June 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:56
The last time we test-drove a Buick Enclave, the midsize sport-utility vehicle drew only one major complaint: lightfooted drivers found its engine performance downright boggy. Buick has corrected that problem without seriously compromising fuel economy … which isn’t precisely to say that isn’t a problem as well.
The SUV fans among our drivers loved the Enclave. Built on the Lambda crossover platform that underpins the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, the Enclave is every bit as luxurious as the premium Japanese SUVs. It also handles more crisply and rides at least as smoothly. The Enclave has much of the ruggedness of an SUV to go along with the smooth road manners of a minivan.
With captain’s chairs in the middle row and a bench third seat, it’s also competitive with minivans as a people-mover. In this configuration, it’ll accommodate seven passengers in comfort and style. The 19-cubic-foot luggage compartment behind the third seat is big enough to accommodate most if not all of the stuff an active family would take on vacation — and with towing capacity of 4,500 pounds, the Enclave will handle whatever doesn’t fit behind the third seat.
Fuel economy could be better; in fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is better: 16 mpg city, 22 highway. The front-wheel-drive version is rated at 18/24. Our Enclave didn’t get top 19 mpg in highway driving. With the exception of the Lexus RX350, however, most of the popular luxury crossovers average no better than 18 mpg.
The Enclave’s controls are simple and nicely laid out, and there‘s plenty of room for small items in front. The sumptuous leathers, woods and high-quality plastics used in the interior are more reminiscent of Cadillac’s crossovers and SUVs than the Enclave’s cousins over at Chevy and GMC.
Visibility is acceptable, thanks in part to the optional rear backup camera — except when the rear-seat entertainment system (part of the $3,185 navigation/backup camera/XM traffic option) is in use. The ceiling-mounted screens interfere with the driver’s view out the right rear quarter.
The Enclave is exceptionally well equipped at all trim levels. Among the features included on every version, from the $36,600 Base model to the $45,080 Premium Group AWD, are power front seats, power liftgate, seating for seven or eight, three-zone climate control and XM satellite radio. All Enclaves have the same 288-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. And the classic Buick portholes — mounted on the hood rather than on the fenders, as of old — are standard equipment.
We’d like to see a hybrid Enclave, if only to compete with the 28-mpg Toyota Highlander. There’s been talk of one but nothing definite yet.
Enclaves have accumulated an average reliability record in Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys. Loaded with safety equipment, including Stabilitrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology, the Enclave is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 288 horsepower, 270 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Weight: 4,985 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 8.4 inches
Wheels: 19x7.5 inch alloy
Tires: P255/60R19 108S all season
Seating capacity: six
Cargo volume: 23 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 115 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 4,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 22 gallons
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
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