Affordable 2024 Buick Encore GX Travels From Indianapolis to Memphis in Search of Patsy Cline

On March 5, 1963, Country music legend Patsy Cline, along with her manager Randy Hughes plus fellow Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, crashed their small single-engine plane into a valley about seventy miles east of Memphis, near Camden, Tennessee.  Cline was just 30 years old.  With a little extra time on my way to Memphis in the 2024 Buick Encore GX, it was time to pay my respects.

Elegant Youthful Style

Before hitting the roads from Indianapolis, I stopped to give the little Buick a good look.

Its sporty ST trim seems a perfect complement to young and energetic Cline.  It’s a class act, eschewing trite tacked on portholes for chic Euro styling that starts with a wide grille flanked by tucked headlamps under squinty boomerang driving lights.  Sophisticated body sculpting disguise the vehicle’s tall narrow proportions.  Our vehicle glimmered in brave Copper Ice Metallic paint over 18” black alloy wheels.  Most trim on the ST is blacked out for a sinister vibe.

It’s as young and fresh inside where the dash is dominated by a sweeping twin-screen “Virtual Cockpit” for driver gauges and infotainment.  It’s slick, but wirelessly connects devices via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  Wireless charging is available too.  There’s no Bose audio, but Cline’s songs boomed loud on the highway.  Gray seat stitching, thick flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, and satin silver accents added touches of elegance.  Leatherette seats were all-day comfortable and can be easily cleaned should kids (or fallen Big Macs) necessitate a quick wipe-down.

Unlike Cline and her compatriots, I travel with a full contingent of safety gear.  The Encore GX ST comes standard with rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert, and side blind zone alert.  Adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning are available.

Spirited Turbo Performance

Putting steam into its step across Indiana cornfields, between Kentucky horse farms, and through Tennessee hills was a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, connected to the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission.  Putting numbers too it, the engine delivers 155 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque.  All-wheel-drive is available on the Encore GX, but our front-drive model is lighter on its wheels and provides the best fuel economy rated 29/31-MPG city/highway.

I wouldn’t normally like a continuously variable transmission, but it combined peacefully with the turbo to carry the Encore through hill and dale with glee.  On paper, the compound crank rear suspension wouldn’t seem especially sophisticated either, but engineers tuned the suspension for a perfect balance of long-distance comfort and crisp handling.  Whether storming tight sweepers on the Interstate, or swooping through rough two-lane curvy roads to the crash site, the suspension, steering, and short wheelbase indulged my will for spirited driving.

It’s a solemn valley where the plane returned to earth, so I roll in with all due respect.  Looking at the Encore along the trail that leads to a memorial of the tragedy, the little crossover glistens in dappled sunlight.  It’s difficult to comprehend the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded in this wooded valley over sixty years ago.  On the flight back to Nashville, Hughes became disoriented in the clouds and unwittingly spiraled their Piper Comanche into the treetops, ending the careers and lives of all aboard.

No matter the terrain or speed, the Encore GX ST was a primo way to make quick work of long miles and a very somber side trip.  And, hitting its target market of young sophisticates, the Encore GX ST comes with a very affordable price.  Base Encore GX starts at $25,600 with the ST rising from $26,800.  If you want something even more affordable, and sportier still, check out the similar Buick Envista crossover coupe that starts at just $22,400.  Competitors include the similar Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks, and Hyundai Kona.

Storm Forward!

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