NEWS

2017 Buick Encore: First Impressions

17Buick_Encore_AS_AC_06.jpg 2017 Buick Encore | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

CARS.COM — The refreshed 2017 Buick Encore gets new technology and styling updates. I had a chance to climb around the new Encore, being unveiled at the 2016 New York International Auto Show, and found that it certainly is improved in some areas, but it still falls a bit short in others.

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The exterior styling changes mostly are found up front, where Buick’s new corporate grille and a new front bumper make the Encore sleeker — helpful, given the stubby proportions of the small SUV. The new headlight clusters with revised LED daytime running lights also look better.

17Buick_Encore_AS_AC_11.jpg 2017 Buick Encore | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

But my favorite styling change is a case of addition by subtraction. Buick has held onto one styling signature for far too long: the “porthole” trim elements that could be seen on the fenders or hoods of their models — until now. The 2017 Encore is free of portholes, and it’s better for it.

17Buick_Encore_AS_AC_16.jpg 2017 Buick Encore | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Inside, the Encore is a mixed bag. The dashboard design is improved. The new standard 8-inch touch-screen is mounted lower in the center than in the previous model, which had its screen high above the dash. This new location makes the screen easier to use for either front seat passenger and its frameless design is more attractive than the hooded look of its predecessor. And the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is a bit of future-proofing that was needed.

A few things, however, keep the Encore firmly planted in the in-between zone short of true luxury territory. Every improvement inside is offset by a point where it falls short.

17Buick_Encore_AS_AC_19.jpg 2017 Buick Encore | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Interior materials are good, even potentially great for this price point — but then you find that there is no center armrest for the front passenger. The dashboard styling has improved, but the handy second glovebox for storing smaller items is gone. Second-row headroom is great, but my knees (I’m 5 feet 11 inches tall) dig into the driver’s seat when it’s set for my driving position.

17Buick_Encore_AS_AC_33.jpg 2017 Buick Encore | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

The Encore offers 48 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat folded down, but making use of the space can be a chore. Folding down the seats is a two-step process that involves lifting the lower seat cushions then pulling a lever to drop the seat backs. By itself this process is not too taxing; the real problem comes when you try to put the seat back up. There is nothing to keep the seat belt receptacles from falling under the cushion. To prevent that, you have to hold them up individually as the seat bottom is returned, which is cumbersome.

Up-front storage also is lacking; there is a deep cubby in front of the shifter, but the storage bin between the seats is very small. You can fit a phone and a wallet in there (maybe).

The Encore has proven popular for Buick (it’s their best-selling nameplate) but for me, it remains too compromised in certain areas for me to want it to come back on stage for another song.

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