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Review of: 2016 Buick Enclave AWD 4dr Premium
2016 Buick Enclave Premium: Quiet and comfortable, but out-of-date
By Chris Chase
Sep. 14, 2016
One of the more significant challenges that car companies face is keeping their products up-to-date in the face of more modern, more advanced competitors.
When the Buick Enclave debuted as a 2008 model, it was one of the poshest three-row crossovers you could buy, with a smooth, quiet ride and elegant, if not groundbreaking styling.
The Enclave is now into its 10th model year, and faces competition from a raft of recently redesigned competitors like the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and Audi Q7. An unexpected challenge also comes from Chrysler’s new Pacifica minivan, which may not be a direct competitor but brings a lot of luxury to the utility vehicle segment all the same.
Pros & Cons
- + Ride comfort
- + Rear seat access
- + Comfortable, spacious interior
- - No cutting-edge technology
- - Not much low-end torque
- - Price
A 2013 refresh brought minor styling tweaks to what was then a five-year-old design, but the look has remained static since.
That update added blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. A heated steering wheel became an option in 2015, and this year wifi hotspot functionality and 19-inch wheels were added to the standard feature list.
It’s a handsome enough vehicle, but 10 years later, the Enclave looks pretty anonymous compared to other brands’ more daring design directions, notably Lexus. Maybe Buick should be glad Lexus doesn’t yet have a three-row crossover model of its own.
Inside, the Enclave presents comfortable front seats, and our Premium tester’s power-adjustable steering column makes it easy to find a nice driving position.
In fact, there isn’t really an uncomfortable seat to be found in here. The second-row captain’s chairs perform a neat feat of folding to ease access to the third row, which isn’t great for tall adults but is perfectly livable if you stand under five-foot-eight.
You can fold the second-row seats to create a surface even with the folded third-row, but there’s no way to remove them or make the disappear into the floor when cargo space is the priority. Such is the compromise you make in choosing a crossover over a minivan.
Buick’s Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system is above-average for ease of use; it’s the touch-sensitive “buttons” around the screen that annoy us by not always responding to the first touch.
We’ll take the Enclave’s straightforward gauge cluster, even if it looks dated and doesn’t incorporate any of the cool customizable LCD technology found in many other upscale vehicles, including other Buick models.
Come to think of it, the Enclave doesn’t push any boundaries in terms of technology. The first omission you’ll notice is the lack of passive keyless entry and push-button start. You’ve no choice but to finger the fob’s unlock button as you walk up to the car, and then you either insert the key in the ignition and twist, or you stay home. Again, passive entry and push-button start is an item you’ll find in most of the Enclave’s competitors, not to mention other Buick models.
And Enclave’s safety kit only includes passive systems like the blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts we mentioned above, and lane departure and forward collision warnings; more advanced active features like lane keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking aren’t on the menu.
There’s a backup camera, but that’s it; no 360-degree view to be had here.
Fitted with optional all-wheel drive, the Enclave weighs more than 2,200 kg (nearly 5,000 lb), so the 3.6-litre V6 has a lot of work to do. Acceleration is fine, but you notice the engine’s lack of serious low-end torque when climbing hills, and you’d also feel it when making use of the 2,045-kg (4,500 lb) towing capacity.
We think Mazda has a good idea in its new CX-9, which uses a turbocharged four-cylinder cranking out loads of torque; it’s better for moving a heavy crossover than GM’s V6, which is happier at higher revs.
We’re starting to see more variety in the transmissions manufacturers put in their big crossovers, such as Infiniti QX60‘s continuously variable unit, BMW and Audi’s eight-speeds and the nine-speed in the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. Despite those developments, Buick sticks with a six-speed that works fine, but an extra ratio or two would make things a bit easier for the engine.
Buick’s big on making its cars quiet, so much so that its marketers coined the term “QuietTuning.” That makes it sound like there’s something fancy at work, but really, Buick has simply stuffed a lot of sound deadening into the Enclave’s various nooks and crannies. It works: it’s pretty serene in here, though whether it’s quieter than, say, a Lexus RX would require sensitive sound measuring gear.
We’ve driven the Enclave before, but it occurred to us this time that we shouldn’t assume the Enclave’s chassis is all about pillowy ride comfort. The ride is comfortable, but the suspension also maintains its composure surprisingly well in enthusiastic cornering, even if it can’t keep up with the likes of the BMW X5 or the Ford Flex.
Fuel consumption estimates, according to Natural Resources Canada, are 16.1/10.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with all-wheel drive, as our tester was equipped; we averaged a shade under 14.0 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving.
Enclave pricing starts at $48,935 for the base Leather trim with front-wheel drive. By the time you get to our Premium AWD tester, you’re looking at $56,435 before options. Right away, dark chocolate metallic paint adds about $450, and the Experience Buick package (dual-pane sunroof, 20-inch wheels, and towing package) is another $990. At Premium trim, navigation is included, as are cooled front seats.
The just-redesigned Audi Q7‘s chiseled looks come at $65,200 to start, and you’re well into $70,000 territory once you’ve added options; Mercedes-Benz’s GLS-Class carries a starting tag of $82,900.
Buick’s value competition comes from Japan, where the Acura MDX is about $65,000 in fully-loaded form; the Infiniti QX60 is a bargain to start at $47,400, and rings in at $61,500 when kitted out. Both of those Japanese models get the advanced safety tech missing in the Buick, like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and blind spot detection/intervention.
For the sake of argument, that Pacifica minivan can be equipped with much of the same kit as the MDX and QX60, for a bit less than $60,000. It may lack AWD and more desirable crossover styling, but it bests any crossover for interior space and flexibility.
The Enclave is one of the least-expensive vehicles in its class, but it also lacks the latest safety and driver assist technologies, which are becoming commonplace even in smaller, cheaper vehicles. This big Buick’s drive lives up to its luxury promise, but if you’re looking the latest gadgets and goodies, you won’t find them here.