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Letter from Europe. Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief


By Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief

I’ve been writing for The Auto Channel since 1996 and the only time a report disappeared between the computer and the office was one on Toyota's C-HR and the Lexus GS-F.

The contrast between the two could not be bigger. By Toyota’s very high standards the  C-HR falls into the modest category. In 2019 they sold under 50 thousand, whereas the slightly bigger Camry sold 336 thousand.

The Camry is of course the leader of the mid-size pack, this is the car that sank Ford’s rival offerings in the biggest possible way. Maybe Ford will come back with their EV cars but that remains to be seen.

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As for the C-HR unexpectedly was fairly comprehensively slaughtered my by colleagues in the motoring press.  The Auto Channel's Steve Purdy reported that the Toyota CH-R gets a solid A for style and a passing C for content, Car and Driver placed it 16th in the category, not exactly flattering. Consumer Report suggested that it was tortoise-slow with horrendous visibility. This is a publication that gives very high marks for the Avalon, the Camry and my fav the Highlander. The point I am making is that neither The Auto Channel, Car and Driver nor Consumer Report carry any bias towards whatsoever, and rightly so.

Because the speed limit round here is 25 miles per hour and I didn’t go on any long trips I cannot confirm pronounced  wind noise at high speeds but I can cofirm that the dark interior was not particularly welcoming.

On the plus side the fuel consumption was excellent, as always, I’ve exceeded the official figures by 2 mpg-31 miles per gallon. The C-HR is front wheel drive, has CVT and is propelled by a 144 horsepower engine. 11 seconds 0-60 realy is slow.

The folks who run The Auto Channel have always encouraged me and my fellow contributors to tell it like it is-hence the rapidly growing number of viewers. So if I suggest that you skip the C-HR I am simply sticking to my principles.

I appreciate that there is a 25 thousand  dollar difference between the C-HR and the Lexus GS-F so any comparison would be silly so all I can say is that I loved the GS. Of course as I have been testing Ferraris on the factory’s test track in Maranello you could call me a speed junkie, a moniker I am happy to wear. But not on the road.

The 467 horsepower V8 is just the sort of automobile in which to take on the mighty of what Germany has to offer.

As soon as the “F” arrived I was on my way to Point Reyes and some oysters at Marshall’s. Ths car definitely looked the part and was very much at home on the shore. It had everything I could have asked for-comfort, power, quiet, beaufitul finish. The one thing that caused problems and maybe it is my fault for not being a 25 yesr old techie is the infotainment system which is wonderful once you can figure it out.

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The 2020 Buick Encore GX Essence-FWD I have never driven it before. At a top price of about 34 thousand dollars I am not sure I would be happy with a 1.3 liter turbo engine sounding like my late Grandmother’s Sewing machine, but in all fairness it performed better than it sounded. I also found it extraordinary that one of the greatest names in the whole of the United States of America-GM-should be assembling cars and SUVs in Mexico and South Korea. I know it makes business sense but it still hurts.

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The Buick Encore is certainly well put together, at 70 miles per hour it was totally silent. The seats were comfortable and the infotainment was fine. 

Handling and ride were sort of all right, nothing to write home about but full marks for forwaerd collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. All good stuff. The Government figures are very impressive indeed, 7 out of 10 for fuel economy (I can vouch for that) and 7 out of 10 for smog rating.

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The price range is between 28 and 34 thousand dollars. The Encore is in the middle of some serious competition from a myriad of manufacturers so, as always, I would try and negotiate.

The three year /36 thousand mile warranty seemed a bit of the short side bearing in mind that the 2020 Nero which just landed at The Auto Channel, California is more or less the same price and offers a modern 10 year/100 thousand mile limited power train warranty.

Still, go to your GM dealer, try it and unless you are hauling 5 people and lots of luggage the Encore might just be what you are loooking for.