“It seems that nearly every SUV on the market is trying to be something they’re not. Sports cars, off-roaders, hot-rods, etc. What If I told you there’s one SUV that remains true to its brand and character, without trying to be something it’s not.”
Stop for a second and take a look at most new SUVs on the road today? Have you noticed how most of them share the same sharp, dramatic and somewhat futuristic looks? No, I’m not complaining, as I’ll be the first one to say I’m a big fan of the bold and modern design palette, but I’m also a fan of—uniqueness.
It’s a bit of a habit for me to hand-wash the cars we test, as I not only do it for the sake of pretty photography, but because I believe I get to know the car a bit better by getting my hands on it. I enjoy the curves, lines, and little details that a designer or engineer may have spent many sleepless nights designing. Who knows, maybe I’m just crazy…
That leads me to my main and perhaps only point about the 2016 Buick Enclave—it’s unique. Sure, in a few ways it may look or feel outdated at first-glance, but once you spend serious time behind the wheel, you realize that it’s really not missing a whole lot compared to the newer and flashier competition. When it comes to features it could use an extra thing or two, but at least the Enclave has chosen to remain conservative, graceful and quite charming in its own right.
Still not sure what I’m talking about? Think of this, would you rather stay at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas where every piece of furniture is made out of metal, glass and is cold to the touch. Or would you rather stay at the Venetian, where every fixture is made out of rich, warm-toned woods? There is no right or wrong answer, but if you’re a Venetian type of guy or gal, then the Buick Enclave is for you.
The Driving Experience
Our Premium trim test-model included all the luxury features like cooled and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, rear-entertainment system, Bose Premium sound, and by far the most flattering optional feature on this Buick; the $995 White Frost Tricoat paint color. And no, I’m not kidding; that color really gives the Enclave a very rich and opulent look.
On the open road the Enclave is what you’d expect it to be, smooth, quiet, and although it can feel a bit heavy at times, it’s all part of the hunkered-down feel one can expect from a vehicle of this size. On narrow and busy streets the Enclave is easy to maneuver, and the 6-cylinder engine manages to carry-on with ease and poise, but my favorite part of driving the Enclave is the steering. I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t a light and agile machine, so why would you like how it handles?
At most speeds the steering feels overly soft, but when the Buick is pushed a bit harder, there is a bit of liveliness to be felt through the wheel. For example: I drove onto a loop-style highway ramp, and I purposely stayed off the brakes as long and as much as possible just to see how the Enclave reacted. Sure, the kids may have not have appreciated such move, but I really enjoyed how the soft and bouncy Enclave gently leaned to the side while the steering wheel remained firm and communicative. I figured it would’ve short-circuited, like “What the heck are you doing, I’m a Buick!”
Most of our time with the Enclave was spent with the heated seats, heated steering wheel and wipers turned on, and I can honestly say that I loved it. I would most certainly not mind driving this through the entire winter—especially with its all-wheel drive system.
Can It baby?
Yes. The Enclave features three rows of seating, and with gorgeous and comfortable second-row captain chairs, and a fully flat-folding third row, you can fit up to 7 people. If you’re concerned about baby space, we did attach our car seat to the passenger side captain chair, which is most likely what one-or-two kid families would do. If you require more, you can attach up-to one car seat per captain chair, and one more in the third row, for a total of 3 car-seats that require LATCH/Isofix anchors.
Regardless if they’re babies, or fully grown-men, everyone will love the rear-entertainment center, which features a DVD player flip-down screen, wireless headphones, and for the gamer in all of us—A/V and household power hook-ups to plug in whatever your heart desires.
Missi hates it when cars don’t have rear ac/heat vents, even if it’s a car as small as a Beetle, she just really wants the kids to have solid ac or heat if they need it. Who can blame her? Well, the Enclave is in to please with a fully separate climate-zone which covers the second and third row, as well as many overhead and side vents for the kids to either sweat or freeze on-demand.
When it comes to cargo, the Buick Enclave features 115.2 ft³ of cargo volume (with third-row folded down), and it can accommodate just about anything daily life may throw at you. If you can’t fit it here, then you probably need a U-Haul… Or for the sake of keeping it in the GM family, a Chevy Suburban!
All in all the Buick Enclave may not be what everybody wants or needs, but as a Dad, Husband and guy that likes cars in general, I believe there is a lot to appreciate about the Enclave’s old-school charm. Seriously, it has just about anything I would ever need on any given day—and more! Plus it scored a 5-star rating on frontal and side crash tests, and 4-star on rollover, so on top of everything—it’s pretty darn safe. (Source: NHTSA)
What would I change? Given our 14mpg city and 20mpg highway average, I’d like to see a more fuel-efficient turbo engine, adaptive cruise control, as well as push-button start. Oh, and the cool all-digital gauge cluster from the Regal GS. Not because it needs it, but because it’s pretty cool.
Fun Fact: I called OnStar three times during our test. Once to ask for the 4G LTE HotSpot password so Missi could work on her laptop while on the road, and twice to have turn-by-turn directions loaded into the GPS without having to move a finger. Totally loved it!
- Super-comfy seats.
- Perfect rear amenities for short and long trips.
- Class-leading safety.
- Ride height makes it easy for older kids to climb in, as well as for parents to load smaller ones into car seats.
The Not So Great:
- Poor fuel economy.
- Touchscreen responsiveness is hit-or-miss.
- Lack of more modern features like adaptive cruise control and push-button start.
- Starts at: $45,660
- Price as tested: $54,230