Caraganza Review 2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir: Charmingly misguided

Front 3/4 view of the 2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir in Ocean Blue Metallic. Preproduction model shown. Actual production model may vary.

I can remember when a Buick was just another car sub-brand. Lost among its GM cousins like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, and Cadillac. In fact, back in those days the Buick was like a Cadillac for the poor man; a blue-collar chariot with plenty of bling and velour.

They’ve become survivors, however. Olds, Pontiac, Saturn, all gone. The Buick remains. Though a shadow of its former self. I pointed all this out in 2020 after spending a week with a 2020 Encore GX, Buick’s then new entry into the crossover field.  Truth be told, as I found out, it’s not really an Encore. The GX is in fact a slightly bigger version of the Encore.

Fast forward to now and recently Buick sent me a 2024 Encore, a GX Avenir. I wondered, why does it have a name that’s longer than the Amazon River? It’s a name that the GM marketing folks seem to have worked long and hard on. Like they wanted to make it seem that every letter, every syllable, and every pixel in that name had been thoughtfully crafted to convey a sense of grandeur, of opulence, of Avenir.

Since its introduction in 2020, the front end of the GX has been restyled with reshaped front and rear bumpers along with new wheel designs, there’s also a new touchscreen and digital instrument cluster and they revised the trim levels. Also, for 2024, there’s Buick’s updated Tri-Shield logo. Seemingly everywhere.

There are now three levels: Preferred, Sport Touring and Avenir. All start with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional.

All levels get forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane keeping assistance, and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning.

View of front cabin in 2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir with Whisper Beige and Jet Black interior. Preproduction model shown. Actual production model may vary. Available in Spring 2023.

The base starts with things like keyless entry and ignition, a cloth/synthetic leather combination upholstery and wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration atop 18-inch wheels. The Sport Touring level gets black aluminum wheels, a gloss-black mesh grille, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, while the top level Avenir gets some exterior styling touches along with elements designed to make the cabin more luxurious like leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, an air ionizer, and embroidered headrests bearing the Avenir logo.

Under the hood, the front-wheel-drive Preferred level comes with a turbocharged 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine with 137 horsepower, and 162 lb-ft of torque. All other Encore GX versions have a more powerful turbo 1.3-liter three-cylinder with 155 hp, 174 lb-ft torque. Front-drive models have a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); those with all-wheel drive have a more traditional nine-speed automatic transmission.

Inside the Avenir there’s now an 11-inch touchscreen that replaces the previous 8-inch screen. It’s also now housed under one pane of glass alongside the digital instrument panel. All designed to make the interior look more upscale. And while the leather looks softer than a cloud made of kitten fur, and there’s enough wood trim to make you feel like you’re driving a posh country estate on wheels.

It’s an interior that’s seems struggling to be luxurious. Sure, the leather is nice, the seats are comfortable, and there are enough gadgets to keep your inner tech geek entertained. But there’s a sense that it’s all trying a bit too hard. It’s like wearing a top hat to your morning jog – sure, it’s fancy, but is it really necessary?

On the road, the power under the hood is, well, a bit underwhelming. The Avenir will never challenge a jet fighter for acceleration, nor is it a fire-breathing dragon. More like a well-behaved house cat.

But you know what? I kind of really like it.

There’s enough space to swallow a family’s worth of luggage, and with the seats down whether you’re carting around a week’s worth of groceries or a load of antique furniture you impulsively bought at a country fair, this crossover serves as a fine suburban chariot. Which in the end is exactly what it’s designed to do.

There will be no track days or screaming takeoffs from a stoplight. What the Encore GX, and specifically the Avenir does is blend a bit of sophistication with suburban sensibilities. It’s like sipping a glass of champagne while mowing your lawn. It’s the automotive equivalent of wearing a tuxedo to a barbecue, or an awkward teenager trying to fit in with the cool kids. It’s got its quirks, its attempts at luxury are charmingly misguided, and it won’t win any popularity contests.

But it’s got a certain enchantment that’s hard to ignore. If you’re in the market for a crossover that’s trying its darnedest to be something more, give the Encore GX Avenir a shot. Just don’t expect it to arrive in a cloud of confetti and fireworks – it’s far too reserved for that.

The 2024 Buick Encore GX Avenir

MSRP: $31,900
MSRP(as tested): $35,740
Engine: 1.3 liter 3-cylinder, 155 hp @ 5,600 rpm,174 lb-ft torque @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable-speed automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 29 city, 31 highway, 30 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 32 mpg
Curb weight: 3,063 lbs.

Exterior Dimensions
Length: 171.2 in.
Overall width without mirrors: 71.4 in.
Height: 64.1 in.
Wheelbase: 102.0 in.

Interior Dimensions

Front head room: 39.7 in.
Front leg room: 40.9 in.
Front shoulder room: 55.4 in.
Front hip room: 51.9 in.
Rear head room: 38.1 in.
Rear leg room: 36.0 in.
Rear shoulder room: 53.6 in.
Rear hip room: 50.7 in.
Cargo capacity, all seats in place: 23.5 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 50.2 cu.ft.

Basic: 3 yr./ 36,000 mi.
Drivetrain: 5 yr./ 60,000 mi.
Rust: 6 yr./ 100,000 mi.
Roadside assistance: 5 yr./ 60,000 mi.
Free maintenance: 1 yr./ unlimited mi.

Greg Engle