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New 2020 Buick Encore GX To Offer Two Three-Cylinder Turbo Engines

Back in May, GM officially announced the new 2020 Buick Encore GX for the U.S. market. Now, GM Authority has dug up what the U.S.-spec Encore GX will offer under the hood.

The 2020 Buick Encore GX will offer two motors, both of which are brand-new turbocharged, inline three-cylinder GM engines. The first is the turbocharged 1.2L three-cylinder LIH, while the second is the turbocharged 1.3L three-cylinder L3T. Peak output is rated at 137 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm for the former, and 155 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 174 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm for the latter. The LIH mates exclusively to the CVT / Continuously Variable Transmission (MRG), while the more powerful L3T connects to either the MRG CVT in FWD models or the GM nine-speed automatic (M3G) in AWD models.

Chinese-spec Buick Encore GX

2020 Buick Encore GX Engine Specs
Engine Power (hp / kW @ RPM) Torque (lb-ft / NM @ RPM) Transmission Preferred FWD Preferred AWD Select FWD Select AWD Essence FWD Essence AWD
1.2L Turbo LIH 137 / 102 @ 5000 166 / 220 @ 2500 CVT S - S - S -
1.3L Turbo L3T 155 / 115 @ 5600 174 / 236 @ 1500 CVT - - A - A -
1.3L Turbo L3T 155 / 115 @ 5600 174 / 236 @ 1500 9-Speed Automatic - S - S - S
  • S = Standard
  • A = Available
  • – Not Available

For the sake of comparison, the “regular” 2019 Buick Encore offers just one turbocharged four-cylinder engine – the turbocharged 1.4L I-4 LUV that produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. In prior model years, the model was offered with the optional turbocharged 1.4L I-4 LE2 that produces 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

The new Buick GX was already officially launched for the Chinese market last month, where it is offered exclusively with the turbocharged 1.3L I-3 L3T engine is rated at 163 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, slightly higher than it’s estimated in North America.

In terms of sizing, the 2020 Buick Encore GX be a “subcompact plus” model that slots between the “regular” subcompact Buick Encore and the compact Buick Envision, providing upwards of five extra cubic-feet of cargo space compared to the “regular” Encore.

The 2020 Buick Encore GX will be built on the latest GM VSS-F Vehicle Set, and offer both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. Assembly will take place in Korea.

With an estimated 3,200 pounds of curb weight to push around, the two turbocharged three-cylinder engine options should provide adequate output for the new 2020 Buick Encore GX, especially with unlimited gears (in the CVT) and nine forward speeds (in the 9-speed auto) helping keep the vehicle in the right zone for optimal power delivery and fuel economy.

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Jonathan Lopez: Jonathan is an automotive journalist based out of Southern California. He loves anything and everything on four wheels.

View Comments (54)

  • If they can make it work, I'm interested. But of course GM being GM, will they allow towing or stuff like that? Subaru's Crosstrek allows 1500 pound towing on a two-liter, 152hp, 145 lb ft torque normally aspirated boxer; GM's competitive horsepower and considerably higher torque SHOULD allow the same, possibly with considerably less gas consumption when operating without a trailer, if the transmission and the cooling system are up to it.....but what will actually happen?

    • Am I actually reading this correctly? You are asking about towing??? On this car? Or a Subaru? Or anything close to this? When people ask me about towing on a Volvo or Mazda, the first thing I ask is what they think they would be towing. If anything more than bike rack, I tell them not to. These cars are not made to "properly" tow. They are not built heavy duty enough. Everything is made now for fuel economy. To me, the base starting point for towing would be mid-sized with a V6 with a must have dedicated towing package from the factory.

      Maybe growing up on a farm or maybe seeing numerous truck/trailer accidents when I was a police officer has made me scratch my head when seeing people tow with small and under-powered and light-weight vehicles. But braking must be taken into account. Being able to have a frame or uni-body that can hold up to the stressors of towing.

      • I towed a 5'x8' utility trailer from uhaul with my sonic. Carry light weight furniture on back roads just to the next town over. It was quite sketchy. The next day I rented the 4'x7' trailer and it wasn't quite so bad. My clutch was definitely not a fan of a the bigger trailer with a what must have been close to 1,200 lbs total trailer weight.

        After my experience I currently only tow a Thule bike rack. At the end of the day I would feel somewhat comfortable towing a small trailer just around town on short trips to the dump, etc. just a couple times a year...

        I can definitely see an argument that can be made for requiring tow packages to be installed from the factory, for warranty and insurance reasons.

  • Hmm... First we had the new Cadillac V-series with about half the power buyers expected. Horrible...
    Now we have a Buick with only 3 cylinders (luckily still 1 cylinder more than the Citroën 2CV or the Trabant). Even more horrible...
    What's next? A ZR1 Corvette with a 4-cylinder? Nightmare...
    Pushing folks to go electric out of misery with what's left of the ICE offerings? OMG...

  • This will be a test of whether anyone cares about cylinder count. Assuming the pricing is competitive; this is the best looking subcompact SUV out there so I think it will sell very well. Everything else, including the current Encore looks awkward from at least one angle, this Encore GX looks great from every angle.

    • Bruce, I agree. This is why Honda and Toyota sell so many cars/SUV/CUV's. In general, people are like sheep and just don't care. They read a consumer report and act as if it was written by a god. They go buy these brands because they do the most basic jobs with little to no fuss. These people don't care about (let alone know about) a real trans vs. a CVT. They most likely will never open the hood nor ask what size the engine is. And this may work out for Buick IF their goal is to just sell more cars and be more mainstream. But if Buick still wants to be a premium brand, they just gutted this new Encore GX.

      • I don’t think that’s fair or reality here. If Buick ONLY offered the North American market the CVT then maybe you’d have somewhat of a point here. The fact the company is offering a 9-speed AWD option means they still want to offer a premium experience. I think because this doesn’t satisfy your personal needs you want to believe the company is falling apart but that just ain’t the case.

        There are people who don’t mind a CVT, then there are people that only care when they’re complete sh*t...but all CVT’s aren’t the same.

        The folks who don’t mind CVT’s will shop this vehicle. The people that don’t will also be able to shop this vehicle. The people who only need FWD can shop this vehicle and the folks who require AWD will also be able to consider this new Buick.

        Unfortunately neither of these options fit YOUR need, but I think it’s more than fair to say Buick has checked more boxes than they have not. You simply can’t please everyone. The Lincoln Corsair will be more expensive than this and although offers FWD with a traditional gear box, it’s still “too many gears” for you. So that leaves you with very few options.

        I personally think people will ALWAYS manage to find something they do not like. I don’t think Buick is to blame for your unsatisfactory here. But i digress.

  • I know GM uses 3 cyl in many Chinese models for tax issues, but why are they giving us a smaller engine on a larger heavier CUV. We need a 2.0L Turbo or at least the good old 2.4L I've never heard anyone speak highly of any CVT. We can only hope that the Trailblazer gets better power trains for the US, but I doubt it.

  • Once again GM underwhelms in the power train department. God forbid we have some excitement under the hood. No instead we get another CVT and HP levels that take us back the the 80's and early 90's. I also guarantee reviews will have this 3 cylinder engine as noisy and sluggish feeling and real world mileage barely better than what it replaced. Such a GM hallmark

    • @Guestt: Amen. These two 3 cyl/CVT combos should be the engines in the Spark which is a smaller and basic car. Not in a premium Buick.

  • All I can say is: OH NO!!! MY WORST FEARS HAVE COME TRUE! As much as I like the looks of this new Encore GX and it WAS on my short list to replace my 2018 Encore in 6 months (the list was this new Encore GX, Lincoln Corsair, Cadillac XT4 and the Volvo XC40), this new Encore is now off my list. Why? Not because of a 3 cylinder engine. Nope. It's because they did exactly what I was praying they would NOT do: Stick a CVT in it.

    Now before anyone kicks me and says I can get the 9 speed auto, go back and read the article carefully. You can only get it with the AWD. I don't want AWD. I don't need AWD. I'm not paying for AWD. So all I can say is that the Cadillac best have a good lease number and be nice when I drive it, or it's Lincoln or Volvo for me. Oh, and GM or any other brands can keep the 8, 9 and 10 speed trans. Absolutely zero reason to have so many gears.

    • Are CVTs still failing on people at a high rate? The idea, Asian makes using them means they're solid now, is a bias (one I've caught myself in). If CVTs hurt re-sale, they especially shouldn't do it. Also, they are spec'ing an upgrade engine with less than 20 more hp, when the last upgrade engine flopped.

      • @anonymous guest: I'm not sure myself on the failure rates, but I do know they are higher. My nephew was a technician for Audi/VW. Audi for some strange reason used only a CVT on the FRONT DRIVE models but used a normal trans on the Quatro. He once told me that there is no repair to be had on the Audi CVT. Instead, you just ripped it out and replaced it with a new one hoping it would last longer, then throw out the old one. Talk about a waste and junk.

        But for me, it's much more about the feel and sounds. A Buick is a premium brand car, not a Nissan! When I get in my 2018, it feels premium. It looks premium. It drives premium. I don't care how well they think this new Encore GX will be, when you pair a 3 cyl with a junk CVT, the outcome is far from premium.

        • You’re not even making sense anymore. You haven’t driven this vehicle yet with the CVT, Buick has. So on what merits can you fix your mouth to say “...idc how well they think this vehicle drives...” when they already KNOW how it drives. You on the other hand are assuming it’s a horribly tuned and “junk” CVT based off your experiences with a old Dodge.

          Honestly, people like you already have your mind set up regardless of how great the transmission could potentially be or the characteristics it may have. You will never truly know because you will never give it a chance proven as you’ve already deemed it junk before sniffing the interior of the vehicle.

          This isn’t Renault, and it isn’t FCA. Also I’ve never understood people who criticize transmissions for having “too many gears”. Can I ask you a personal question, sir? How old are you? I’m just curious...

    • I 100% agree. This vehicle was on my girlfriend's short list, as a replacement for her Ford focus. But a CVT and 3 cylinder engine = complete fail. I have a 2017 Nissan, company vehicle, only 25,000 miles and the CVT is already failing. We will likely be buying a new Toyota RAV4 or possibly a Jeep Cherokee. Would never buy this vehicle

      • @Matt: I agree with you too, other than the Toyota side of getting a Rav4. Go with the real vehicle (the Jeep) and then you can ride in the car without being ashamed. lol. Also, not sure on the new Rav4, but the old ones were also using the CVT! Nissan is the biggest offender here, but Toyota and Honda have certainly followed Nissan's lead because nearly everything (without much power) in their lines use the CVT. Only the bigger and more powerful vehicles use a real trans because they all know the CVT will not hold up in anything that has power.

        Jeep (and Dodge) used a CVT way back in 2007 on the Caliber, Patriot and Compass and they found out how bad they were. I had one Patriot with it and never again! I've owned two Chevy Sparks (hey, less than 100 HP, so should be ok right?). Again, no more ever for me. When I purchase my 2016 Jeep Patriot, the sales person couldn't understand why I only wanted the 6 speed auto. I gave up trying to explain to him and just said to bring the 6 speed or I'm leaving. Funny thing, now you can't get a Jeep or Dodge with a CVT. God bless them!

        • new Rav4's are pretty nice imo and they have a 8spd automatic transmission. The hybrid has a cvt... but I think almost all hybrids use a cvt ?

  • my 1.4t has over 120k on it and still runs strong. Full disclaimer: I baby my vehicle and perform routine maintenance religiously.

    I have only had to spend a little over one thousand dollars in maintenance to repair a damaged coolant line. The repair involved removing and reinstalling the original turbo. And another 200 dollars for a pcv valve fix.

    Since my GM product has allowed me to achieve positive equity I will try my best to remain loyal to the brand. I am hoping they release a high performance small displacement turbo in the next 5 years.

  • Sometimes, I wonder why GM does not disappear all together? Buick turbos with little over 100K miles are sold way devaluated because their engines are reaching its life span. Poor turbo engines are way overstressed in normal drive situations for example a mother with children waiting with the engine IDLE with full blown AC when outside temperatures are over 90 F. A turbo maybe spinning somewhere 10000 rpm idle. That is a lots of stress. ...

    • Cut the false info here.

      The engines that are turbo charged are built to a standard that will take more stress, power and boost. The LNF Ecotec had a different block, head, pistons and crank than the other eco engines.

      A turbo at 10,000 RPM is in rest mode FYi!

      Having actually owned a turbo for 10 years and one with 23 pounds of boost i can say I never had an issue and it was a very reliable engine. The turbo system was never a problem at all. It was a 2.0 Eco with the GM tune and even they covered it with a full warranty even with the tune.

      • What kind of disrespectful language is that! The turbine in the turbocharger spins about 30 times faster than most car engines. I double you down, 800 rpm x 30 = 24,000 rpm

    • what is your source for turbo rpms at idle? Yes, turbos see a lot of stress... but that is what they are designed for. If you don't like the idea of a turbo spooling than just buy something na. My turbo has never felt overstressed blowing ice cold ac❄️❄️

  • Recently purchased a 2014 Encore with 40,000 miles. Had trouble right from the start. Input manifold diaphragm. Car is so underpowered it is dangerous to enter a freeway when the damn thing can only do 0 - 65 in 5 minutes. I’m in no position to dump it because of limited income, so I’m stuck with a death trap...

    • @Andrew: Funny, I own an Encore with the base engine. I sell Volvo's and Mazda's for a living. In no way do I feel the Buick is under-powered. As for the trouble you had, I can't comment on that as I know nothing about it.

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