2014 Buick Enclave: The Sophisticated Sibling

Strong points
  • Premium interior
  • Quiet ride
  • Price was reduced with redesign
  • Streamlined appearance
Weak points
  • Engine power is marginal
  • Navigation system is optional
  • It’s big
  • Acadia and Traverse feel truck-like
Full report

According to Buick, the Enclave is the sales leader in the luxury-crossover segment, with almost 58,000 units sold in 2011. That’s more than enough reason to justify a makeover, and considering that it was introduced in 2008 and due for a facelift, it got one for 2013, even if it was just a minor nip-and-tuck.
Although the Enclave shares its platform and drivetrain with the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, it has the most streamlined body and is the least truck-like in appearance of the three.

The Enclave received a redesigned front clip in 2013, including new fenders, a hood with ridges that define its outer edges, a taller and wider grille, and a sportier front valance with LED accent lighting. Xenon headlights are standard equipment and they incorporate LED daytime running lights. In the rear, rectangular tail pipes were integrated into the bodywork. The effect of the fresh new skin is a more contemporary overall look.

One V6, three SUVs

The 3.6-litre direct-injection V6 with variable valve timing is carried over from the previous year unchanged and produces 288-horsepower and 366 Nm of torque and it is shared with the Acadia and Traverse. Power output is just adequate for this 2,200 kg SUV; it won’t overwhelm you, but it won’t put you to sleep either.

The engine is somewhat thirsty for fuel, and although the claimed combined fuel consumption is 11L/100 km, we averaged 13L/100 km in a combination of city and highway driving in an all-wheel-drive model.

The V6 is smooth and quiet, though much of that smoothness is derived from the six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts gears almost seamlessly. The transmission has been reprogrammed to be more decisive when selecting gears, so it no longer switches back and forth between ratios if you’re driving at that threshold speed where two possible ratios can work, something the previous Enclave was prone to do. All three of these SUVs are available in front-drive and all-wheel-drive formats.

King-sized comfort

There’s no doubt that carrying the Buick nameplate makes the Enclave the more luxurious member compared to its Chevrolet and GMC siblings. It’s also more expensive, with a starting price almost $8,500 more than the Traverse. The extra cost is evident when you step inside the Enclave. High-quality, soft-touch materials are used throughout the interior and soft-touch textured plastic is now more prominent across the dashboard. Buick used wood-like plastic trim more liberally than in the previous model, and even though the wood-like trim didn’t come from a forest, it gives the interior a richer and warmer overall feel. Adding to the premium feel is a narrow strip of cool-blue ambient lighting in the doors and dashboard that surrounds the cockpit.

The centre stack in the dashboard includes a new, 6.5-inch colour touch screen for GM’s IntelliLink infotainment system, with the standard connectivity options that are now the norm. The touch screen sometimes missed commands, which proved somewhat frustrating on occasion, and the system asks too many questions when pairing a Bluetooth device. There are simpler Bluetooth pairing systems on the market.

One area the Enclave shows a big improvement over the Traverse and Acadia is in interior quietness. Much of the cabin calmness derives from Buick's QuietTuning, which uses laminated glass and sound-absorbing materials in the body to subdue road and engine noise, and it does a remarkable job of making the Enclave feel like a luxury SUV. This also makes the suspension feel more refined, whereas in the Acadia and Traverse it feels more truck-like. Suspension tuning has been altered for a smoother ride, and the Enclave exhibits an almost luxury-sedan-like feel, which is further enhanced by the quiet interior.

All of this added noise suppression has added some weight, and thus the Enclave suffers a small penalty in trailer towing capacity. It is capable of hauling 2,041 kg compared to the 2,351 kg towing capacity of the Acadia and Traverse.

Bring the entire family

Seating includes eight-way, power-adjustable seats for both front occupants, with a memory for the driver's seat, and three-row seating is standard in either seven- or eight-passenger configurations. The Enclave is a big vehicle and the wheelbase is 302 cm, which is 20 cm longer than the 2014 Acura MDX. This makes it roomier then the MDX for all occupants, however, especially for those in the third row.

With all of the seats up there’s 660 litres of storage capacity available behind the third row, while folding the second and third rows allows a total of 3,260 litres of storage space. A power lift gate is standard.

A safety feature that is unique to the Enclave is the addition of a centre airbag that deploys between the two front seats, offering an additional measure of protection for front passengers in side impacts.

The Enclave, Traverse and Acadia might not be as sedan-like as some of their competitors from Japan or Europe, and the last two especially have more truck-like driving dynamics. But they are all roomy and offer family-friendly convenience and practicality. The Enclave feels more refined, luxurious and comfortable, and if you’re willing to spend the extra cash, you’ll appreciate the pampering.

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