- Elegant styling
- Much-improved interior
- Adult-sized second-row seats
- Usable third-row seats
- New connectivity features
- Drives heavy and big
- Gas mileage isn't great
- Very expensive for a domestic brand
- Lags on the power scale
The Buick Enclave remains one of the most distinctive and comfortable large crossovers, and a substantially upgraded interior keeps it contemporary for 2013.
The Buick Enclave is a large crossover vehicle that helped the brand usher in a new sense of style and a new generation of vehicles, back when it was a new model in 2008. After five years on the market, sales are still strong, and it's grown to become more feature-rich and refined for the 2013 model year.
More than halfway through its life cycle, GM's put some fresh touches on the Enclave, including an upgraded interior, some minor drivetrain and suspension improvements, and new infotainment and connectivity hardware, all in the quest to keep sales growing. We'd judge the changes a success, mostly because they don't tamper with the Enclave's goodness. That starts with the cleanly styled, curvy Coke-bottle exterior, which still looks contemporary, and now wears LED lighting and a new grille. The cabin's where the changes are more obvious: it's a full-on facelift, with new trim and materials that remove most of the hard plastics we've griped about, and replaced them with soft-touch pieces that finally merit the Enclave's pricetag.
Specs remain the same for the Enclave's powertrain. All models have a 3.6-liter V-6, making 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, and it's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. An updated six-speed automatic transmission is less shifty than before—that's good news, as the Enclave and its GM crossover companions often hunted through upper gears. Fuel economy remains the same, in the acceptable 24-mpg highway range for a big crossover.
Ride and handling are less obviously massaged, but new dampers in front and retuned shocks in back don't disturb the Enclave's smooth ride or its reasonably responsive feel. It's still a vehicle that "drives big," but it's never been one that's felt anything but predictable.
The Enclave fits up to eight inside its cabin, and its standard features make it a player in the crossover world too. With all the seats in place, it's an acceptable minivan replacement, and with front-row heated and cool seats, it's comfortable like one too. Adults will fit fine in the first two rows of seats, although we wouldn't ask friends to sit in the wayback for long—family members may have to fit back there depending on how hard they played during the Thanksgiving football tournament. Behind the third row there's 23 cubic feet of cargo room, and with the second and third rows folded, that space expands to 115 cubic feet. The rows fold away neatly and we just remembered we have a date with IKEA that we need to keep.
The 2013 Buick Enclave also marks a first for safety: a front-center airbag that keeps safe front occupants in a side impact. Blind-spot monitors are new for the Enclave too. For those reasons, and a perfect score from federal testers and the IIHS, the Enclave aces our safety score for this year.
Buick's infotainment system, which it calls IntelliLink will be news to some shoppers, which helps the Enclave jet to the front of the line in connectivity. Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, including support for internet radio such as Stitcher and Pandora, are included. HD and satellite radio (subscription required), USB ports, a rearview camera, and voice recognition are all newly standard equipment this year. A premium Bose 10-speaker audio system and navigation are new additions to the options sheet.