The Enclave Experience: We Drive the 2013 Buick Enclave

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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The Buick Enclave shares a lot with the GMC Acadia Denali we tested not so long ago, but it gives a softer, more curvaceous first impression thanks in large part to this front treatment. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

What do you say about the 2013 Buick Enclave that in many ways closely resembles the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali we tested just a couple weeks ago? For one thing, it’s not quite as butch.

For those not in the know: Both the Enclave and the Acadia are based on the same GM family platform. Known as the Lambda Platform, it underpins not just the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, but also the Chevrolet Traverse and the now-deceased Saturn Outlook, and it is based upon the architecture GM used in building cars like the Chevrolet Malibu– A.K.A. the Epsilon Platform. All of the Lambda family are crossover SUVs based on front-wheel drive powertrains and featuring available all-wheel drive. Think of the Lambda triplets (quadruplets if you, like me, wish Saturn had never been given the boot) as the same kind of sausage prepared different ways.

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(Lyndon Johnson photo.)

The outward appearance of our Enclave was appreciably different from the GMC we had earlier. Where the Acadia Denali gave a somewhat muscular first impression, with its big, rectangular grille and dark alloy wheels, the Enclave is immediately the softer design. Depending on how you look at things, the Enclave’s curvy front end may make it more feminine, or it may make it more appealing– or perhaps both. Its brighter alloy wheels certainly gave the Enclave a premium, boulevard-cruising appearance from the side view despite its Michelin Harmony tires’ beefy profile.

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(Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Inside, the Enclave featured rich, cocoa leather seats and soft-touch leather almost everywhere you were likely to feel during routine operation of the vehicle, save for the floor, which was covered in carpet of the same color. The dashboard was a contrasting lighter brown hue, but did not seem out of place in natural lighting conditions. This was in stark contrast to the Acadia’s gray-dominated interior. The steering wheel and shifter were trimmed in wood, with the wheel feeling thinner than I remember the GMC’s similarly trimmed wheel feeling. In fact, it was the least-chunky wheel– especially one with wood trim– I’ve felt in a long, long time. Kind of refreshing in our time of ever-fattening cars with ever-fattening steering wheels.

Of course, that’s not to say the Enclave is svelte. This is still a seven-passenger crossover we’re talking about here, and she tips the scales at a hefty 4,922 lbs. Motivating all that weight is the same 3.6-liter V6 we have experienced not only in the Acadia but also in the smaller Chevrolet Equinox. Thankfully, the Enclave’s engine and transmission tuning feels exactly like that of the Acadia and nothing like that of the technically more powerful Equinox, which despite having slightly more horsepower than its larger cousins felt sluggish around town unless a firm right foot was used in throttle applications. The six-speed automatic transmission, it is worth mentioning, operated almost imperceptibly under average throttle loads. That’s just what we’d want in any luxury vehicle that has no sporting pretensions, like the Enclave.

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The engine room of the 2013 Buick Enclave is shrouded in plastic, like the GMC Acadia and the Chevrolet Equinox we’ve previously tested with this same 3.6-liter V6. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Nobody’s saying you can’t hurry in an Enclave. But if your idea of hurrying involves high-speed cornering, make like a wiseguy and fuggheddaboutit. In the Enclave, we have a suspension tuned for a supple ride to insulate passengers from the road surface to the greatest degree possible. That makes it a pretty awesome highway companion, just the same as the Acadia, but it’s no corner-carver.

Other features that make it a good long-distance cruiser include the only two options included on our AWD Premium Group Enclave: One package included a rear-seat entertainment system just like our Acadia had, plus the same color touchscreen navigation system, for an additional $2,240. The other was the power sunroof with second row skylight, which helped make the cabin feel more airy and also brought out the beautiful brown tones of the interior surfaces by allowing more light into the Enclave, at an additional $1,400. Those two options brought the as-tested price of our Enclave AWD with Premium Group to $52,090 after an $825 destination charge.

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The navigation screen is displayed within our 2013 Buick Enclave’s IntelliLink infotainment system screen. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

That touchscreen navigation system seemed to work just as well as the Acadia’s, as we would have expected given both vehicles have the same exact in-dash IntelliLink infotainment system. What we didn’t expect were problems we ran into with the Buick’s IntelliLink system that never once presented themselves in the GMC. More about those in a later post.

Disclaimer: Buick provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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