For the longest time there has always been mainstream SUVs and luxury SUVs. Now it seems that there is a new category in between the two; premium SUVs. The 2020 Buick Enclave seems to fit that mid $40k to low $70k category perfectly. But can it compete against the likes of the Acura MDX or Infiniti QX60?
Engine – Like many of the Buick’s competitors, the Enclave is powered by a naturally aspirated V6 engine. It displaces 3.6L and can produce 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpms. Because it is an “old school” type of engine, it responds instantly to driver inputs without any hesitation. Better yet, it is a quick SUV for its size. The Buick Enclave doesn’t feel as though it is struggling to merge onto a highway or go up a steep hill with some speed. Furthermore, if you opt for the Trailering Package, the Enclave can tow up to 5,000 lbs.
Fuel economy figures are just Ok. Not great but not the worst. Starting with the good news, it does not require premium fuel and it can achieve up to 9.6 L/100km (24.5 mpg) on a highway. The bad news is that in a city, it can only achieve 13.6 L/100km (17.3 mpg).
Transmission – The V6 engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic that sends the power to the front wheels or all four wheels if you opt for the AWD option. This is one of the smoothest transmissions on the market right now. Unless you look at the tachometer and watch the rev needle drop, you can’t tell that this transmission is shifting gears. This makes the Buick Enclave a comfortable daily commuter where shifting gears happens a lot from stop light to stop light.
Braking – Stopping the big SUV is an easy task despite the brake discs looking as though they’re undersized for the vehicle. The brakes pedal is easy to modulate for smooth stops. However, automatic emergency braking is not available unless you move up to the Premium trim – just below the top Avenir trim. It is not available as an option either on the lower trim levels.
Handling – For such a large SUV, the Buick Enclave feels composed around corners and handles its heft quite well. It’s by no means a sporty SUV like the Mazda CX-9 but it doesn’t feel numb when it goes around a corner. Body roll is relatively well composed and the steering is on the light side which makes it very easy to maneuver at slow speeds around a tight parking lot.
Ride Comfort – The Buick Enclave shines in providing its occupants a smooth and comfortable ride. Despite this particular demo Enclave being equipped with 20” wheels, the tire sidewalls are quite massive which aids in further absorbing bumps and shocks that would otherwise have been transmitted into the cabin. But of course it’s the suspension that does the most in providing a smooth ride. The Enclave glides over bumps in the road, giving the occupants a stellar ride whether it’s on poorly maintained city streets or on long, boring highways.
Interior Space – A lot of thought has gone into the design and use of the available interior space. Getting in and out of the front, 2nd row and 3rd row is easy. The 2nd row captain’s chairs tilt and slide forward at the pull of a handle and while the 3rd row is tight for 3 adults, they can fit unlike some other 3-row SUVs of this size. Higher trim models of the Enclave have power folding 3rd row seats.
With all seats up, the Buick Enclave has 668 L (23.6 cu-ft) of cargo space. Fold the 3rd row & 2nd row and that grows to 1,642 L (58 cu-ft) & 2,764 L (97.6 cu-ft) respectively. Compared to other premium 3-row SUVs, the Enclave provides the most cargo volume.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The cabin of the Buick Enclave is well insulated from outside noises. Not only does the Enclave have a lot of noise insulation but it also comes equipped, as standard, with active noise cancellation which uses the audio system to counteract any engine or tire noises that may intrude into the cabin. Automatic engine start/stop is also standard and is very smooth at both shutting down and starting up the engine again at stop lights. The system can be turned off if the driver wishes to.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The base Essence trim of the Enclave is equipped with heated seats, leather upholstery, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, blind spot sensors, 4G LTE with WiFi (works great btw), automatic climate control, remote start, and that’s about it. To be honest, not a whole lot of safety or convenience features from an SUV that starts at $48,198 CAD ($41,195 USD) with the front-wheel-drive drivetrain. If you want all the bells and whistles like wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, massaging seats, and so on, be prepared to pay almost $65,000 CAD ($58, 195 USD) before fees & taxes. That price is on par with the Acura MDX Elite but it is almost $3,000 more than the top spec Infiniti QX60.
Interior Design – As mentioned earlier, the engineers did a good job of utilizing every part of the cabin for usable space. The center console storage is deep, there’s small item storage underneath the electronic shifter, there’s a spot to place your phone just in front of the cup holders, the glove box is massive, and there is enough space to put a drink bottle in each of the door panels in addition to other small items.
The materials used throughout the cabin are a bit of a hit or miss depending on where you look or touch. Above the average waistline, the materials used are generally leather or soft touch plastics. But the panels around your legs are generally hard plastics that you’d find on less expensive GM cars & SUVs.
Exterior Design – The Buick Enclave was updated in 2018 and has seen few design changes since then. This particular demo is equipped with the Sport Touring (ST) package which adds the 20” wheels, a unique black mesh grille, and black window trim surrounds. Overall the design does exude a premium look especially if it was painted black. Speaking of paint, I would not recommend this White Frost Tricoat paint as it doesn’t really shine as brightly as one would expect for being a tricoat paint. On top of that it will set you back $1,195 CAD.
In all the 2020 Buick Enclave is a comfortable and large 3-row SUV that will easily swallow up everything that you throw in it. It’s just disappointing that advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are not standard or even available as options on the lower trims. If you do want them, you have to move up to the Premium trim which starts at $56,498 CAD and is only available with AWD here in Canada. Thankfully you get a few more convenience features as well such as ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and 10-speaker Bose premium audio to name a few.
Thank you to Buick Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Buick.ca