Alert steering and a pliant ride escort the 2013 Buick Encore a long way into premium crossover territory. They'd take it further if the Encore had a more lively powertrain.
The only source of oomph offered with the 2013 Encore is the same one you'll find in the extraordinarily likable Chevy Sonic--a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, here with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Peak power's available through a six-speed automatic from below 2000 rpm to almost 5000 rpm.
A few things conspire against the turbo four to keep it from percolating it into the interesting category, alongside crossovers like the Countryman and Escape. For its overall size, the Encore is chunky, at 3,190 pounds, before adding on people, gas, and options like the desirable all-wheel-drive system. Its six-speed automatic shifts cleanly, but upshifts very quickly, hunting down the quickest route to a 33-mpg EPA highway rating.
Keeping it light--front-drive, a passenger or two--keeps the Encore's straight-line performance under the ten-second 0-60 mph bogey. Checking the option box for all-wheel drive (AWD) adds roughly 150 pounds, but the extra traction and slight ride improvement might be worth the tax it exacts on acceleration of at least a second.
The AWD system, while we're on it, is a distinctive piece of hardware. It's set up to engage the rear wheels with every launch, gradually releasing them from traction duties as it senses good road conditions, until it hits 37 mph--where an all-clear puts all the power to the front wheels.
All Encores ride on 18-inch wheels and tires. And despite the big rolling stock, the short wheelbase, and the compact front strut/torsion-beam rear suspension design, the Encore has a well-controlled ride in almost all situations, with just some light chop caused by typical city street shortcomings--steel plates, pavement joinings, and potholes. Its electric steering takes the hint quickly, too, without deflecting or wandering too much on some vulnerable types of highways.
There are subtle differences with the front- and all-wheel-drive models, ones that'll sway only a handful of shoppers. We've driven both extremes, a solo and the other, a fully laden AWD version with three aged-out linebackers on board. The added weight taps out the Encore's energy reserves completely, but it also damps out more of those rough patches--putting even more Buick in the Encore's road feel.