Buick drops Encore price

Buick has lowered the price on its popular Encore for 2017, all while updating its look and adding new connectivity features.

The base price of a 2017 Encore with the destination charge included has been lowered to $23,915, saving buyers $1,075 off of last year’s $24,990 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. It comes with front-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission and a 138-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and is cheaper than some other popular small SUVs, including the 2017 Toyota RAV4 which starts at $24,910, and the 2017 Honda CR-V, which starts at $24,985.

But the RAV4 and CR-V all-wheel drive models have starting retail prices that are $480 and $505, respectively, less than an all-wheel drive 2017 Encore, which lists for $26,790.

For those looking for more power, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 153 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque now is available as an $895 option on more Encore models than ever.

The new Encore, which is smaller than the CR-V and RAV4, earned a full five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side crash tests from the federal government. Consumer Reports estimates it will have higher than average reliability.

All base 2017 Encores come with a standard 8-inch, color touchscreen display, push-button start, redesigned and good-sized, 18-inch wheels and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity for the first time.

Other standard features on the 2017 Encore are keyless entry, rear vision camera, 10 air bags, electronic stability control and traction control, and an audio system with at least six speakers. It also comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio, cruise control, power windows and door locks, audio and phone controls on the steering wheel, and power-adjustable driver seat cushion.

But there are plenty of luxury options, too, including a power moonroof, leather-covered seats and a heated steering wheel.

Unfortunately, all of the Encore’s seats recline only via manual levers, even in the $35,000 models.

For 2017, the new headlights, hood and grille at the front exterior of the Encore help reduce the vehicle’s stub-nose look and plain appearance.

Inside, the revamped dashboard and new instrument cluster are more streamlined and upscale than the previous, clunky-looking arrangement.

The Encore remains narrow, though, and in the test-driven model, front-seat passengers often bumped arms when trying to latch or unlatch seat belts at the same time.

The test-driven 2017 Encore, a top-of-the-line Premium model equipped with the optional 1.4-liter, double overhead cam, Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivered much-needed power and decent response.

There were times during hard acceleration or on uphill climbs that the engine sounded loud and buzzy. The Encore did a nice job of keeping road and wind noise to a minimum, though.

Everyone sits up a good ways from the pavement in the Encore, but even petite passengers can get in and out of the vehicle comfortably.

The rear seat can feel constricted and is really best for two passengers. However, the large front seats block the frontal views from the backseat.

The front MacPherson strut suspension and rear torsion beam arrangement provided decent absorption of most road bumps. The Encore’s short, 100.6-inch wheelbase created some bobbing up and down on certain road surfaces.

The federal government estimated the test-driven version of the 2017 Encore should get 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving, but the vehicle averaged just 25.2 mpg.

The 2017 Encore has been the subject of one U.S. safety recall because front-seat air bags or seat belt pretensioners might not work during a crash because of a software problem.