2013 Buick Enclave Review | National Post
By Graeme Fletcher, National Post
When the Enclave debuted, it signalled a change in direction for Buick. Compared with the then Allure (now LaCrosse) and Luscern, it was positively attractive. Now comes the 2013 edition, which has been nipped and tucked to keep it in touch with its intended competition – the likes of the Acura MDX, Audi A7, Lincoln MKT and Volvo XC90.
The exterior changes are found in the body-coloured front fascia and side sills, a new hood, fenders and grille. Of course, the now de rigueur LED daytime running lamps light the way and there are more LED accent lights in the lower fascia. Around at the back, there are more LEDs in the taillights and, again, the rear fascia is finished in body colour. Nothing too radical, but it’s enough of a change that the new vehicle stands out against the old.
Inside, there’s a very attractive new instrument panel and door trim panels that now
feature real stitching. The lot is accentuated by the cabin’s new ambient lighting, which is supplied by light tubes that cap all four doors and span the width of the instrument panel. There are also redesigned climate controls to go along with Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system. This gizmo gives the driver access to everything from the audio and phone functions to the navigation and vehicle setup menus. As with General Motors’ similar systems, it is intuitive and very easy to live with thanks to its large seven-inch touchscreen and the ability to use voice commands. Blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems have been added for the first time, but there’s still no smart key option, which is disappointing.
One of the Enclave’s forward-thinking innovations is found in the front centre air bag. It deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and positions itself between the driver and front passenger so that they do not knock noggins in the event of a T-bone or rollover type of crash. Buick touts it as an industry first.
As for the utility and flexibility, the seven- or eight-seat Enclave succeeds as well as it always has. With all three rows of seats upright, there’s a very useful 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space. The third row also boasts plenty of legroom, although as with most third rows, the base sits low to the floor, which forces the rider’s knees up at an awkward angle. Folding the third row flat opens up 68.9 cu. ft., and with the middle row down, there is a cavernous 115.2 cu. ft., which is more space than any of the Enclave’s competitors.
The Enclave is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 that pushes 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque through a revised six-speed automatic transmission and the front or all four wheels. For the most part, it provides the needed performance – the portly 2,233-kilogram (gulp!) curb weight tends to blunt the initial launch. Once moving, however, the urgency picks up thanks to the fact the torque is available out over a broad range.
The only fly is the manual side of the automatic transmission. To use it, the driver must first select “L” and then fumble with a fiddly toggle switch on the left side of the shifter handle. Buick needs to rethink this strategy and make the manual mode available regardless of shifter position. That stated, this really is not the sort of vehicle that moves the driver to shift manually, so its reason for being is questionable in the first place.
The all-wheel-drive system is an option well worth taking, as it brings better stability across the entire driving range. While it is a front-based system, it shuttles the power around quickly enough when needed that it remains virtually invisible to the driver.
The Enclave also succeeds in the handling department, feeling almost European in nature. The reworked suspension is firmly compliant and the variable-rate steering affords great feel and feedback. Even when driven quickly through a sweeping corner, the body remains flat and the feel poised. Remember, this is a full-bodied crossover. The uplevel P255/55R20 tires then push understeer well out, especially given the curb weight and the amount of it (55%) that’s over the front wheels.
Driving the 2013 Enclave proved two things. First, it is the improvement in the materials found throughout the cabin that makes a big first impression – the design is attractively fluid and the layout logical. Second, it is very comfortable and equally quiet, which is something Buick is trying to establish as one of its signature values. As well as using all the usual sound-deadening materials, there is laminated glass in the front side windows and windshield. The difference it makes to the interior noise level is enormous – Buick claims it is quieter than the benchmark Lexus RX 350, and I do not doubt that for an instant.
While the changes to the 2013 Buick Enclave are evolutionary rather than mould-breaking (the original Enclave was that and more), Buick does build on what was already a solid foundation. The comfort, quietness and the manner in which it treats its occupants makes the Enclave a desirable crossover in the first place. The fact it has some real substance underscores its appeal perhaps explains why it is the segment’s top seller.