2020 Buick Encore GX

Alfred P. Sloan was the president, chairman and CEO of General Motors, a company that he was to come to after having been the president and owner of Hyatt Roller Bearing, which just goes to show you that even things like ball bearings can lead one to places you’d never imagine you’d go. Prior to building bearings Sloan had obtained an engineering degree from MIT, so the fact that when he was at GM he came up with an idea that changed vehicle marketing is somewhat remarkable.

That is, the accumulated portfolio that was General Motors was rationalized. The phase “a product for every purse and purpose” was the organizational approach. The “purse” portion is probably the most powerful in that line in that it led to a stair-step approach to the brand organization.

Simply put, it was about affordability and rising incomes.

One would start with a Chevy and work his or her way through to Cadillac.

Sloan figured that this approach would keep people within the GM family through their entire lives.

In this organizational approach Buick was one position below Cadillac. It offered big, comfortable sedans that were aspirational to the upper middle class. Back in the proverbial day, a model with a name like “Park Avenue” really meant that someone was (1) going places and (2) had arrived.

2020 Buick Encore GX. Premium small crossover with a competitive price. (Images: Buick)

Times change, and so has Buick. Whereas it was once all about plush, floaty sedans with accoutrements like seats covered with a velour-like substance and exterior bling like ventiports, it has become a brand that is all about the crossover.

Go to a Buick dealership right now and you’re faced with four vehicles, all of which are (1) crossovers and (2) begin with the letter “E.”

And these vehicles are Sloanism in action, as you start with the Encore, work up to the Encore GX, move to the Envision and arrive at the Enclave.

This all-crossover approach has a customer advantage in that it not only simplifies the shopping experience, but it allows the Buick designers and engineers to concentrate on one type of vehicle.

Focus is helpful.

What is odd about the Encore GX is that it is rather different than the Encore. This isn’t a different trim level. It is actually one of those Sloan steps within the brand.

Consider the dimensional differences between the two vehicles:

                     Encore GX                         Encore

Wheelbase   102.2 in                            100.6 in

Length          171.4 in                            168.4 in

Width           71.4 in                              70.1 in

Height          64.1 in                               65.2 in

Those are not trivial differences, especially the length and the width, as there are significant differences where it really counts: the interior.

The Encore GX offers 94.3 cubic feet of passenger room, while the Encore is at 92.8 cubic feet.

The Encore GX offers 23.5 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row and 50.2 cubic feet if that rear seat back is folded down. The Encore is at 18.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 48.4 cubic feet max.

These are distinctively different vehicles.

(And I would argue that the fact that the Encore GX is both wider and lower made it a more attractive vehicle.)

While it shares the “Encore” with the Encore, the Encore GX is a different vehicle.

The standard powertrain for the Encore GX is a 1.2-liter turbocharged I3 that produces 137 hp; the vehicle I drove had the optional 1.3-liter turbo that produces 155 hp. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission. The vehicle as driven was FWD. Were it an AWD vehicle, then the transmission would have been a nine-speed automatic.

For a small SUV it has a lot on offer. Even with the options. . .

  • Advanced technology package (HD surround vision camera; head-up display; adaptive cruise control; infotainment with navi)–$1,790
  • Experience Buick package (power moonroof; 18-inch wheels)–$1,500
  • Convenience package (automatic parking assist with braking; wireless charging, rear camera mirror with washer; rain sensing windshield wipers)–$770
  • Liftgate package (hands-free power)–$520
  • Upgraded exterior paint–$495
  • Upgraded engine–$395

. . .the vehicle, including destination ($995) came in at $34,965.

On the one hand, it is a bargain. Yet on the other hand, it is a well-appointed, reasonably well handling and powered vehicle that is in a premium category.

The bargain and premium almost seem at odds.

Even Alfred Sloan might be confused.–gsv