2024 Buick Encore GX First Drive: Fresh from cosmetic surgery

2024 Buick Encore GX First Drive: Fresh from cosmetic surgery

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About a year ago, Buick showed us its stunning Wildcat EV concept. While that sporty coupe might never see the end of a production line, it signaled a new direction for the brand’s design. For 2024, Buick gave its most popular model in North America, the Encore GX small SUV, a fairly substantial visual refresh. While it doesn’t get the Wildcat’s electric powertrain, the refreshed ute is the first in the lineup to borrow its design cues. It also finally gets the Avenir trim, the epitome of style and luxury previously applied to other Buick models, along with some tech upgrades. So while we’re still not able to get behind the wheel of an electric Buick, the ’24 Encore GX Avenir AWD landing in our driveway gave us the chance to see what a nip and a tuck can do to elevate this baby Buick crossover.

This new face is easy on the eyes, looking more modern and athletic than the previous version. Gone is the somewhat frumpy and bulbous old fascia. Now, we get a sharp nose emblazoned with an all-new logo — the encore GX is the first production car to sport this fresh take on the Buick shields. Below that is the new grille in all its unbroken mesh glory, surrounded by shiny chrome in this Avenir trim. A pair of swoopy winged LED headlights reside just below the elegantly creased hood. From the side, the Avenir gets big, 19-inch aluminum wheels in a Pearl Nickel finish, with that new logo in the center. It also gets body-color fenders as opposed to the black on some of the other trims. In back, we see the new logo repeated prominently again, with the LED taillights looking almost as if they’re pointing it out. Below that is the brand name spelled out large. At the bottom is what looks like a black diffuser, but we can’t imagine it does much but make the car look sporty.

Inside, the big news is the new dual-display “virtual cockpit”, with two screens under a single sheet of glass. On the right side is the 11-inch infotainment touchscreen, on the left is an 8-inch digital instrument cluster. We like the layout of the infotainment home screen, which is easy to use and configurable. Certain information in the infotainment can be sent to the driver’s display — if you want to keep close tabs on your battery voltage, for instance. Prefer the familiarity of your phone? Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across trim levels. Praise be. Perhaps just as important as its functionality, though, is that this dual display immediately elevates the Encore GX’s cabin, giving it a flash of tech-focused modernism without inundating it with heavy, Matrix-style futurism. It feels a little like the dual displays you’ll find in the Hyundai Ioniq EVs or the Kia EV6, which isn’t a bad thing, unless you adhere to the separation of church and state when it comes to instrumentation and infotainment. Also, if you like analog gauges, you’re out of luck.


Thankfully, Buick didn’t go too far into the future with its interfaces. While you can control things like the climate and audio from the touchscreen, there are still dedicated buttons and toggles for HVAC on the center stack, a volume knob between the screens and more audio controls on the back of the steering wheel. Below those controls are 12-volt, USB-A and USB-C ports, with a wireless phone charger in a cubby below those. While cubbies like that often acquire clutter, there’s a convenient open cubby just behind the cupholders that would better serve those odds and ends that cars tend to accumulate (it’s also the perfect size for a Nalgene water bottle). There’s also a small but deep under-armrest bin with a removable tray at the top.

Materials are nice, with soft-touch plastics and leather in most of the places you’d touch, while down by your knees you’ll find harder plastics. The interior design isn’t as inspired in the Encore GX as they are in bigger Avenir models, but it definitely feels luxurious for a trim that starts right around $35,000. The seats are comfortable, upholstered in perforated leather. The front seats are heated, too, but not ventilated, unfortunately.

Some of the convenience luxuries in our tester aren’t included in the base Avenir price. Items like the hands-free power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers and Bose sound system are part of the $1,295 convenience package. And for adaptive cruise control, rear camera mirror, surround-view parking cameras and the aforementioned wireless charger, you’ll have to opt for the $1,395 technology package. We could probably do without that first bundle, but the tech upgrades seem essential at this price point, particularly the adaptive cruise control. While you may not particularly care for the ability to turn your rear-view mirror into a camera feed, we greatly appreciate the crisp, uninterrupted view it provides, even if your rear window is completely blocked by cargo. The 360-degree parking camera is great, too, but this little ute is already quite easy to park.