This is the 2024 Buick Encore GX. It's a small crossover SUV, and a significant improvement in many ways over the previous-generation Encore GX I reviewed about three years ago. But first, that headline.
Alfred P. Sloan was the CEO of General Motors from 1923 to 1956. Sloan had a strategy for GM called "The Sloan Ladder". The idea was to sell customers their first new car and then move them up through GM's divisions as their earnings and status in life improved.
Chevrolet was the entry brand, Pontiac a step up from that. Oldsmobile was the middle rung on the ladder and Buick was the last stop before the top rung---Cadillac. And since Cadillac was, even by 20th Century American standards, conspicuous consumption, many people of wealth and taste stopped at Buick.
Alfred P. Sloan became CEO of General Motors 100 year ago. He stepped down 67 years ago. Stuff's gonna change. Tempus is gonna fugit. The 2024 Buick Encore GX is very much a car of our times. A small crossover. It's exactly the right size for most of the rest of the world. If GM were still selling cars in France, this would probably sell like hotcakes....er...crepes. The styling refresh works, giving the Encore GX some sharp angles and character that make it look very contemporary---and the grille and headlights lend an air of menace.
No changes under the hood, though. Lower-level Encore GXs get a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine (yes, three) that makes 137 horsepower. Our top-of-the-line tester gets a 1.3-liter three with 155 horsepower. And it takes about nine seconds to hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start. The payoff for your patience is an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon combined city/highway.
The interior is where I have to ask the question---should this be sold as a Buick? Does Buick mean anything anymore? Yes, it's a profit center for GM in China, and that's not nothing. And yes, the Buick Wildcat EV concept is a tantalizing teaser of a possible one-rung-under Cadillac electric future. But the 2024 Encore GX---improved as it is---really is a logical competitor to small crossovers like the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Honda HR-V. With the Pontiac and Oldsmobile rungs of Sloan's ladder long broken off, shouldn't this car really be a Chevy?
The base price of the top-of-the-line 2024 Buick Encore GX Sport Touring AWD is $29,695 including destination---right in the ballpark of the top trim levels of the Corolla Cross and HR-V. That money buys an 11-inch touchscreen, keyless open and keyless start, leatherette-appointed seats (power for the driver, manual for the front passenger, active noise cancellation, heated and power-adjustable manual-folding exterior mirrors, LED headlamps, taillamp and daytime running lamps, and several active safety features, but not adaptive cruise control, which is standard on many vehicles costing less (this is a GM weak spot not confined to Buick).
Our tester had extra-cost options, as well: $1,695 for the "Experience Buick" package (panoramic power sunroof and 19-inch wheels), $1,295 for the Comfort Package (remote vehicle start, an 8-way power driver's seat with two-way power lumbar, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a front passenger flat-folding setback and a rear center armrest), $500 for a Bose Premium speaker system, $495 for the Cinnabar Metallic paint and $395 for the black roof. That brings the bottom line on the window sticker to $34,075. That's $525 more than the as-tested price of the Toyota Corolla Cross, but that was a 2022 model, so factor in two model years worth of price adjustments and it's going to be very close.
It's more business pragmatism than sentimentalism to suggest that if Buick is supposed to mean more than Chevrolet, it shouldn't be competing with Toyota and Honda. The 2024 Encore GX is a fine vehicle of its type. I just think it's wearing the wrong badge.