- Smooth looks
- Vast, improved interior
- Second-row seats are adult-tested
- Third-row seat more roomy than some
- Smartphones? Bring 'em
- Big, and handles that way
- Fuel economy
- Pricey for a "premium" ute
The 2014 Buick Enclave impresses with plus-sized chic--and it's one of the safest family crossovers you can buy.
The 2014 Buick Enclave is that all-American of vehicles, the large and upscale crossover utility. It's a contemporary replacement for the minivans and station wagons that Buick walked away from many years ago, and it's proven far more popular and enduring than those unloved styles. The Enclave lets Buick provide some minivan flexibility, some long-roofed "real wagon" capabilities, without remotely approaching the stigma of either.
To us, the Buick Enclave is the most appealing of GM's trio of large crossovers. It's softer, curvier, more sensuous than its Chevrolet or GMC counterparts, and from its first unveiling, it's been considered a looker. the hints of Coke-bottle curve in its sides, the waterfall grille gave it a personality far enough removed from the rugged-looking GMC Acadia or the anodyne Chevy Traverse.
Last year's light refresh, including a new grille and LED lighting, haven't changed much. Inside the Enclave glows like it's just undergone rejuvenation--it has--and the soft-touch dash and big touchscreen spoon together famously.The Enclave's crossover credentials make it a player, too. It seats up to eight passengers and lots of standard features to go with its acceptable gas mileage and predictable handling.
The seating configuration and flexibility inside the Enclave remains the same, and that's just fine. It's a strength of this big minivan replacement. The front seats add ventilation as an option, and with seating up to eight, the Enclave's an excellent family wagon, though the third-row seat isn't a place we'd choose to sit for hours on end. There's over 23 cubic feet of space behind the third row, and if you fold the second and third rows there's over 115 cubic feet of cargo space. It all folds down neatly and flat and is just begging for outings to big-box stores.
There's also a safety industry-first in the Enclave. Last year it featured a new front center airbag, which helps protect front occupants in a side impact. Blind-spot monitors and a rear cross traffic alert system are available, as are lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems. We've given the Enclave a top score of 10 in safety here because of its excellent five-star overall NHTSA rating plus its IIHS Top Safety Pick status.
Nothing's changed under the Enclave's skin for 2014. It still spins out the same 288 horsepower as before from its standard-issue 3.6-liter V-6, and reins it in with a six-speed automatic, channeled to either the front wheels or all four wheels. The transmission lost some of its indecisiveness last year--there's much less hunting through upper gears--and the powertrain never really struggles to tap cruising speed despite a hefty curb weight. Gas mileage of 24 mpg highway max is on par with other big crossovers.
With retuned shocks and new dampers fitted last year, the Enclave rides better than ever. It's smooth and reasonably responsive for a vehicle so long and tall. It's still a crossover that "drives big," but it's never been one that's felt anything but predictable.
As for features, IntelliLink is the big news for some shoppers, as it brings the Enclave's interior up to the leading edge in connectivity, with a relatively easy interface, well-integrated Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming functionality, and apps for Pandora and Stitcher audio. A rearview camera system, a USB port, HD Radio, satellite radio, and voice recognition are also part of the standard equipment this year, while navigation is optional, as is a ten-speaker Bose sound upgrade.