Think Buick, and you're probably thinking big. General Motor's luxury brand has been the choice for granddad's for generations, or at least in faltering public opinion, predicated on highway cruisers that seem to stretch for miles.

 

The Ecotec 1.4-liter power-dense turbocharged engine kicks out 138 horsepower, which is ample for overtaking the types of drivers you used to associate with Buick.

 

Detroit's biggest surprise, Buick has aggressively changed tune and redefined expectations in the past decade. Still shaking off its stodgy image, the brand is now boldly going where other U.S. automakers haven't dared tread—the ultra-hot CUV segment. The 2013 Encore offers new standards of refinement in the class, and transfers the Buick hallmark of calm, quiet rides to a new platform.

Designed as a global vehicle—Buick expects the Encore to perform well in the Chinese Market—the 5-passenger CUV packs luxury and maneuverability into the highest fuel economy of any U.S.-based manufacturer built crossover. The Ecotec 1.4-liter power-dense turbocharged engine kicks out 138 horsepower, which is ample for overtaking the types of drivers you used to associate with Buick.

With the Encore, Buick's aiming at squarely at young, urban professionals (though, admittedly, cars like this also appeal to empty nesters). The stance—bullish in forward momentum—is softented by an elegant, sculpted exterior. This is a crossover that exudes calm confidence.

Michael Burton, Director of Interior Design for Buick, pulls from the exterior lines to maximize interior space and provide a premium feel. Take it from us: A leather wrapped steering wheel goes a long way in changing perceptions of a compact crossover. So too do well appointed seats, and simple, proportionally perfect storage units. There's nothing average about the Encore, and none of the bare bones feel typically associated with CUVs appear. It doesn't just get you places, it soothes along the way.

 

Take it from us: A leather wrapped steering wheel goes a long way in changing perceptions of a compact crossover.

 

One important element to the feel is a unique collaboration with Bose. In the first collaboration between the two bands, the Encore features Bose Active Noise Cancellation. Have you ever driven a small car before? Then you're likely to have experienced significant road noise. With the Bose system in place, the Encore reduces noise drastically, and almost effortlessly translates Buick's trademark quiet ride to the CUV platform.

Of course, the effort isn't a simple one. The Encore's incorporation of technology pushes it head and shoulders above competitors. However, tech is employed subtly. There is no push button start, no touch screen, and no overt direction to connect your smart phone. The Encore trades on traditional luxury values, where thoughtful details serve better than all-out flash. 

The drive follows accordingly. You won't be wowed by the power, but you won't notice any lack either. The Encore takes highways and curvy country lanes with equal confidence. Front-wheel drive versions, thanks to lower curb weight, offer more pep than the AWD option. Both handle much the same, happily hitting curves without wavering when rolling slightly above recommended road speed. In other words, it drives like a car you want to drive and feels like the type of SUV you want to sit in.

Snap judgement: The Buick Encore challenges notions about the potential of the CUV and breaks free of old brand perceptions. Still, where it counts the Buick DNA is there: The car is calm, cool, and complete in its well-appointed interior. Is there anything that could make the Encore more appealing? How about the type of horsepower that would give the Juke R a run for its money? The CUV market could surely use a flagship luxury model with track potential.