Magic Magnets Give Buick Crossovers AWD Refinement

When snow inevitably starts falling over the General Motors Proving Ground in Michigan this winter, Buick engineers will use the conditions to put the finishing touches on the Encore luxury small crossover. It arrives early next year as the brand’s first entry into the burgeoning small crossover segment.

Encore’s “Active On-Demand” all-wheel drive is designed to give the vehicle the fluid drive characteristics and sure-footed traction Buick drivers expect but in a smaller, lighter package. Unlike traditional systems that engage all four drive wheels after slip is detected, Encore uses a magnetic charge to engage a clutch at the rear axle preemptively when the vehicle is at rest because slippage is most likely to occur just as the vehicle begins to move. If no slip is detected, a computer control automatically disengages the preemptive torque to the clutch once the Encore is underway, returning the system to a primarily front-drive operation.

“A Buick all-wheel drive system has to deliver the best traction possible, and it has to do it in a way that’s totally imperceptible to the driver,” said Encore Chief Engineer Jim Danahy. “We engineered Encore’s lightweight, responsive and refined system to deliver on the expectations of demanding luxury buyers.”

Buick engineers used their experience developing an all-wheel drive system for the Enclave luxury crossover SUV and applied it to Encore’s smaller packaging. The Enclave uses similar technology. To fit Encore’s weight and space needs, engineers worked with BorgWarner to develop a new, more compact coupling for the rear axle.

Reduced weight benefits Encore’s handling, as well as fuel economy. With all-wheel drive, Encore’s EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Beyond weight savings, the advantages of Active On-Demand all-wheel drive for the driver include rapid activation and deactivation, more control over the transfer of torque, more refined performance in tight turns and parking situations and better integration with safety systems like ABS and stability control.  

“Technology is allowing us to translate Buick’s quiet, comfortable ride to smaller vehicles than we could before,” said Danahy. “This all-wheel drive system, like turbocharged engines and Buick QuietTuning technologies, allows drivers to experience that Buick DNA with unprecedented efficiency and maneuverability.”

According to the 2012 Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM Study, “familiarity with all-wheel drive continues to climb” and one third of all new car buyers would consider purchasing the technology on their next new vehicle. Consideration of all-wheel drive is greatest among luxury crossover/SUV owners, along with owners between 35-54 years of age. Among current all-wheel drive vehicle owners, 83 percent consider it an important feature for their vehicle.

In addition to the upcoming Encore and the redesigned 2013 Enclave, Buick offers all-wheel drive for the 2013 LaCrosse V-6 luxury sedan.