2020 Buick Enclave Essence AWD

The Enclave’s understated styling is appreciated by those who prefer a lower profile.
The Enclave’s understated styling is appreciated by those who prefer a lower profile.

by Ben So | November 17, 2020


Despite the popularity of premium three-row crossovers, buyers who find themselves constantly needing to haul seven people are still left without many options if they want all their occupants to enjoy a comfortable ride. Many would find full-size body-on-frame SUVs too bulky for their daily commute, and if minivans are not their thing, they would typically have to make compromise on the third-row legroom in order to find a vehicle that suits their needs, like this 2020 Buick Enclave Essence AWD.

Enter the Enclave, the Buick brand’s flagship seven-passenger crossover that GM boasts as having more standard third-row legroom than the Acura MDX (reviewed here), Audi Q7, and the Infiniti QX60 (reviewed here). Having debuted in 2018, the second-generation Enclave enters its third model year with minor changes including a new Sport Touring (ST) package, and we borrowed one such model for a weeklong evaluation.

The 2020 Buick Enclave Essence AWD we have on hand is painted in a classy Frost White colour that blends itself into every grocery store parking lot. Its curvy, elegant styling has some sportiness added; a unique front grille and 20-inch wheels come with the optional ST package. Compare to many edgy designs in its segment, the Enclave’s understated styling is appreciated by those who prefer their luxury crossover to be low profile.

A 3.6-litre V6 engine powers all 2020 Buick Enclaves. Horsepower is rated at 310 at 6,800 RPM, and peak torque is measured at 266 lb-ft. at 2,800 RPM. The Enclave’s V6 engine and its nine-speed transmission focuses on smooth power delivery above all else, offering drivers linear engine response that many have come to expect with naturally aspirated six-cylinder engines. When hustled, the Buick Enclave’s response time is a split second behind many of its competitors. The good news is that its engine is fast enough to allow the Enclave to catch up to most traffic conditions.

Thanks to a responsive chassis tuning, the Buick Enclave is a joyous car to drive around town. Understeer is kept in check in most urban situations, and with light and effortless steering, the Enclave handles a size or two smaller than its actual weight would suggest. While standard Enclaves are front-wheel drive, our tester is equipped with optional all-wheel drive system, adding a level of confidence to those living in snowy climates.

The Buick Enclave AWD has a rated 13.6L/100 km fuel consumption in the city, and a 9.6L/100 km rating for the highway, a 0.6L/100 km and 0.5L/100 km premium over the FWD respectively. Our test week consisted of mainly city drives, and we observed a thirsty 13L/100km. While the Enclave has a big appetite for fuel, it is no worse than what we observed in the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, though those two were tested in winter and this review was done mid-Summer. Good news is that the Buick Enclave accepts regular fuel into its 82-litre tank.

Interior space is where the Buick Enclave excels. There is an abundance of head and legroom throughout the cabin, and getting in and out of the third row is relatively easy thanks to the SmartSlide feature. From the passenger side, the second-row seats can pitch and slide forward with a pull of the lever, opening up a wide enough opening for adults to enter and exit. Best part is the SmartSlide is functional even with a child seat installed in the second row, a big bonus for young families. The Enclave is also very accommodative for everything else a family has to throw at it, with 668 litres of cargo space behind the third row, opening up to 1,642 litres with the rearmost bench folded down.

Look around inside, the design maintains the same understated approach as the exterior, and we suspect it might be too basic to catch the attention of the luxury crossover buyers. Fit and finish is good, but the large plasticky buttons and panels are not reflective of the luxury image that Buick wants to portray. The Enclave does a fine job ergonomically as most features are well within reach, and there is good amount of storage space in the cabin including an oversized bin located below the shifter. A big advantage of the Enclave is the airiness inside, created by its large windows, which can be further enhanced by opting for the available powered front moonroof and rear skylight.

An eight-inch touchscreen on the center console houses Buick’s infotainment system, a familiar unit to anyone who is used to a recent General Motors vehicle. Its interface is easy to use, with clearly labeled commands and shortcut keys along the bottom of the screen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is supported, and those who want to keep their passengers entertained can opt for the optional rear seat infotainment system that adds two eight-inch screens on the front passenger headrests.

Standard driver assist features include lane change alert with blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert system and rear park assist. We would like to see the full suite included in future Enclave models to match up with its peers, including Forward Collision Alert and Front Pedestrian Braking systems that are currently standard on the Premium and Avenir trims, as well as Adaptive Cruise Control system that is an option only to the top-trim Avenir models.

Pricing of the 2020 Buick Enclave Essence AWD starts at $51,198, and our tester was equipped with the new-for-2020 Sport Touring package for $1,495, an expensive white paint job that cost $1,195, as well as engine block heater and wheel locks that brings the as-tested total to $54,078. While Buick has its sight set on the Acura MDX and the Infiniti QX60, the base Essence trim is not comparable and it would be more aligned with the Honda Pilot and the Nissan Pathfinder.

When compared to many mainstream three-row crossovers, the 2020 Buick Enclave Essence AWD wins on the large interior space and an overall cushier ride. However, the lack of many standard drivers assists features found on its peers is glaring and buyers should pay attention to the features list before making a selection.

See Also:

First Drive: 2020 Ford Explorer

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2020 Honda Pilot Black Edition

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Ben So


Ben has been living and breathing car magazines, spec sheets, and touring auto shows for his entire life. As proud member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, he keeps a close eye on the latest-and-greatest in the auto industry. When he isn't geeking out about the coolest new cars, he's probably heading to the next hidden-gem ice cream shop with his three quickly growing kids.

Current Toys: '97 Integra Type R, '07 LS 460 RWD, '08 Corvette Z06, '13 JX35 Tech