A week with one of my favourite crossover SUVsBuick isn’t a brand for your grandparents anymore. Over the last generation of vehicles, Buick has made a solid effort to reinvent the brand and reinvigorate its fan base.
We North Americans seem to love our SUVs. They can be impractical, uneconomical, and expensive; but our love never wavers. General Motors knows about this love much too well and in fact builds three separate SUVs off of the same platform; those being the GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse, and the Buick Enclave. On paper, the Buick has the highest starting sticker price of $41,525; but once all three are taken to their highest trim levels with all the tech goodies, the price differences are immaterial. Based on this, customers who want the top of the line vehicles will base their differentiating decisions off of intangibles such as brand loyalty and “image.” If I had to own all three based on each brands image, I would buy the Acadia for myself, the Traverse for the (hypothetical) wife and the 2013 Buick Enclave for the both of us right around retirement.
But Buick isn’t a brand for your grandparents anymore. Over the last generation of vehicles, Buick has made a solid effort to reinvent the brand and reinvigorate its fan base. That is assuming, of course, that its fan base is still around to be invigorated, if you know what I mean. I happen to believe that Buick has done a fantastic job at attracting younger buyers with much more appealing vehicles. Just look at Buick’s surprising success in China as an example. If you were to show Buick’s current lineup to the average Buick customer from ten years ago, they would probably have a heart attack. This week I found out if Buick can continue this success story by testing the “refreshed” 2013 Enclave.
The exterior looks of the Enclave try to blend the classic with the modern, and while I don’t think it is a particularly handsome vehicle, it is most definitely presentable. It has the traditional Buick styling cues; waterfall grille, portholes on the hood as well as some new touches such LED day-time running lamps along with new front and rear bumpers with the new refresh.
The interior however is this vehicles most impressive feature. For starters, it is cavernous and is available in both 7- and 8-seat configurations. Unlike many other 7-seat vehicles, you will actually be able to seat 7 adults in relative comfort, all while having enough space in the trunk to take their luggage for a short trip. With seats as comfortable as these, you won’t mind taking much longer road trips either. The interior also has some quality luxury touches such as genuine stitching on the leather dashboard and LED ambient lighting which looks spectacular in the dark. There is also an industry-first in safety; the Enclave comes equipped with a front centre airbag which deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat. According to GM, the airbag will protect the driver during side impacts as well as prevent occupants from bouncing off one another if there is more than one person in the car.
The Enclave comes with all the luxury features you would expect; heated and cooled seats, navigation, Bose sound system, blind zone alert, remote starter, and the list goes on. There is however a glaring oversight that I found very annoying, and that is the use of the ancient dot-matrix display that GM uses in the middle of the gauge cluster for nearly all of its vehicles. Lastly, for what it’s worth, if you share Wiz Khalifa’s belief that all you cars should start with a push of a button, you will be sorely disappointed.
The Enclave is available in a single engine and transmission combination. A 3.6L V6 mated to 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine churns out 288hp and 270 lb-ft. of torque; plenty for everyday driving and brisk passing on the highway. The 6-speed transmission is refined and smooth but can be slow when power is needed urgently and is simply out-dated. Overall ride quality is great as the vehicle is both comfortable and compliant. But don’t be fooled, no matter what GM representatives tell you, this isn’t a cheaper Audi Q7 or Mercedes-Benz GL, those vehicles are in a different class altogether. The only clear shortcoming in the performance category is braking; not only do the brakes lack feel but they require inordinate amounts of pressure to bring the vehicle to a full stop. Finally, when it comes to fuel consumption, I was able to average 12.5L/100km on the combined cycle while Buick claims 11L/100km.
As an overall package, Buick has done a fairly decent job with the Enclave. While I wouldn’t go run to a dealership and purchase it right now, I believe if you are in the market for a large family hauler, it would definitely warrant your attention. I would recommend looking at the Acadia and Traverse as well to make sure which of the trio suits your needs best.
GM has a very interesting strategy that I find baffling. To my knowledge, they are the only auto manufacturer that has two luxury brands (Cadillac and Buick) and yet both lack a proper identity. Cadillac is at the higher end of the spectrum, but even then some platforms are shared. For example, the Cadillac XTS shares its platform with the Buick LaCrosse which in turn is built in the same facility as the Chevrolet Malibu. Shockingly, every single car in Buick’s lineup is just a variant of another vehicle that already exists in the GM portfolio. Due to this lack of individuality, I don’t consider Buick’s long term strategy to be very well designed.
What I personally believe Buick needs to really solidify its role in the industry is a car that is the best in its segment and is truly unique to Buick. You can think of it as a “Buick ATS.” My personal challenge would be to attack Lexus head on and usurp the dominance of the ES. No easy task, but if GM can create a better sports sedan than BMW, I fully believe they are capable of making a better luxury sedan than Lexus. This would also solve the identity crisis I mentioned earlier, Cadillac could be the slightly sportier brand while Buick would be able to focus on the comfort end of the spectrum. “Challenge Accepted!” is what Barney Stinson would say; I hope the executives at GM share his bravado.
2013 Buick Enclave Gallery