Buick spiffs up entry-level SUV, Mini’s electric convertible, Alpine aims A110 at America


2024 Buick Encore GX gains new face, new tech, new trim

Intake: Buick announced a host of updates for the 2024 Encore GX, its most popular (and smallest) North American offering, which shares a platform with the Chevy Trailblazer. Updated front-end styling evokes that of the Wildcat EV concept, with a new forward-leaning demeanor, new grille, and new wing-like LED headlamps, which come standard on all trims, and the first application of Buick’s new tri-shield logo. A new 19-inch virtual cockpit system graces the Encore GX’s interior, regardless of trim level. It’s two screens—an 11-inch center infotainment screen and an 8-inch digital instrument cluster—placed behind a single piece of glass. Power comes from either a 1.2-liter (standard) or a 1.3-liter (optional) turbocharged three-cylinder engine. The former makes 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, the latter produces 155 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive is available across all trims, but you’ll have to spring for the 1.3-liter engine to get it, which also nets a nine-speed automatic transmission.

You can have either engine in a front-wheel-drive configuration, although you’ll get a CVT transmission there. Buick says production of the Korean-made Encore GX will begin next month, with customer orders coming online in May of 2023. The Encore GX Preferred starts at $26,895, the Encore GX ST $28,095, and the new Encore GX Avenir $33,195. All prices exclude the destination fee.

Exhaust: The Chevy Trax-based Encore died in 2022, and the Encore GX is slightly larger than that now-dead model. The Encore GX is going to need to pull big numbers to rally Buick from a terrible 2022 sales year here in the states. This raft of updates is a good start. — Nathan Petroelje

VW sheds light on new Touareg … and Porsche Cayenne

Intake: Volkswagen has released teaser photos and a few technical details of the next Touareg SUV before its launch in the summer. Photographed under the Northern Lights of snowy Sweden, the Touareg is still under a camouflage wrap, but the model’s HD LED matrix headlamps are clear to see. Using 38,400 micro LEDs they will project “an interactive carpet of light” onto the road ahead, illuminating the entire lane. More illuminations come in the form of the rear VW logo which glows red at night. The Touareg has further innovations including a roof load sensor that informs the chassis electronics to make the car handle predictably when its center of gravity is raised with extra weight on top. The suspension, in standard steel or optional air-sprung, has been tweaked and the interior will now include a 15-inch center touchscreen that VW calls “Innovision Cockpit”.

Exhaust: VW stopped selling the Touareg in the U.S. in 2018 in favor of the Atlas, but its sister car, the Porsche Cayenne, will no doubt get the same (or similar) treatment in its own makeover which makes its global debut this spring. — Nik Berg

Mini to build electric convertible

Intake: Following what it says was “positive feedback” from the one-off electric Mini convertible that was shown around the U.S. last summer, the company has announced that it will build 999 of the cars for this model year. “Three years ago, we launched the Mini Electric, and today one in five Mini models sold in Europe is an all-electric Mini. This success has spurred us to implement the small series of the Mini electric convertible within only a few months. I’m delighted that we can offer 999 Mini customers an extraordinary and exclusive open-air go-kart feeling,” says Stefanie Wurst, Head of the brand. The electric Mini convertible will be powered by a 184-horsepower single electric motor, with a range of 124 miles.

Exhaust: That’s the good news. The bad news is you can’t have one unless you live in Europe—at least for now. No announcement has been made about the U.S., but it’s almost certain the Mini convertible will come here eventually. Price, in U.S. dollars, is about $63,000, a lot for a car with such a short range. We drove the prototype last year, and it was a blast—heavy, yes, but with a very low center of gravity that still offered, as Wurst said, a “go-kart feeling.”—Steven Cole Smith

Daytona 500: Bowman on the pole, Pastrana and Johnson make the field

Intake: Chevrolet driver Alex Bowman put his Ally Hendrick Motorsports Camaro on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR opener with a lap of 181.686 mph in qualifying Wednesday. Teammate Kyle Larson is on the outside front row. The returning seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson turned a lap fast enough to guarantee him a spot on the big show, as did stunt performer and NASCAR Cup rookie Travis Pastrana.

Exhaust: Thirty-six of the 42 cars trying to qualify for the race have charters that guarantee them a starting spot in the race. The six cars vying for a spot, including Johnson and Pastrana, do not have charters, and either had to set a fast time on Wednesday (two cars qualify on time), or race their way in from one of the Duel races held tonight. Among those hoping to race his way in: IndyCar’s Connor Daly. Only the front row was set in qualifying (yes, we know it’s complicated), with starting positions for the race set in the Duels; 40 cars will start, meaning two will go home. —SCS

Renault in talks with AutoNation to sell Alpine sports coupe here

Intake: Renault is having conversations with U.S. giant auto retailer AutoNation about possibly marketing its Alpine A110 sports coupe in the U.S., says Bloomberg. “It’s not easy because we are not present in the U.S. and we have to start from scratch,” CEO Luca de Meo said on the sidelines of Renault’s earnings presentation in France. Working with AutoNation, helmed by former Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley, “could take the form of a partnership that goes beyond placing cars in dealerships, he said.”

Exhaust: The Alpine brand was relaunched in 2017 with an eye toward bringing its products to the U.S. At present, it makes only the A110 but has additional products on the drawing board. De Meo made it clear in the story that if a partnership doesn’t work out with AutoNation, he plans to keep looking for a way into the U.S. market. —SCS

Ram recalling 340,000-plus heavy-duty diesels

2021 Ram Heavy Duty diesel trucks

Intake: Stellantis is recalling nearly 341,000 Ram heavy-duty diesel trucks after reports of six potentially-related fires, says Automotive News. The recall covers certain 2021–23 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups as well as 3500, 4500, and 5500 cab chassis trucks that are equipped with 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engines and prior-generation heater-grid relays, which were the focus of two previous recall campaigns.

Exhaust: Ram discovered the intake heater-grid relays on certain vehicles may overheat. “In rare instances, this condition may pose a fire risk,” according to a company news release. Vehicle owners are advised to park outside. The fix, apparently, is to replace an electrical connector. — SCS

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    Wow, 38,400 micro LEDs sounds really expensive to service/replace. I am sure the insurance companies will be looking into that before they start quoting these vehicles. Even on a vehicle with this high of a price tag, that could be a purchase decision influencer.

    I don’t think nearly 40 thousand LED’s will cost all that much, COB elements are almost free these days. I’m more concerned with how I’ll ever avoid being blinded. A lesser concern since I’ll never own one, is how will state safety inspectors judge them when a certain percentage have failed? Look up the requirement, put on the welding mask and commence counting??

    The ST trim is a pretty respected sport equipment moniker, on modern Ford vehicles. Hey Buick, why would you use this when you have a long history of having GS or Gran Sport as your sport trim level? Heck, you could have also used T-type, for that matter. Why would you appropriate Ford’s sport trim name and risk looking like a copycat?

    Sadly, todays GM and Buick are not the companies you remember. It amazes me that one of Buick’s upcoming electric vehicles is not named “Electra”; what could be better to use a classic Buick name for an EV? Gran Sport (GS) would be an excellent name vs. ST; the problem may be that no one at Buick todays remembers when Buick styled and built real cars. Harley Earl’s Y-Job? Never heard of it…

    Not a fan of the new Buick look.

    As for performance family trucksters is as bad as trying to butch up a CUV with big tires like it might run Baja.

    2024 Buick Encore GX: Does anyone really want this to suceed? I know that I’m hoping to see as few as possible.

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