Buick Enclave car reviews

Review Notes: Buick Enclave CXL

buick enclave car reviews

Personality Good old-fashioned Buick
Why we’d buy it Great sound insulation, nice gadgets, upscale looks
Why we wouldn’t Vague feel, poor gas mileage (albeit best in luxury-crossover class)
Gas mileage 16 city, 24 highway (EPA)
Written by David Zatz

The Buick Enclave is truly retro, and not just in the sense of having extra chrome on the hood. This is a big, nay, huge vehicle, with an interior appropriately garnished with wood, and all the luxury items GM could throw at it, albeit sometimes as options. On the road, the Enclave is far removed from any noise or vibration, at least if you keep the air conditioner turned down. The sound insulation is superb, the equal of any Lexus; the ride is smooth and cushiony. In no way does the Enclave even think of competing on BMW turf; this is what we used to think of as a Cadillac, or, for that matter, a Buick.

The 1940s theme continues past the odd (and we do mean odd) exterior embellishments; inside, a fairly large clock takes center stage above the center stack, surrounded by a thick layer of chrome and underneath a wooden arch. The shifter is accompanied by a 1940s-looking gear label, under a thick layer of plastic. The dashboard uses long tunnels to keep stray light from the oddly modern displays - with white letters and greenish-blue markings.

The front seats were not nearly as comfortable as they looked, but they were very adjustable, with electric bolsters; middle and rear seats had admirable legroom, but were not adjustable. Middle seats include integral armrests (unlike the front seats) of the type once favored by Chrysler in their minivans and PT Cruisers; and middle seat passengers in our test car got their own individual video displays, built into the back of the front seat headrests, complete with their own disk drives (two of them). Each person could choose to watch the movie of the other person or to play their own, with monitors on hinges for ideal picture quality and headphones that could pick up either of two channels. Each unit also had RCA jacks for external input (e.g. a gaming system) and a hard-wired headphone jack in case the headphone batteries died. Controls were right on the units, which was good since our test car didn't come with any remote controls (a bit awkward for some DVDs). What we could not do was play the audio over the car's speakers or control anything from up front, since the systems are apparently not connected to each other.

Rear climate and stereo control was also provided, on the back of the center console, for middle-row passengers; and there was also a fixed sunroof over the middle row, with a thick mesh sun-guard screen that could be electrically controlled by the driver (this, in addition to the standard opening sunroof for the front row, which also came with a thick mesh guard that opened more conventionally). Middle-row passengers had small pockets in the doors, cupholders (single-size) built into the doors and the bottom of the center console, and map pockets in the back of the front seats.

Rearmost passengers got their own cupholders, bins, and map lights, but no fancy electronics and no map pockets. Headroom was generous in any seating position. Rear seats folded flat for better cargo carrying; middle row seats folded down, but not flat, and they did not appear to be removeable, though they could be slid forward and backward. By default, the rear row had the headrests folded down for better rear visibility.

The interior of our test car was done up in a nice two-tone beige-and-brown theme, with the aforementioned large swaths of woodgrain and chrome breaking it up (with a large brushed-aluminum insert as well). The speedometer, for unknown reasons, went up to 140 mph; the tachometer to an unreasonable 8,000 rpm, without any denoted redline. The trip computer sat atop it all, providing average speed, gas mileage, or other key information (oil life remaining!) as desired; it was easily controlled from four separate buttons, which also let the driver set various locking and lighting preferences.

The optional navigation system had a snazzy 3-D effect, and provided pretty much what they all provide, with a better than usual interface. As always with these systems, simple radio operations became nastier than with plain old radios, providing more of a distraction than needed.

Other driver controls included on-the-wheel cruise control, a system that was easier to control than some other GM systems; and the climate control, which was simple enough despite having dual zone thermostats. The fan became fairly noisy at anything above the minimum setting, a surprise given the attention to sound insulation in the Enclave, not to mention the size of the vents.

The center stack also had buttons for the seat heaters and power rear door, which doesn't sound an exterior alarm before raising itself. The rear door can be controlled from the key fob, the front switch, or a button in back; it can't be opened manually, but is activated by a switch above the license plate frame.

The center console was nicely done, starting with a little bin, moving on with two chrome-ringed cupholders (with little adapters for smaller cups), and finishing with a covered compartment before going up to the huge center console/armrest. The first covered compartment opened to a small bin with a coinholder; underneath that was a huge storage space with an extra power outlet. A huge glove compartment, a little front-passenger-area bin, and a small storage area above the center stack rounded out the "places to put stuff."

The cargo bay was nicely designed, with a special bin for groceries and such — whose lid stays open. It's at a good height for loading, and kids will like clambering in through the rear gate to get to the back seats (which can be folded down either from the cabin or from the cargo area.

Driving the Enclave was not nearly as satisfying as being a passenger. It's a large, moderately ungainly vehicle, fairly tame and feeling rather disconnected from the road, with vague steering and far-away responses; on the other hand, it took well to hard turns, with much better cornering than one would expect. The front suspension uses variable-effort power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering with MacPherson struts and a direct-acting stabilizer bar; the tops of the struts are mounted to the chassis through isolated strut mounts, with ball bearings that reduce steering friction. The inboard pivot points of the lower control arms are mounted to a rigid engine cradle, which is fully isolated from the chassis to reduce transmission of road noise. The front lower control arms use two bushings that are positioned geometrically to allow the arms to be laterally stiff for handling, and softer fore and aft for a smoother ride. One bushing is fluid-filled and damped for even better ride impact performance. The steering knuckles are made of aluminum to provide a lower unsprung weight, which helps wheel control on rough driving surfaces. Enclave also features standard power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, with variable-effort steering available.

The rear suspension is a linked “H” arm design that precisely positions the rear wheels through their travel and while cornering. It is also compact, which enable a low load floor – a feature that helps the Enclave offer generous passenger and cargo space.

The rear-video parking system was helpful (the radar parking would have been handy, but our car didn't come with that) given how far away the rear bumper was from the front seat; the Enclave is quite large, comparable in size to a full-sized SUV or minivan, and it feels as big as it is. The passenger got to sit in living-room comfort; the driver drove through a thick wad of velvet. Overall, it's a comfortable way to get from point A to point B, but some drivers may have a sense that they're missing something. Others may enjoy the old-fashioned feel of a big American luxury car.

The engine puts out a respectable 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque; once it digs its teeth into the six-speed automatic (which can be controlled manually with clever +/- buttons in the side of the shifter), it pushes the heavy Buick very quickly. The problem is that we frequently found ourselves waiting for a reaction from the drivetrain, as the Enclave seemed to need a delay before revving or downshifting. If everything goes your way, you can get from 0 to 60 in an amazing 8.2 seconds, not so long ago sporty-car territory and more than fast enough.

Gas mileage was fairly poor in our experience, though it'll easily outdo a body-on-frame SUV of similar size; it also beats the Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Lexus RX350, and Mercedes R-Class in sound insulation, and claims best in class gas mileage. A similarly sized minivan should be able to go further on the fuel, and if it isn't as quiet, it might still feel better.

The Enclave is still quite a good buy. Standard features on any model include Xenon HID headlights, curtain side airbags (with rollover capability), Stabilitrak with electronic rollover mitigation, four-wheel ABS disk brakes, power liftgate, satellite radio, mahogany wood trim, and OnStar with turn by turn navigation system. That's in addition to the power windows, locks, and heated mirrors. Our CXL model also came with seven passenger seating, with second row captain's chairs; eight-way driver's seat and four-way power passenger seat; compass; tri-zone climate control; leather seats and wheel; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; fog lamps; and dual exhaust with chrome tips. Attached to all that is a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a four year, 50,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty. The CXL starts at $36,985; the base model, which, again, has luxury features like HID headlights, starts at $32,790. All wheel drive adds about $2,000 either way.

Options include all wheel drive, rear-seat ten-speaker DVD system, navigation system with rear video, sunroof/skylight, bench or bucket seats for the two rear rows, remote starting with heated washer fluid, and 20inch chrome wheels. In our case, our test car had the entertainment package #3 (touch-screen navigation, rear seat audio controls, rear backup camera) at $3,025; 19 inch chromed aluminum wheels, at a stunning $1,495 (minus a $600 wheel credit); the power sunroof with second-row skylight at $1,300; and the luxury package (heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, steerable headlights, and 110 volt power) at $925 ... oh, yes, and nearly $400 for the special red paint. The total ran to $44,130, which is a lot, but not crazy for this type of vehicle — indeed, compared with some of its benchmark vehicles, that's downright reasonable. Front and side crash ratings are five stars; rollover is four stars. 77% of the Enclave comes from the U.S. and Canada, and it's built in Lansing (with an American engine and transmission), so your Buick dollars come right back to the United States.

Overall, if you're looking for a huge, quiet luxury vehicle to haul kids around in, you could do a lot worse for the money than the Buick Enclave. It's definitely worth a look if you were about to climb into a Lexus or Mercedes crossover — and with that warranty, you can drive in some confidence, too.