The Escalade can be credited for saving Cadillac, offering a big lustworthy product when the brand had little else you’d want to park in your driveway. Likewise, the Enclave got Buick through a rough patch, with new styling in a unique package combined with many of the brand’s trademark features.
|1. A 3.6L V6 makes 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.
2. Fuel economy is 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for AWD models.
3. The Enclave is rated to tow 4,500 lbs.
4. Pricing starts at $38,445.
Since it debuted in 2007 the Enclave has defied convention, increasing in sales almost every year. Consumers have increasingly taken a shine to the Enclave’s chrome, content to look the other way when it comes to the large crossover’s interior.
NEW LOOK… SORT OF
The Buick brand has continued to evolve and while the Enclave has been refreshed for 2013 that isn’t enough to make it feel anything but the product of a bygone era.
If taking a Regal GS out for a spin is akin to a hot date with a 20 something, driving the Enclave is more like a game of Euchre with your grandma.
Refreshed along with its Lambda platform siblings (the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse), Buick’s triplet seems to have had the most mild update – perhaps so as not to offend buyers that have so far seemed to appreciate the look.
Generally speaking there’s very little new about it. It still has the same bulbous shape (not the chiseled features of its handsome Acadia sibling). The modified “waterfall” grille is slightly more pointy, while the headlights (standard Xenon units) gain blue rings around them as part of a new brand styling initiative. Keeping with the times, the Enclave gains a feature no premium crossover would be caught without, LED accent lighting strips.
WHERE’S THE LUXURY?
Attempts at keeping up-to-date are also made inside the cabin, though they’re as poorly executed as an anti-bullying rap carried out by high school teachers.
Helping fool at least some people into thinking it’s “with it” the Enclave gains a standard 7-inch touch screen with the brand’s IntelliLink system and a back-up camera – an absolute must on a vehicle of this size.
The fact that IntelliLink has a homepage where you can pre-set your favorite functions so they’re readily available is nice. Our big gripe with the system, however, is that it’s overly sensitive. If your hand even brushes across any of the buttons surrounding the screen you’ll unintentionally activate a feature. Logging hundreds of miles on a weekend road trip, it happened over and over and over again.
The list of disappointments doesn’t end there. The seat leather is low-grade while the gauges with their glowing teal color harken back to a four-digit era that didn’t start with a 2. Many of the knobs, switches and buttons are as premium feeling as the dollar store, which is more than we can say for the wood trim that’s so appalling it doesn’t even deserve a derogatory metaphor. Competing in the same segment as cars like the Infiniti JX, the Enclave’s interior is downright laughable with pre-bankruptcy GM written all over it.
Not all is negative inside the Enclave however. The digital temperature display on the HVAC dials is a nice touch while the big buttons on the steering wheel make controlling the stereo and cruise control a breeze. No fiddling with tiny buttons and knobs here. Nighttime mood lighting is also classy with an “ice blue” arc that runs across the doors and over the dash – similar to a design in the six-figure Jaguar XJ.
The leather on the dash also deserves respect, though it only partially covers the junky hard plastic.
Easily our biggest annoyance is that even with the driver’s seat in its lowest position and the steering wheel at its highest, much of the view of the gauges is blocked. After a product has been on the road for this long, issues like this should have been sorted out, although they honestly never should exist in the first place.
In true General Motors fashion, standard equipment and optional goodies are certainly not lacking. That really plays in the Enclave’s favor, in a segment where many competitors offer just the basics. Amenities ranging from heated and cooled seats to a standard power rear liftgate.
New safety features include forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems. There’s also an industry-first front center airbag that can pop up out of the armrest to prevent front seat occupants from bonking noggins in a crash.
BUICK BELIEVES BIGGER IS BETTER
If there is a reason to pick to Buick over many of its rivals it’s the sheer size of it. Those generous exterior proportions don’t lie and whether you opt for the 8-seater with a 2nd row bench or a 7-seater with captain’s chairs there’s plenty of room for no matter where you sit. In fact, while getting back there might not be as easy as with some of its rivals, the Enclave is one of the very few in this segment that can actually seat passengers in the 3rd row. Life is also better for those in the 2nd row thanks to two new USB ports to help power phones and other devices for tweens who will start panicking like a drug mule in a TSA inspection when their iPhone’s battery life alert is triggered.
Cargo room is bountiful as well with 23.2 cu-ft, almost 70 cu-ft behind the 2nd row and a total of 115 cu-ft.
And for whatever you can’t fit in the cargo hold, the Enclave is rated to tow up to 4,500 lbs., which is about mid-pack amongst its rivals.
All that size does have a down-side with a fuel economy rating that’s a bit less impressive than smaller competitors. Buick claims 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway while AWD models get a 16/22 rating. We scored right in the middle during our test with 18 mpg.
Hitting those numbers is a direct injection 3.6L V6 making 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Power is sufficient for such a large machine, though the transmission is slow to react to downshifts.
SMOOTH AND QUIET
Once up to speed, however, the Enclave carries forward age-old Buick traits of highway comfort. Not only is it incredibly smooth and quiet, but if the Enclave exhibits any German driving characteristics it’s that it eats up speed on the highway, easily masking a supra-legal cruise control setting.
Being so big you’d expect it to be cumbersome, while in fact it’s quite easy to drive around town and even with solid sight lines and that standard back-up camera proves easy enough to park.
Priced at $38,445 to start, the cost of entry is more attractive than those of its rivals while the smooth, quiet ride and spacious interior are other key factors in the Enclave’s success. Still, slip inside and the reason for the sub-40k price tag is all too obvious. In fact, it’s the Enclave’s Achilles’ heel; keeping this supposedly premium level crossover outside the realm of luxury machines it’s allegedly competing with.