Key elements of the Wildcat Concept are now applied to its current and newest vehicles in its lineup. For example: The 2024 Encore GX.
Perhaps over a decade ago, the average age of a Buick owner was at 60.3 years old. However, that has been trending towards a younger demographic. Just recently, it was reported that the average age of Buick owners is now down into their 50s. It is projected that General Motors’ attainable luxury brand could see it get even younger.
There are some reasons why there is optimism in attracting younger buyers at Buick. For one, the buzz is high on the brand’s newest addition to their lineup – the Envista.
This new vehicle is now on sale. However, good luck trying to find one. They’re hot commodities – something Buick has not had in decades. Dealers are selling what they get rapidly.
The other reason is partly why the Envista is a hot commodity – a new brand design language. The unveiling of the Wildcat EV Concept last year foretold a future direction for Buick. Key elements of the Wildcat Concept are now applied to its current and newest vehicles in its lineup.
For example: The 2024 Encore GX.
By now, the original Encore has been removed from Buick’s catalog. Assembled in the Republic of Korea, the Encore GX is larger, more stable, and handsome. The mid-cycle refresh adds more definition and flair to the overall exterior look. The Wildcat-inspired front clip splits things in two with a large lower grille below the crease; thin headlamp units and the new tri-shield badge above it. This theme continues out back with new taillamp units and badging.
The 2024 model year marks the first time the top-of-the-line trim Avenir will be offered in the Encore GX. When you choose an Encore GX Avenir, your exterior gets a few more elevated pieces. They include a chromed grille, Avenir badging, neutral lenses for the taillights, and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels. In all, the smallest Buick gets a treatment once reserved for much larger models.
The Wildcat Concept’s theme continues inside with all new flat panel for the instrument cluster and infotainment screen. The left screen is fully digital and customizable. You can also customize the instrumentation screen from the 11-inch infotainment touchscreen on the right. Between these two screens, you can create a proper driving environment for you to gobble up the miles in.
All around the Encore GX’s cabin are a set of controls that are tactile and easy to use. Perhaps improved upon from previous Buick models. One thing that is a welcomed carryover is the shifter for the automatic transmission. It makes much simpler for a vehicle with such updated technology.
The leather upholstered front seats offer plenty of support, but the seatbacks do feel a bit firm in the upper back area. Rear seat space is not bad for average adults. In terms of cargo space, you get 23.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded down, the space expands to 50.2 cubic feet.
One thing the makes the Buick Encore GX desirable is its potent 155-horsepower 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. This engine is available on the Sport Touring and Avenir trims, coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission. My Avenir tester came with all-wheel drive.
Before you start browbeating this small three-cylinder engine, let’s talk facts. This small-but-mighty engine punches above its weight. It’s not high-revving motorcycle-like quick, but it gets up to speed like it just don’t care. Add that smooth-shifting transmission, and it’s a pretty good driveline. As for fuel consumption, I’m afraid I did not get a good reading. However, the Environmental Protection Agency rated the Encore GX with the 1.3-liter engine and AWD for an average of 27 MPG.
Does it ride like a Buick? Well, it is very decent. On smoother surfaces, it dampened really smooth. Yet, it does its best to manage rougher road surfaces. Cornering and maneuverability was very well-managed without any feedback.
Turning the new steering wheel was fine overall. The shorter length yielded a good turning radius using its shorter length to its advantage. On-center feel felt solid when keeping within the lane. Braking is also decent with an overall solid pedal feel. We experienced solid stops in normal and panic situations.
Considering that Buick had traditionally been placed in a “near-luxury,” “mid-priced” segment, pricing should not surprise you. Buick is offering three trim levels for the Encore GX – each with its own personality. That lineup tops off with our Avenir model. This 2024 AWD Avenir tester came with a. sticker price of just $34,795. Pricing for the 2024 Encore GX lineup starts at $25,600.
The 2024 model year will be important for Buick. The mid-cycle refresh of the Encore GX and the arrival of the Envista are just a start of a product revival at the tri-shield brand. Coming soon will be a revised Envision with a new version of the Enclave – all with the Wildcat Concept’s design DNA.
Positioning the Envista to attract a younger demographic to Buick, that extended reach should also include the Encore GX. Not just for the price point, but for what it offers consumers right now.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Walser Buick-GMC, Roseville, Minnesota
All photos by Randy Stern