Encore for about 6 months. It’s ok, the interior looks nice and it’s comfortable on a long drive, as long as you’re alone. It won’t take long for the passengers to start complaining about feeling cramped.

    It’s definitely a little underpowered, especially with a transmission that shifts all over the place. It could use a few more horses.

    Reminds me of the Chevy Aveo I used to own more and more each day. I wonder why….

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Bummer. The lawnmower engine under the hood is basically what is keeping one out of our driveway.

    My wife’s ’06 Forester is definitely getting tired after 13 years of very hard service as an urban runabout in Puget Sound. She loves the new Forester but it is too big (her parking garage at work is a nightmare). She was interested in the RAV4 until our 2017 rental experience. The Subbie she has now has great power (non-turbo base model but still has a lot of umpf) that the Encore can’t match – and the underpowered feel won’t float with her.

    It’s the right size, it meets our demographic needs, we have alternative vehicles for when we have more than the two of us, meet her AWD requirement, and there is a Buick-GMC dealership with a good service department literally walking distance from our house (ditto for Subbie). The lack of power is a complete deal breaker.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Tell her to look at the new Crosstrek. I drove the latest one and didn’t find it wanting for power, for what it was.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +1, Kyree. An aunt of mine has had both gens of Crosstrek, and what I really like about them is the back seat. Actual room for an adult male! Who knew that was still a thing in car that’s affordable and not gigantic on the outside. Frankly, I’d never consider the current Forester because the Crosstrek’s packaging is so good.

        I believe, however, that the Crosstrek’s and Encore’s straight-line performance is in the same ballpark: 9-ish 0-60 for the Crosstrek and probably high-9s for the Encore. (Either of which is totally fine for me, incidentally.)

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I personally think the 2.0L Subie motor with CVT is pretty gutless, relative to their torquey 2.5L anyways.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        We had one as a loaner when her Subbie was living at the dealer over a litany of service issues that came up. She did not like it at all. Felt the interior was very cheap, covered in hard plastic, didn’t like the transmission feel (it was weird, has an almost regenerative braking feel when you came off the throttle). Very doubtful we’ll get another Subbie given the long list of issues with her Forester and problems such as the front driver carpet worn through even though there were floor mats, a failed steering rack for no obvious reasons and now the Subaru included lightly weeping head gasket and various oil leaks.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Just needs a Trifecta ecu and all of your worries are gone. :-B

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Encore drivers don’t care about engine power? What’s next? People with facial tattoos don’t have good relationships with their fathers?

  • avatar
    210delray

    Sales of this little Daewoo make up nearly half of Buick’s sales? A 1953 Buick would wince.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These and their identical Chevy siblings are somewhat popular where I live, I dont get the appeal. The Sonic will do everything these can do for a nice discount.

    Its not like the extra ride height does much either, my neihbors Chevy Encore thing has some broken bits of plastic from bottoming out somewhere. And the Sonic is tall enough as it is.

  • avatar
    obijuan

    I’ve just driven one of these things while my Accord 2.0T is being attended to. I’d classify the Buick Encore as a high riding tippy under powered hard riding POS. Talk about taking your life in your hands on the highway? This thing has absolutely no passing power above 40 mph and the sensitivity to crosswinds is definitely pucker inducing. I have no idea what people see in this particular vehicle or in this class of vehicle.
    No wonder the car makers are stuffing these things with all manner of nanny minding tech features, they sure as hell need help.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “This thing has absolutely no passing power above 40 mph”

      Oh stop it you hot house flower, it has about 140hp even in the low-power trim.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        My old Civic, which also had about 140HP and 500-600 less lbs to lug around, felt gutless and needed momentum and revs to make passes. So I imagine this thing is truly awful in the oomph department.

        It’s not the 1960s where the only cars that could cruise at 80MPH were Ferraris and Cadillacs.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          A 5spd Civic with an R18 can do 0-60 in about 7.5-8 seconds, my 2012 with a stick certainly didn’t feel “gutless,” unless I was running A/C I suppose lol

  • avatar
    deanst

    You start to wonder if GM bothers to benchmark competitors anymore…..

  • avatar
    deanst

    Apparently GM is keeping the existing model around as the Encore, and the new model will be the Encore GX. I guess the lame engine will be with the old model, and hopefully the new vehicle – Encore GX – will come with the more powerful engine.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    obijuan – “no passing power above 40” you’re joking! I drive our 2016 back and forth from Nashville to Bowling Green several times a month and have absolutely no problem keeping up with the 80 mph trucks,suv’s,etc. you must of got a lemon, I’ve been driving for 53 years, everything from my 55 Buick , 69 camaro 350, skylarks, Saturn, Pontiac 3.8, Cruze and more, no problem with acceleration at all!

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      Even a Chevy Spark can cruise at 80 mph (eventually). That you were – or are – content with the tiny 1.4T in the Cruze reveals that your bar is set a bit lower. I’m 67 – I understand.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        passing is NO PROBLEM either, ya just have to press down on the pedal, remember, PRESS DOWN ON THE PEDAL!!!!

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        Kenn, I didn’t say I was “content with the Cruze” merely pointing out that I have driven a fair amount of cars in my 53 tears of driving! Some more powerful than others, hey, even owned a 75 Pinto wagon V6, not a bad little driver either! My point is the Buick Encore is no slug like a few comments have stated, it is what it is, a small cuv that can run and pass with little effort!

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Considering most of the people I’ve seen driving Encores in my neck of the woods are middle aged to elderly ladies, I think they have higher priorities in a vehicle than zipping up on ramps.

    In fact, it’s hard to imagine many Encore owners caring about how quickly they can accelerate in such a tall, tiny thing. They want the packaging and relative luxury in as cheap of a package as possible. An upgraded engine is just fluff.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      “middle aged to elderly ladies” are driving most of the Nissan Rogues and Versa’s here in middle Tennessee, home of Nissan Smyrna, Tn. “it’s hard to imagine many older people caring how quickly they can accelerate” no matter what they are driving!

  • avatar
    Lefty54

    Yep, Buick has captured the grandma market with this car. Every widow and grandma where I live drives a white Buick Encore. And I bet they all paid full sticker price.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    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.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      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.


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