New & Used Buick Enclave: In Depth
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The Buick Enclave is based on the same Lambda architecture as the Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia but with a sleeker look and more luxury features than its companions. Powertrains and safety equipment, however, are nearly identical for the triplets.
The Enclave is a full-size, three-row, luxury crossover taking on competitors such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes Benz M-Class. It's been a part of the Buick lineup since the 2007 model year and can be fitted with enough seatbelts for up to eight passengers.
MORE: Read our 2015 Buick Enclave review
Buick introduced the Enclave at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show as the indirect replacement for its aged Terraza minivan and Rendezvous crossover. A more attractive, much more satisfying effort, the Enclave immediately earned kudos for its handsome styling; it might be our favorite of all the big GM crossover designs, just slightly edging out the GMC Acadia and a few well-detailed steps ahead of the more plain Chevy Traverse. Curvaceous fenders and glamorous detailing are matched inside by a subdued, luxurious design.
In its first year of production, the Enclave was fitted with a 275-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. With this combination, the vehicle offered decent acceleration and reasonable fuel economy of 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. For 2009, the Enclave's engine was upgraded with direct injection technology and offered up to 288 horsepower.
The Enclave still gets the same 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6. Fuel economy ratings are unchanged at 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway with all-wheel drive, according to EPA estimates, although real-world figures are likely to be worse, based on our experience. The Enclave also comes standard with front-wheel drive but is available with an optional all-wheel-drive system. Front-wheel drive raises the fuel economy figures to 17/24 mpg.
All Enclaves feature three rows of seating, with a total of seven places for passengers standard. The second row is fitted with a pair of captain's chairs, while the third has a three-person bench; the latter is notable for its ability to accommodate adults of medium stature and not just small children. A three-person second-row bench is available, expanding the seating capacity to eight. Behind the back row, the Enclave offers 19 cubic feet of cargo space. When properly equipped, the Enclave can tow up to 4,500 pounds, which should be good enough for most weekend duties.
Crash scores have remained excellent even as testing criteria have changed. The NHTSA gives the Enclave five stars overall, with a four-star rating in rollover and five stars for front and side impacts. It also receives top 'Good' scores in all categories it has been tested in by the IIHS; it has not been put through the new small front overlap test, something that has been added since the Enclave debuted.
One note for buyers: The Enclave's former trim levels have been jettisoned. Now, customers simply choose option packages that add on features like a sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Since the big crossover is already pretty well equipped, this arrangement makes a bit more sense. Buick has similarly removed trim levels from its other models.
The Enclave received a light update for the 2013 model year, with upgraded infotainment features, a new grille, and some new interior trim, as well as improved struts for better ride control and new programming for its automatic transmission to relieve some gear-hunting.
As of the 2015 model year, all Enclaves (and all Buicks for that matter) now include a standard rearview camera.
For 2016, Buick has announced a Tuscan Edition model, which adds unique bronze-hued grille and wheel trim as well as available brown leather (Buick calls it choccachino) on the interior. It will be available in brown, black, and white exterior paint. As special editions go, it is not very involved but does lend a tasteful and slightly different look to the big crossover.
Enclave pricing starts in the mid-$30,000s, which is substantially cheaper than comparable vehicles like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class but pricier than its Lambda-based siblings and the two-row Lexus RX 350.