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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
Vehicle2013 Buick Enclave
Trim levelPremium
Engine3.6 L direct-injection V6
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
DrivetrainActive intelligent AWD
InfotainmentBuick IntelliLink
Notable featuresRear-view cameraUltrasonic rear park assistRemote startOnStarSide Blind Zone Alert w/rear cross traffic alert
Fuel economy16 city, 22 highway, 18 combined MPG
MSRP$52,090
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 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.

    10969315 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.

    10969432 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 :(.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 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.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply