Sometimes you have to split the difference. Compromise. Find some common ground. That’s where my tester for the week comes in.
Even within the General Motors family, the 2016 Buick Enclave has to find its own place. The Enclave slides comfortably between the Chevy Traverse and the GMC Acadia. Within the highly competitive full-size SUV market, the Enclave must fight for that common ground.
For 2016, little is changed for the Enclave, although as is the case with many other GM vehicles, there is now 4G LTE connectivity and mobile WIFI hotspot. This kind of technology is great for families who have multiple devices. Talk about a relief for road trips.
On looks, the Enclave has distinctive looks – at least on the front end. It’s better looking than the bland Traverse and more elegant-looking than the aggressive-looking Acadia. The waterfall grille dominates the front end. LED running lights flank the big, elegant grille. Combined, the Enclave looks as good as any luxury-brand SUV on the road. On profile, the Enclave loses some of its distinction and looks. A carved out bump near the bottom of the door panels does not seem to flow well with the rest of the Enclave. The back end also loses the luxurious look and seems to be closer to the blander Traverse. In future redesigns, Buick could really make the Enclave distinctive, luxurious and special with just some minor tweaks.
Powertrain / Performance
A 3.6-liter V6 engine carries over to this model year. It makes 288 horsepower. This is average power within the segment. The Enclave does not feel underpowered, but it also doesn’t induce much excitement to drive either. A six-speed automatic transmission adds nothing to the overall driving experience. The Enclave is a big vehicle and it drives as such. It seems like it would benefit from a few more horsepower of production, although never once does the engine struggle to do what is asked of it. Even the average transmission holds its own in all driving conditions.
The Enclave has a 118.9” wheelbase and is 201.9” long. It’s a big SUV and it drives like that. It is not spry, and at times maneuvering the Enclave is a challenge. With a poor turning radius, getting in and out of tight spots can make it a challenge to park. There are certainly more agile seven-passenger SUVs on the market today.
However, where the Enclave differentiates itself is with its whisper-quiet cabin. Neither road noise nor engine noise penetrates the cabin. All passengers can enjoy the mobile WIFI or conversation (a novel concept) in peace as the Enclave is incredibly quiet and reserved. Road bumps are barely felt and riding in the Buick is as comfortable and smooth as you’re going to find in this or any segment.
Inside, the Enclave offers the type of luxury that makes Buick popular with a specific buyer. It has an appealing, high-quality interior. It is not at the level of the European luxury brands, but can compete with both Acura and Lexus SUVs when it comes to interior quality.
The plush dashboard not only feels nice, but undoubtedly contributes to the noise reduction. Leather-clad seats are both heated and cooled in the front row. The cabin-style seating in the second row allows for excellent shoulder and legroom. The smart-slide feature allows for variable seating arrangements for adults of different shapes and sizes. That same smart-slide feature makes accessing the third row very easy. And even that full third-row bench has more legroom than most competitors on the road. Some adults will be able to sit back there and teenagers and kids will be good for those longer road trips.
It’s that kind of comfort and versatility that makes the Enclave an option for some consumers. With a maximum cargo room of 115.2 cubic feet and 23.3 cubic feet behind the third row seat, it’s a big SUV with ample space for passengers or cargo.
While the WIFI technology is nice, and certainly not a gimmick, there’s little other technology in the Enclave that is of note. A 6.5-inch touchscreen display powers the infotainment system. While I found the IntelLink system to be easy to use, it doesn’t offer any extraordinary technology or anything of real note. The sound system is adequate. With such a quiet cabin, the speakers don’t have to be booming, and they certainly do their job.
The Enclave is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. As I’ve noted numerous times in the past, for a vehicle of this size and weight, it’s best to go with the AWD Enclave. The drop in fuel economy is nominal. FWD Enclaves have an EPA rating of 17 mpg/city and 24 mpg/hwy. My AWD tester had a rating of 16 mpg/city and 22 mpg/hwy. In a week’s worth of mixed driving, I averaged 18.6 mpg. This is on par with other non-hybrid competitors.
Three trims are offered including Convenience, Leather and Premium. My tester was the top-of-the-line Premium trim. It has a base price of $49,515. With extra options like moon roof and rear entertainment system, my tester had a final price of $53,630. Price point is one of the biggest issues of the Enclave. There is merit to why it is priced so high, but that puts it at the same level as many of the true luxury brands on the market.
2016 Buick Enclave AWD Premium
Price/As tested price…………………….. $49,515/$53,630
Mileage…………………………………. 16 mpg/city; 22 mpg/hwy
Engine……………………………………. 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower…………………………. 288 hp/270 lbs./ft.
Drive Wheels……………………….. All-wheel drive
Final Assembly Point……………. Lansing, Michigan