Representing the high end of General Motors’ Lambda crossover range—which includes the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia—the Enclave was the first modern Buick to exhibit high levels of interior refinement, design, and serenity. Offering three-row seating, GM claims the Enclave’s unibody architecture makes it lighter and more efficient than full-size body-on-frame SUVs, even while it occupies roughly the same footprint as, say, a Cadillac Escalade. Although its lighter construction and lack of V-8 power mean the Enclave can’t tow nearly as much as that same Escalade (4500 pounds max versus 8000-plus for the Cadillac), smaller rolling stock and less-burly underpinnings provide the more supple ride favored by most Buick customers.
How Does It Drive?
With a 288-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic gearbox—matched with either front- or all-wheel drive—tasked with moving nearly 5000 pounds, the Enclave isn’t very quick. Expect mid-sevens to 60 mph for front-drivers and about eight seconds with all-wheel drive. Some torque steer was noticeable off the line with our front-wheel-drive example, and we’d suggest paying the extra two grand for an all-wheel-driver simply because it feels a little more planted; a vehicle this big doesn’t feel as confident with power shunted through just the fronts. Handling is predictable and tends toward idiot-proof understeer. When we’ve hooked our test gear to various Lambdas, 70-to-0-mph stopping performances have ranged from a decent 167 feet to a dismal 194. The optional 19-inch wheels and tires on our Buick tester imparted a bit more precision to the steering, but like its platformmates, the Enclave is best enjoyed at a relaxed pace.
How Does It Stack Up?
Despite being rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, we averaged 17 mpg overall—only slightly better than the mileage of full-size SUVs. The Enclave may be lighter, but anything close to brisk acceleration generally means working the V-6 hard. This Buick isn’t as enjoyable to pilot as the Mazda CX-9, for example, which offers a roomier third row and is one of our favorites in this segment. What the Enclave does have in its corner is Buick’s elegant, distinct styling language, which it wears well and which imparts a unique, upscale presence.
The Enclave’s cargo area is cavernous, measuring 115 cubic feet with the first and second rows stowed and 68 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. A healthy 23 cubes remain in back with all seats raised. The interior is nicely insulated and fairly luxurious—there’s lots of wood, chrome-look stuff, and leather—although not quite up to par with most Cadillacs’ or even the new Buick LaCrosse’s; we noticed a few rough-edged trim pieces and too many unsightly plastics in our Enclave. We still maintain that a minivan is more efficient and better packaged for family hauling—especially versus front-drive crossovers—but the Enclave is a more attractive and luxurious alternative without the sliding-door stigma.
What’s the Cost?
Prices for front-wheel-drive models start at $36,290, but a top-spec CXL-2 like our tester has a base price of $42,770. That includes heated and cooled front seats, three-zone climate control, active front headlights, and a slew of other luxury items. With the optional touch-screen navigation and rear-seat entertainment system ($3185), power sunroof and rear skylight ($1400), White Diamond paint ($795), towing package ($455), and second-row center console ($300), our example stickered at $48,905. Add all-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels, and you’re in the mid-$50,000 range, at which point you’ll want to look at the Lincoln MKT ($44,995 base) and its optional 355-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6; the more capable Land Rover LR4 ($48,100) and its 385-hp, 5.0-liter V-8; and the Audi Q7 ($47,725).
For our money, we’d sacrifice some bling and isolation for a better drive and get that Mazda CX-9 that starts at $29,385 and tops out with all-wheel drive at about $40,000. Still, there’s something to be said for the Enclave’s styling and bank-vault-quiet cabin; watch the options, and you can end up satisfied.