For Buick, it starts and ends with product. Each year a new recruit is added to the team and creates enthusiasm, momentum and excitement for the American automaker. In fact, General Motors’ darling division is on track to have their best sales year in six years. This is partly due to the fact that Buick continues to lower the average age of their buyers while attracting conquest consumers in droves. This equates to a platform where 45.8% of Buick’s current owners are new to the brand. And as if things couldn’t get any better, an updated 2013 Enclave enters the stage to continue its dominance as the best selling three-row luxury crossover on the market.
Introduced in 2007, the Enclave has seen exponential sales growth since. Of course 2009 was a bad year for GM and all of its nameplates, subsequently forcing Buick to get out of leasing. It was a move that hurt the brand since every luxury brand has a leasing business model. Today, Buick is now back in business and a new group of curious shoppers are better suited to experience its vehicles without long-term commitments. In addition, 615 of Buick’s 2,200 dealers are currently transforming their showrooms into one uniform look so customer expectations are logically consistent across the board like in an Apple store. In a few years all of Buick’s dealers will have upgraded to the new protocol.
Though the Enclave is new, its winning formula remains intact. Buick says customers didn’t want them to tinker around with it too much. In Louisville, Kentucky Buick invited auto media to drive and evaluate the updated SUV. The body styling remains the same except for a few updates to the front fascia and rear where they integrated the dual exhaust tips. Buick also re-tuned the front suspension, improved the performance of the engine and transmission, upgraded the Enclave’s safety technology, and enhanced the interior for a much more inviting drive. And though the styling remains unchanged for the most part, the Enclave is shockingly astute. In parking lots you won’t have to memorize your space because its long curvilinear shape stands out like Kobe Bryant in a mall. The waterfall grille is most welcoming and a set of fresh 19-inch or 20-inch aluminum rims adds a neat touch for the Enclave luxury buyer. Buick also gave it new headlamps, LED taillamps and daytime running lights. This was a must since competitors like the Audi Q7 are notorious for their gorgeous lighting packages.
Only three packages (Convenience, Leather, and Premium) will be offered in the new Enclave to cut down on model confusion. Buick also dropped the base model since it had such a small take rate. MSRP is $39,270 including an $825 destination charge while my Crystal Red exterior and Ebony interior AWD Enclave totaled $51,290. I’m an AWD fanatic, especially with SUVs. If a vehicle has the ability to provide traction to all four wheels then why opt for two? In Buick’s case the AWD option is $2,000. It also came with the $1,400 sunroof (another must have), $250 20-inch wheels, and $795 navigation. The 22-gallon tank Enclave achieves 16 city/22 hwy mpg in AWD form and 24 hwy mpg in FWD form, that’s an impressive 528 mile range before a refuel is needed. If you like to tow things then the trailer package adds $525 to your bottom line. And a bevy of features are standard on this vehicle that would be options on many other brands. They include the front-center air bag that deploys from side impacts and keeps occupants from colliding. IntelliLink is standard on all models and is Buick’s smart technology that works in unison with smartphones for voice recognition commands, Pandora integration and Bluetooth connectivity. Also standard is a 10-speaker Bose Audio System, cruise control, OnStar for six months, a rearview camera, remote vehicle starter, second row captain chairs that make you feel like you’re in an Escalade, a power liftgate, rear parking assist and much, much more.
When I opened the door and entered the vehicle it was nothing short of remarkable. In fact, much of Buick’s investment with the Enclave was in the interior. Supple leathers, heated and cooled premium leather seats, ambient lighting, extensive sound deadening, tech gadgetry throughout, and impressive finishes give the impression that you are in a stately British vehicle. However, this one is all domestic! My only gripe was the sliding middle arm rest that sounded cheap, the USB placement over the dash which left my iPhone cord dangling in front of the instrumentation and the 7” touchscreen is too small. Otherwise, the cabin is intriguing.
On the move, the Enclave remains firm and confident. Kentucky’s roads were certainly perfect for the task at hand and gave an ideal feeling of what it is like to own a Buick Enclave. Even on winding roads steering input from the thick wood/leather steering wheel was precise in comparison to GM SUV’s of old, which took a half second to turn after you directed the wheel. The 3.6-liter V6 offers 288-horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque which allows for decent acceleration, good fuel economy and enough power for towing.
All in all, the new Enclave is stylish, loaded, and very safe. You wouldn’t look for it to satisfy your need for all-out performance or top-end luxury, yet it represents a solid, all-around good buy.