Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Buick Enclave

Buick is fighting an uphill battle against the perception of its brand in the U.S. Things are going great for the company in China; it's seen as a premium automaker. In fact, we've seen more Buicks than Toyotas or Hondas during our travels there. Despite a fresh line-up and the average buyer age dropping to 57 last year (from 66 in 2006), Buick is still as your father's or grandfather's car. That doesn't exactly inspire the younger demographic.

The Enclave sent over for Mudfest doesn't help this orientation at all, unfortunately. As one of four members of GM’s Lamdba crossover family, the Enclave is positioned toward buyers who want understated luxury. Buick gives the Enclave new headlights and a couple of other visual tweaks to keep it fresh for another couple of years. And we find nothing wrong with the overall styling. It's quite handsome, sporting smooth lines. But the overuse of chrome is too ostentatious for us. Perhaps the older customers who grew up with chrome bumpers, tail fins, and hood ornaments still enjoy the trimming.

A 3.6-liter V6 with direct-injection (the same one shared with every other GM vehicle) powers the Enclave. Buick mates the corporate V6 to a six-speed automatic and sends power to all four wheels through an intelligent AWD system. It operates full-time, but power is normally split 90:10. Up to 35 percent of engine torque can be sent to the rear wheels when slippage is detected.

We drove the Enclave on the autocross and public roads and found its ride to be floaty. It’s very comfortable, but not confidence-inspiring if you drive aggressively. The steering felt numb and the car seemed disconnected from the road. Again, that's not our cup of tea, though we're sure it suits an older demographic just fine. On the second day of Mudfest, when the dirt course opened up, the Enclave had a mishap that put it out of commission. The GM rep later informed us the car blew a fuse due to some wire chaffing.

Jumping into the Enclave's pilot seat, we were bewildered by Buick’s choice of a standard turnkey ignition and a separate key fob. This might be forgiven in an economy or mid-size car, but the Enclave sells for $52,000. Push-button start should be standard. Turning your attention to the infotainment system doesn't make anything better. The Enclave utilizes Buick’s IntelliLink system, sporting a clean user interface that's easily accessible, but severely hindered by a low-resolution display. It’s not as bad as the Nissan Pathfinder’s seven-inch screen, but Buick comes pretty close. We're not sure why the company would deploy such a terrible solution when some of the other GM vehicles we've tested (Chevy's Malibu and Cadillac's XTS, for example) enjoy higher-end displays.

On the bright side, our HTC Droid DNA paired up with the system, and the phone options were easy to get to. The Lightning connector-equipped iPad worked as well. We did find the USB port placement to be odd, though. Buick puts them in the upper storage compartment at the top of the dashboard, which took us a minute to figure out. Port placement under the radio or in the arm rest would have been preferred.

The Enclave also includes a blind-spot monitoring system that flashes a light in the side mirrors when a vehicle or obstacle is detected. Buick dubs its implementation Side Blind Zone Alert.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle
2013 Buick Enclave
Trim level
Premium
Engine
3.6 L direct-injection V6
Transmission
Six-speed automatic
Drivetrain
Active intelligent AWD
Infotainment
Buick IntelliLink
Notable features
Rear-view camera
Ultrasonic rear park assist
Remote start
OnStar
Side Blind Zone Alert w/rear cross traffic alert
Fuel economy
16 city, 22 highway, 18 combined MPG
MSRP
$52,090
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38 comments
    Your comment
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    4
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    3
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    0
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    8
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    1
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    -1
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.


    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    Anonymous said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.


    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    Anonymous said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.


    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    0
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    1
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.


    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.
    0
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    3
  • internetlad
    Tom's Carware
    0
  • brenro12
    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions .

    My Wrangler has a 6 speed manual and AEV can only do engine swaps on 2011 and older Jeeps. Not that there were many takers. 20 grand, an extra 500 lbs. in an already porky vehicle, and a peaky engine that doesn't really have the grunt an off roader needs. Even on road a 392 hemi Wrangler is less than a second quicker to 60 than a stock Pentastar due to aerodynamics and that heavy duty drive train. Waste of money.
    0
  • slomo4sho
    Since when do people come to Tom's to formulate a decision on which vehicle to purchase?
    2
  • JPNpower
    Anonymous said:
    Since when do people come to Tom's to formulate a decision on which vehicle to purchase?


    CPU=Engine
    Cores=cylinders
    Hyperthreading=DOHC
    OC=Turbo
    SLI/CF=4WD/AWD
    Motherboard tech=Gearbox tech

    see it's more related than you think.
    2
  • troyellisonjr
    Very strange that no Toyotas were in this...
    0
  • slomo4sho
    Anonymous said:

    CPU=Engine
    Cores=cylinders
    Hyperthreading=DOHC
    OC=Turbo
    SLI/CF=4WD/AWD
    Motherboard tech=Gearbox tech

    see it's more related than you think.


    I'll stick to Car & Driver :)
    1
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    Very strange that no Toyotas were in this...


    I was told they changed PR agencies to one that has never done a car company before and don't quite understand what they should do with the auto press.
    0
  • trumpeter1994
    Need a Land Cruiser in the mix.
    2
  • brentsv
    Great article, and very timely considering I just wrapped up 4 months of research on SUVs before purchasing a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit. I test drove about everything out there (Land Rover, Audi, BMW, etc.) and the new Jeep GC just did everything that I wanted from an SUV, and for thousands $$ less then it's competitors. People who down-play the Grand Cherokee should stop comparing the versions earlier to 2011. Remember that Mercedes owned Chrysler/Jeep at that time and put a lot of engineering into the new GC. The Jeep GC even shares the same platform and air-suspension as the Mercedes ML350. The Summit trim level that I bought has the upgraded leather seating, nicer head-liner, and an 825 W Harmon Kardon stereo system that was mentioned as lacking in the article. (BTW, I think the Harmon Kardon system is the same one they offer as an upgrade on the Mercedes M and G class SUVs). I actually think the UConnect is fantastic, and think it is easier to use than most of the systems out there. Besides handling all the entertainment duties, it really cleans up and simplifies managing a lot of the other features in the car (e.g. heated and vented seats, etc). When I test drove a Porsche Cayenne I was just over-whelmed by all the buttons in the car. Just too much to manage and too much to clean!! What initially attracted me to the GC was the new diesel engine option. But after tons of analysis on my part, I actually decided to go with the V6. Matted to the new 8-speed transmission the V6 really has plenty of power for most drivers (and is also several hundred pounds lighter than V8 and diesel). I've achieved 25 mpg on some trips with the V6, which makes the $5k premium for the diesel (and it's 28 mpg) just not worth it. The only reason I'd recommend getting the V8 is if you need the 1 second faster 0-60 and top-end speed (sorry, if I need a sports car I'll buy one) or if you need the towing capacity of the diesel. Since I also drive a 2007 Corvette and previously owned an Infiniti FX (also a great handling SUV), I can tell you the V6 gives you ample power for this vehicle. The biggest drawback of the V6 is that it does not come with the rear electronic limited slip, nor does it have the hill-ascent feature (both these features are limited to V8 and diesel). This car has tons of tech in it for the $$. My only complaint would be that Uconnect is limited to 3G, so downloading aps or using it as a wifi hot-spot will be slow compared to 4G/LTE. It also has integration limitations with iPhones compared to Android. I'm hoping Apple's announcement of better integration with vehicles will be backwards compatible with my 2014 GC. In closing, don't dig on the Grand Cherokees until you have gone out and test drove one of the new 2014s!!

    Note to Author: Why in the h?!? was the GC Overland not rated for the hard off-road course? With the terrain select, 2-speed gear box and air suspension, it will go everywhere the Range Rover will go. I've done the "Land Rover Experience" at Quail Lodge in a new 2013 Range Rover, and I honestly feel like my GC can go anywhere that car can go, and for half the price!!!

    Comment to those missing the Toyota 4Runner: Have you stepped into one of those lately? That SUV feels incredibly dated! Toyota is long overdue for a complete refresh of that car...
    0
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:

    Note to Author: Why in the h?!? was the GC Overland not rated for the hard off-road course? With the terrain select, 2-speed gear box and air suspension, it will go everywhere the Range Rover will go. I've done the "Land Rover Experience" at Quail Lodge in a new 2013 Range Rover, and I honestly feel like my GC can go anywhere that car can go, and for half the price!!!


    Because Jeep already had enough firepower to embarass the uber expensive ones with the Wrangler :).

    Its ok though, I took the Jeep for a week and had some fun with it. Impressive car. Here's a preview of what we did with it.

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8544/8712408313_ca9eda6313_c.jpg
    P1040212 by tuanies, on Flickr

    That's my buddy's lifted WK with beefy off-road tires. I made it just as far up the remnant snow that he was comfortable going up (it was mostly packed snow and ice). This is with a bone stock 2014 GC with stock tires. I am in love with the air suspension.
    0