Once restricted to large SUVs, all-wheel drive is increasingly becoming a staple feature for everything from family sedans to hybrids. In fact, it is becoming difficult to find a model that doesn’t have an all-wheel drive option. However, in the case of the 2022 Buick Encore GX – Buick’s beefier upgrade over the subcompact Buick Encore – there are likely a lot of questions from potential SUV shoppers as to what the actual benefits are of having all-wheel drive in such a small crossover?
It’s not an unreasonable query to make. Everyone will champion the benefits of having all-wheel or four-wheel drive capabilities in a pickup truck or an off-road SUV, but subcompact and compact SUVs fit more into the casual side of the automotive market demographic rather than the enthusiast side. So why would a casual SUV shopper take an interest in an all-wheel drive 2022 Buick Encore GX, and what exactly are the benefits for such individuals? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to explore.
Differences Between Front-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive for an SUV
If you know anything about cars, then you already know the differences between front-wheel, all-wheel, and four-wheel drive for vehicles. Most SUVs have a front-wheel or all-wheel drive option, depending on the make, model, and trim variation. Few SUVs offer a four-wheel drive option unless they are designed for serious off-roading. Usually, you’ll find such options available on vehicles like Jeeps since they’re made for that kind of thing.
But what about the Buick Encore? More specifically, what about the Buick Encore GX? Well, in this case, the difference between front-wheel and all-wheel drive comes down to a couple of things, mostly related to stability, traction, and fuel economy. There is a give and take scenario when it comes to these two options, along with a price difference of about $2,000.
Not only is front-wheel drive cheaper, but you also get better fuel economy. What’s the difference in the ratings between the two drivetrains? Well, the front-wheel drive version manages up to 29 miles per gallon in the city and up to 32 miles per gallon on the highway. The all-wheel drive option drops down to about 26 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway, according to the EPA. You might be thinking to yourself, “It sure does seem like an all-wheel drive is more of a cost than a benefit!” But there’s more to it than just costs and fuel economy.
All-Season Traction Control
With front-wheel drive, you still have access to features like StabiliTrak, which is standard on every GM vehicle, but how it’s utilized is where the difference comes in between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The Buick Encore and Buick Encore GX both come with StabiliTrak for their front and all-wheel drive configurations. The electronic system works hand-in-hand with the drivetrain to stabilize the vehicle at all times depending on the road conditions, weather, and wheel grip.
The basics are that StabiliTrak monitors and senses whether wheel slippage is occurring and redistributes torque to the wheels that have better grip. This helps increase traction where one or more of the wheels are no longer maintaining as much grip as they should. Now, this is where things get interesting. In a front-wheel drive system, the rear wheels can’t receive any torque. It’s all reliant on the two front wheels. So what happens if the two front wheels lose grip? Well, there are going to be some problems.
If you regularly drive in areas with warm weather and light rain, traction probably won’t be much of a problem. However, for those who drive in areas where they have to deal with seasonal downpours, heavy thunderstorms, flooding, snow, ice, and whiteouts, you can easily see how an all-wheel drive system becomes a lot more important. In fact, you can see how it becomes a necessity for staying safe on the road.
What’s more, when driving with an all-wheel drive vehicle in snow or sleet, or even sand or ice, it ensures that each wheel is putting power to the ground – or at least is compensated for by the other three wheels if it’s not. Any time there happens to be a loss of traction, the StabiliTrak will attempt to compensate and keep the vehicle on the road and stable at all times. It’s easy to see why this would be an invaluable feature for those who regularly drive in conditions where road conditions aren’t the best or where the weather could make traction a serious issue.
All-Wheel Drive in the Encore GX vs Buick Encore
Another big consideration isn’t just the difference between front-wheel and all-wheel drive for the Buick Encore GX, but the difference between all-wheel drive in the normal Encore and the Encore GX. While both may share the same name, there are some differences between the two in terms of size and powertrain capabilities. Both vehicles come with a turbocharged engine, but the Encore GX has a different drivetrain configuration.
The 2022 Encore tops out at 155 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque with its EcoTec 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, whereas the 2022 Encore GX delivers 155 hp and 174 pound-feet of torque from a turbocharged 1.3-liter 3-cylinder. The all-wheel drive Encore GX also uses a 9-speed automatic transmission instead of the 6-speed automatic in the Encore. Both of these powertrains represent an upgrade from last year’s models, with the Encore getting a power bump and the Encore GX losing its smaller 1.2-liter base engine.
The differences aren’t huge in terms of performance, but the larger Encore GX is the clear winner in terms of efficiency. In fact, the all-wheel drive Encore GX is rated for the same 27 miles per gallon combined as the front-wheel drive Encore. That means you can effectively have your cake and eat it too, thanks to Buick’s combination of performance and efficiency.
All-Wheel Drive, the Buick Encore GX, and Off-Roading
This leads to the final topic: can you actually use a Buick Encore GX with all-wheel drive to do some off-roading? Well, you can. It does offer over an extra inch in ground clearance compared to the Encore, clocking in at 7.5 inches. This gives you some extra height to tackle some off-road trails. The added option of the all-wheel drive configuration means you also have the stability and traction to pursue some minor off-road adventures, at least much more so than the normal Buick Encore.
Obviously, the Encore GX – even with the lift over the normal Encore and the slightly more powerful engines – still isn’t a vehicle designed for rock climbing and jumping over sand dunes. Now, if you live or drive in areas where the roads are practically perfect, the weather is always nice, and you never have to worry about slipping or sliding, then sure, there’s no reason to veer from the tried and trusted front-wheel drive option. However, the benefit of being able to eke some extra traction and stability control out of the Encore GX with an all-wheel drive configuration would make it a good entry-level adventure SUV. It’s especially useful during day-to-day errands where road conditions aren’t the best.