LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Continuing its transformation as an SUV brand, Buick on Wednesday announced its fourth crossover, the Encore GX.

The GX will slot between the subcompact Encore and the compact Envision in the premium brand’s lineup. The three-row, Lansing-made Enclave is the biggest, priciest Buick offering.

Larger and more luxurious than the Encore, the GX shares its sibling’s name and cute proportions, but will be built on GM's new small-SUV VSS platform. The smaller Encore is built on GM’s older Gamma architecture. Both vehicles will be imported from South Korea. The Envision is built in China.

In addition to the platform change, the GX gets significant exterior and interior upgrades. The GX’s face receives a bigger grille and more elaborate gills. Rear taillights are also more elaborate, echoing the LaCrosse sedan's horizontal flourish. The luxury upgrades continue across the body as GX ditches Encore’s black fender-cladding and adds deeper door scallops and a remade c-pillar.

Inside, GX shares the Encore’s horizontal console design, but gains 5 cubic feet of cargo space, leaving it just 3 cubic feet shy of the larger Envision. It will also add premium treats like GM’s rear-camera mirror that first debuted on Cadillac’s swank CT6 sedan.

"The GX fills a hole in Buick's lineup, especially as its sedans go away," says IHS Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley. She said it's nicely featured and should do well.

Pricing has not been announced, but expect the GX to start at around $27,000 — between the $24,195 Encore and $33,190 Envision.

Since it was introduced in 2013, the Encore — along with flagship Enclave — has led a Buick brand resurgence.

Encore pioneered the subcompact segment and remains one of the hottest-selling small utes, the industry’s fastest-growing segment. In 2018 the Encore even outsold its mainstream Chevy Trax stablemate, bringing new customers into Buick showrooms.

With the addition of the Encore GX, the Buick also stays ahead of GM’s other premium brand, Cadillac, in slaking America’s thirst for utes. Cadillac has lagged the SUV revolution even as Buick led it. With its new XT4, Cadillac now has three crossovers on sale (the giant Escalade is based on a truck chassis).

The GX takes a page from Jeep and Nissan which have flooded the small crossover space with three offerings. Jeep has the Renegade, Compass and Cherokee. Nissan has the Kicks, Rogue Sport and Rogue. In the premium space, only mega-luxury brands BMW, Audi and Mercedes offer multiple vehicles in the compact SUV space.

Today, 90 percent of Buick sales come from SUVs. Its sedan offerings – once the cornerstone of the brand – will shrivel to one car, the European-made Regal, at the end of this year as the full-size LaCrosse goes out of production with the planned closing of GM’s Hamtramck plant.

The Encore GX is slated to hit dealerships in the spring of next year, and Buick is keeping details close to the vest for now.

A Buick spokesperson said that, in addition to the wardrobe upgrades, the GX would have more power, torque and efficiency than the Encore.

Standard items on the GX will include auto emergency and pedestrian braking, forward-collision alert and lane-keep assist.

Analyst Brinley says that Buick's decision to pair the Encore's name with GX — rather than inventing a new name — was a practical decision: "It's faster and easier to bringing an existing badge to market."

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2019/05/29/new-buick-encore-gx-crossover-debuts/1269778001/