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Detroit show: Holden eyes Encore for Australia

Encore performance: Holden is keen to expand its SUV portfolio and a restyled version of the Buick would fit the bill.

Holden calls for an Encore as Buick reveals new compact SUV to rival Ecosport

Holden logo13 Jan 2012

By DAVID HASSALL

BUICK revealed a compact SUV at this week’s Detroit auto show that seems likely to provide Holden with a much-needed rival from 2013 to the new breed of smaller SUVs in Australia, including the forthcoming locally engineered Ford Ecosport.

Built on the same platform as the Barina light car, the Holden Encore – assuming it wears the same badge as the donor vehicle – will not only have to contend with the Ecosport, but also Subaru’s impending Impreza XV, the Skoda Yeti, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Dualis and Suzuki SX4, as well as the Chinese-made Chery J11.

Both Holden and Ford are expected to launch their compact SUVs in Australia around mid-to-late 2013.

With Buick having a very strong presence in China, it is possible the Encore will be built there, which would make it very cost-effective for Holden.

Holden is keen to expand its SUV line-up in Australia and company chairman Mike Devereux made no attempt to conceal his enthusiasm for the Encore at the Detroit reveal, describing it as “cool” and “a segment-buster”.

While Ford chose the Delhi motor show to present the Aussie-developed Ecosport as it will be built in India, the Buick was naturally unveiled at its home show.

In Europe, Opel revealed its own version of the Encore, which it has called Mokka and looks to set to introduce here in 2013 as part of a relaunched Opel brand.

13 center imageThat version is expected to be a more premium offering in keeping with Opel’s Australian brand positioning while Holden would present the Encore from a lower price point and specification.

Buick will launch the Encore in the US in the first quarter of 2013 with both front-drive and part-time all-wheel drive versions.

It will be powered by GM’s familiar – it is fitted in the Australian-made Cruze – 1.4-litre turbocharged Ecotec petrol engine developing 103kW of power at 4900rpm and 200Nm of torque at a low 1850rpm.

This will be linked to a standard six-speed HydraMatic 6T40 automatic transmission.

Although Buick has not published economy figures, the same Austrian-made engine in the Cruze returns 6.9L/100km and 164g/km of emissions in auto form, but the slightly larger and heavier Encore would less efficient.

Buick is positioned as a more premium brand in the US and the company claims the five-seat Encore has superior load-carrying capacity than the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 – 533 litres with the rear seats in place and 1372 litres with the seats folded.

The front passenger seat also folds so that long items can be accommodated in the vehicle.

Standard and optional features will include 10 airbags, Buick’s voice-activated IntelliLink (which wirelessly connects the driver’s smartphone to a high-resolution, full-color seven-inch LCD display radio), satellite-navigation, keyless start, dual-zone climate-control, heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear-view cameras and new active noise-cancellation technology.

Called ‘QuietTuning’ by Buick, it is claimed to improve sound and vibration characteristics by reducing them at their source, blocking sounds from entering the cabin and absorbing any remaining sounds.

Ceiling-mounted microphones are used to detect engine noise, the frequencies of which are processed by a computer that directs counteracting soundwaves through the audio system’s speakers and subwoofer.

Buick also claims to have improved interior noise levels by fitting an acoustically treated headliner, sound-absorbing materials in the cabin, under the bonnet and in the wheel-housing liners, low-noise Continental tyres, acoustic-laminated windscreen and thicker 5mm side window glass.

“Buick Encore is a great-looking, smart choice for those who want luxury crossover amenities in a more maneuverable and agile vehicle,” said Buick marketing chief Tony DiSalle.

“It represents a luxury alternative for a new audience of Buick customers, and delivers features and flexibility not typically found in vehicles of its size today.” Riding on standard 18-inch painted five-spoke alloy wheels – optional seven-spoke chrome wheels are featured on the pre-release vehicle and photos – the Encore also sports blue-accented projector-beam headlamps.

The Encore sports Buick’s signature waterfall grille, along with chrome accents and surrounds, ‘portholes’ on the bonnet and painted lower panels, similar to the company’s larger Enclave SUV.

It rides on a 2555mm wheelbase and 1540mm tracks front and rear.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a space-saving torsion beam axle at the rear, the steering has electric power assistance and the brakes are discs all round, with ABS, EBD, brake assist and cornering brake control.

“The Encore brings Buick’s timeless, sculptural design to the crossover segment in a way that blends elegance, efficiency and utility,” said Buick design director David Lyon. “There’s confidence in its athletic stance and elemental beauty in its rich details.” Mr Lyon said the Encore’s “organic styling” carries over to the interior, with “a flowing instrument panel that wraps naturally into the door panels” and a prominent central instrument panel houses the large, full-color display.

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