ALTON, Ill. -- On a winding road that hugs the Illinois bank of the Mississippi River, a 2016 Encore Sport Touring crossover utility vehicle from the Buick Division of General Motors behaves itself with all wheels throwing torque muscle into each turn as the four 215/55R18 AL3 blackwall tires claw for traction.
The Sport Touring trim grade is new in Encore's 2016 lineup and it totes a new turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine punching out more power numbers than Encore's standard turbo plant, plus front-wheel-drive or electronically controlled all-wheel-drive traction and unique exterior components such as front-end foglamps, a winged spoiler at the tail and 7-spoke Ultra-Bright aluminum wheels.
Cabin content for the 2016 Encore Sport Touring includes the Convenience Package of electronic gear like Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert, a remote vehicle starter, electrochromic rearview mirror, dual-zone climate controls and a 120-volt power outlet. Optional equipment includes a premium Bose audio kit, navigation radio and moonroof.
With its 100.6-inch wheelbase and 168.4-inch tip-to-tailpipe length, Encore slots into the compact class and has -- since introduction in Buick's 2014 line -- carried the nickname of "Baby Buick." Despite the wee-scale statistics for this itty-bitty vehicle, Encore steers and handles quite nicely, exhibiting quick-response agility and the smooth and quiet ride quality of a luxury car.
The wagon employs the integral body-frame structure of a front-wheel-drive car. Origins stem from GM's small crossover architecture, comparing size-wise to Chevrolet's Trax and the Opel Mokka vehicles marketed outside of North America, with mechanical equipment pulled from the Cruze and Sonic of Chevrolet.
As our Encore surges along Illinois Highway 100, the Mississippi River road, we're struck by the vehicle's ability to mute external traffic and road noise as well as tame engine-suspension vibrations.
Deflecting noise and vibration from Encore's passenger compartment works because the cabin is wrapped liberally with sound-absorbing material including sound blankets, nylon baffles and sound-absorbing foam wadded in hollows of the car structure, door seals in triplicate plus thick layers of acoustic laminate applied to the windshield and side windows.
Buick marketeers label the noise-vibration control as Quiet Tuning, and it encompasses Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology. It represents a sense of refinement akin to a premium luxury car yet Buick's smallest crossover carries MSRP sticker prices ranging from $24,065 to $31,285.
Buick builds the 2016 Encore in five trim grades -- Encore base model, Encore Convenience, Encore Leather, Encore Sport Touring and Encore Premium -- and each issue stocks electronic traction control (ETC) and GM's electronic stability device, StabiliTrak, with options for FWD or AWD.
All editions except new Sport Touring employ GM's turbo-charged Ecotec 4-in-line engine displacing 1.4 liters with dual overhead cams and double continuously variable cam phaser controls. The tiny turbo produces 138 hp at 4900 rpm plus 148 lb-ft of torque at 1850 rpm and links to a 6-speed automatic transaxle with electronic controls, the Hydra-Matic 6T40 by GM. The EPA estimated fuel consumption numbers for this powertrain rise to 33 mpg when running at legal speed on a highway in a FWD edition, or 30 mpg with AWD.
The Encore Sport Touring turbo-charged 4-in-line engine also displaces 1.4-liters with dual overhead cams and double continuously variable cam phaser controls, but gains direct injection. This turbo delivers 153 hp at 5600 rpm with 177 lb-ft of torque at 2000-4000 rpm and ties to the Hydra-Matic 6T40 6-speed automatic.
Encore's base issue rolls on 18-inch cast aluminum wheels with roof-mounted luggage rails and it stocks a single-zone air conditioning system, power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, fabric seat upholstery, 6-way power controls for the driver's seat, a leather-bound steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, twin gloveboxes, ice-blue ambient lighting, rear cargo cover, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a 7-inch color panel for the audio system with AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM/USB.
Encore Leather Package installs leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and a driver memory package, while Encore Premium Package adds a Bose audio system, front and rear park assist, Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning, Rainsense wipers, a cargo net and cargo mat.