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||2013 Buick Enclave|
|Engine||3.6 L direct-injection V6|
|Drivetrain||Active intelligent AWD|
|Notable features||Rear-view cameraUltrasonic rear park assistRemote startOnStarSide Blind Zone Alert w/rear cross traffic alert|
|Fuel economy||16 city, 22 highway, 18 combined MPG|