By Alexandra Straub, The Province
TORONTO — There’s a juxtaposition of old and new sitting just a few paces away from each other; a piece of history and one of history in the making.
Inside an unassuming building at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre in Halton Hills (just west of Toronto) is one of seven known chairs to have survived the Titanic. It’s beautiful and quite a sight to see.
Tony Lolic, a local artist, is restoring the artifact. His trade is working with cane, wicker and rush furniture, and he is sought out internationally to bring pieces of our past back to life.
Recently, General Motor’s Buick brand embarked on a similar mission; to bring something that was aging back to life.
In the last few years, that’s what the company has been seeking with the introduction of the Regal and Verano, and this most recent addition, the Encore.
The overhaul was much needed if the North American brand wanted to attract, or better yet, even attempt to turn the heads of car buyers who weren’t retired or close to crossing over to the “other side.”
I’m not retired and my head has turned.
In the parking lot reposes a handful of Encores, a luxury crossover that is built on the company’s global small-car platform. It’s the first of its kind for Buick and the smallest vehicle the company currently offers.
With five doors and room for five, this compact SUV has a youthful flair to it. A standard set of 18-inch wheels garnishes its exterior, with a chrome waterfall grille, blue-accented projector beam headlamps and elegant lines summarize its stature.
There’s also a tinge of cuteness to it, probably due to its efficiently packaged size.
Regardless of cute factor, it seems to be mingling well with both genders.
Ice-blue ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch surfaces and premium seating surfaces can be found inside the cabin. Additionally, a seven-inch screen that’s mounted above the centre stack on the dash brightly and colourfully displays various vehicular functions and is easily readable and very user friendly. In addition, the centre stack and instrument cluster both have visual appeal.
Behind the wheel, the optional heated seats and heated steering wheel are helping to keep me cozy on a cold Ontario winter’s day earlier this week.
But that isn’t all that’s working hard to make my drive time as pleasant as can be.
Equipped on all Encore models is the brand’s first implementation of Active Noise Cancellation. This system focuses primarily on the reduction of powertrain noises, or what the brand calls “destructive interference.”
You know, those annoying and loud sounds that weasel their way into the cabin when driving at highway speeds or accelerating.
The system is always on and will monitor and cancel noise that comes through the cabin. I’m focusing on this feature because with smaller displacement engines — the Encore comes with a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque — a criticism I generally have is the amount of noise intrusion I hear in the cabin.
Inside the Encore, the engineers certainly did a great job at keeping unwanted sounds at bay, even when accelerating. There is some sound heard, but far from something that would make one shudder.
Linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Encore comes in both front and all-wheel drive variants, both mated to the same engine.
While the 138-horsepower figure seems a little scant, I didn’t necessarily feel it was too underpowered. Could it benefit from a few additional ponies? Sure. But it still manages to carry itself well. The all-wheel drive version does feel a little less motivated than the front-wheel drive, but both do a good job at moving people and things around.
Speaking of people- and thing-moving, there is 1,371 litres of storage space with the rear seat folded and 532 litres with the rear seats up. That said, there are also 21 integrated storage areas to put the rest of your stuff.
To keep passengers safe, the Encore offers a standard set of 10 airbags, coupled with StabiliTrak stability enhancement, OnStar and more.
Romping around southwestern Ontario in the Encore certainly evoked amiable feelings. The electric power steering allows the vehicle to navigate the urban environment with minimal resistance, yet still keeps the driver engaged on the highway.
Enjoying the company of my co-driver, the road or even time in the Encore wasn’t hard to do. In fact, it was an overall satisfying experience, something I probably wouldn’t have said about the brand a few years ago.
When it comes to pricing, the base MSRP of the 2013 Buick Encore is $26,895. It can then go up to $34,455 for the Premium AWD version.
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