- 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.
2014 Buick Enclave
The Buick Enclave's appeal starts with its softly styled sheetmetal and its contemporary cabin.
If you're in the curvy-crossover camp, the Buick Enclave's styling resonates, even today, some six years down the road. It's an appealing shape that hasn't dulled with age. Compared to its more amorphous Chevy Traverse and angular GMC Acadia cousins, the Enclave strikes a balance between the packaging reality of a big family crossover and the contemporary cues baked into every current Buick.
If we could change anything, it would come down to details. For the most part, they're just over the top enough to grab the eye without blinding it. Still, we'd find a way to mute the C-pillar, as it breaks up the pretty expanse of glass that gives the Enclave most of its grace. For sure, we'd nix the hood's "ventiports," which aren't functional and detract in an inexpensive way.
The Enclave's cabin has a soothing quality that's only become more convincing since its debut. The dash itself evokes a vaguely Art Deco theme, without lapsing into cliches--well, except for the analog clock up top on the dash. It's conservative and classy, even with the big touchscreen that was integrated into the cockpit last year; part of the effect comes from new interior materials, upgraded from hard plastics to soft-touch ones with stitching.
2014 Buick Enclave
Handling and acceleration aren't breathtaking, but they're on par with vehicles in the Enclave's class.
There's no V-8 engine or a turbocharger to push it into sporting territory, no tuned version for enthusiasts--the Buick Enclave is content to deliver a smooth ride with acceleration strong enough for its family-minded mission.
GM's 3.6-liter V-6 is the Enclave's only available engine, just as in its mechanical kin, the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse. Its 288 horsepower gets delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic that was co-developed with Ford, where it's used in the Flex crossover, among others. The transmission hasn't always been the equal of the V-6, but last year Buick remapped its shift points to reduce some of the hunting and busy gearchanging that was common in the early years of the Enclave. Together, the drivetrain now feels more at ease, rarely strained by the Enclave's pretty hefty curb weight.
The Enclave handles more deftly than some luxury cars, and its ride is better than many. Last year Buick fitted new dampers at the front and revised those in the rear for a more absorbent ride. If you get the larger 20-inch wheels, you'll add a little more harshness, even though it's still softer and more refined than other three-row crossovers.
The Enclave steers well for a vehicle of its size, and body roll isn't excessive for its ride height, either--although you'll never forget that the Enclave is a very heavy vehicle. You feel that weight whenever you're starting, stopping, or making any abrupt change in direction, and the Enclave has more nosedive in hard braking than any other vehicle we've been in recently—minivans included—but the brakes are confidence-inspiring, with a firm pedal feel.
Buick offers the Enclave in front-drive or with available all-wheel drive, which is really only necessary if you experience extended winter weather. The Enclave can tow up to 4,500 pounds, which should be more than enough if you plan to tow a couple of jet-skis or a small boat out to the lake.
2014 Buick Enclave
Comfort & Quality
We pronounce it road-trip ready: the Enclave has very comfortable seats and lots of space for people and cargo.
With seating for up to eight passengers, the Buick Enclave has a comfortable and spacious cabin. It doesn't have sliding side doors, but it certainly acts like a minivan, with great cargo space and a fold-away third-row seat.
Anyone that's driven a trucky SUV realizes why crossovers are more popular with passengers. The Enclave is as comfortable as any full-size GM SUV, and it begins in the front seats. They're not especially well-bolstered but they are wide and softly upholstered to fit a wide variety of body types--and to set up a good driving position. Heating and ventilation are either standard or available on most models.
In the second row, the Enclave doles out a high seating position for a good view and proper leg support. Headroom is more than plentiful, and the Enclave's wide enough for a pair of adults to stretch out.Even in the third row, the big Buick crossover offers enough room for adults. It's one of the largest among all the competitive crossovers--and although entry and exit aren't as easy as in some other vehicles with lower step-in heights, the Enclave has an easy to use tilt mechanism for the middle row that opens up more entry space for the third row. With that extra row and three-across seating for kids in it, the Enclave is a true minivan alternative, missing only sliding side doors.
Storage is also plentiful, with over 23 cubic feet of space behind the third row when the cargo management system is removed, and if you fold down the second and third rows, you'll free up over 115 cubic feet of cargo space. The Enclave's back seats fold down to a completely flat cargo floor, too, allowing a minivan-like space behind the second row good enough for just about any purchase from big-box stores, and the second tow tilts forward for even more space. The only issue is that you might not be able to fully open those wide rear side doors if you're parked.
The Enclave may have a lot of the functionality of a minivan, but it's finished to a level that exceeds most of those family boxes. The restyled dash introduced last year is covered in more soft-touch plastic for a richer look, and some of the woodgrain trim is of a more discreet variety. Elsewhere in the cabin, materials and trims are quite good.
2014 Buick Enclave
The Buick Enclave has great crash-test scores from the NHTSA; it's one of the safest vehicles you can buy.
The Buick Enclave is one of the better vehicles on the road, in terms of safety.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have released crash-test data for the 2014 model year. The NHTSA gives the Enclave five stars overall, and the big family wagon gets the same rating on each of the agency's tests.
However, while in the past the IIHS has named the Enclave one of its Top Safety Picks, it doesn't return the honor for the 2014 model year. The Enclave hasn't been subjected to a small-overlap front-impact test, now required to earn the very top scores. We've adjusted our safety score downward, only for that reason.
New safety technology complements the standard gear built into the Enclave. All models have curtain airbags that protect all three rows of seats, front-seat side airbags, a center-front airbags mounted on the inboard side of the driver seat, and stability control.
With the addition of new touchscreen interfaces, the Enclave gained a standard rearview camera last year. On the options list are blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, and this year, newly available forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems.
2014 Buick Enclave
Luxury touches and a user-friendly infotainment system are some of the pricey Enclave's strengths.
With a base price in the high-$30,000 range, the Buick Enclave isn't inexpensive. At that price it does include a fair amount of luxury and infotainment content--but it's not difficult to push the family wagon's pricetag past $50,000.
Buick's done away with trim levels, so instead of opting for an Enclave CXL or CX, it's simply a matter of ordering options on the single model. All versions include standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; satellite radio; an AM/FM/CD player; and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
A rearview camera system, a USB port, HD Radio, and voice recognition are also standard. A navigation system is a relatively inexpensive option, as is a ten-speaker Bose sound upgrade.IntelliLink is the big news for some shoppers, as it brings the Enclave's interior up to the leading edge in connectivity. IntelliLink ties smartphones into the Enclave's audio and Bluetooth controls, through a relatively simple interface (as we've found in other models). Once a phone is connected, the Enclave has well-integrated Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming functionality, and access to apps for Pandora and Stitcher audio. This year, it gains Apple's Siri EyesFree voice search and the ability to read out text messages.
Major options include a navigation systemand remote start, along with 19- and 20-inch wheels, a head-up display (HUD), heated and cooled front seats, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
2014 Buick Enclave
Gas mileage is just average overall, but on a per-passenger basis, the Enclave rates well with the EPA.
The EPA's gas mileage ratings for the Buick Enclave aren't particularly high, but given its ability to carry up to eight passengers, it's reasonably efficient on fuel.The agency pegs the Enclave at 17 miles per gallon city, 24 miles per gallon highway, and 19 mpg combined, when it's outfitted with front-wheel drive. Those figures aren't so far off from comparable cars like the Ford Flex, but today's five-passenger family sedans regularly top the 35-mpg highway number. You'd have to carry those three extra passengers on a regular basis to justify the added cost of gas.
The Enclave's ratings fall to 16/22 mpg or 18 mpg combined when it's fitted with all-wheel drive.
In our experience, the EPA numbers seem a little optimistic, based on the real-world observations of our editors along with other review sources. In our last significant stint with a previous mode-year Enclave, we saw an indicated 17 mpg over a range of driving conditions.