The 2014 Buick Enclave seems to define where family vehicles have been headed ever since SUVs started becoming less like trucks. It's more like a perfectly logical extension of the high-end yet sensible station wagons of the past, but with all the modern advances in style, technology, road manners, efficiency and safety required by the times. It feels just about ideal for its intended mission. It delivers all the features and qualities demanded by younger, affluent buyers with growing families, who might otherwise shop imports such as the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 or several others, yet at a price that's thousands of dollars less – while still including all the luxury and refinement that's necessary in the premium end of the market. That's why we named it one of the 10 Best Luxury Cars Under $40,000 for 2014.
You'll Like This Car If...
Here's your list: Seating for seven or eight, versatility to haul the extras, good fuel economy, refined road manners, quiet comfort, elegant style, luxurious interior, beneficial features and modern technology – for about $40,000. Head to the Buick dealer, check out the Enclave.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Need space inside for seven or eight plus loads of their stuff? Tow a good-sized boat or horse trailer? The Enclave's tow rating is 4,500 pounds. You probably need something bigger.
Changes to the Enclave for 2014 are minor in nature. The camera-based Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure feature, which warns drivers of possible crash threats, is available. New standard features include IntelliLink Color Touch radio (includes SiriusXM), and dual charge-only USB ports at the rear of the center console.
Driving the Enclave
The Enclave delivers a driving experience that's a combination of a smooth and well-controlled ride along with handling that's responsive, predictable and certainly far better than it needs to be....
... The steering transmits accurate messages of what's happening at the road surface, the shock absorbers provide easy compliance over bumps while maintaining control during motoring's ups and downs. The 3.6-liter V6 engine is smooth and quiet and provides performance that will be more than adequate for almost all reasonably foreseeable situations. Along with all this, the Enclave delivers fuel economy ratings near the top of its segment. And Buick's "QuietTuning" technology pays off, as at cruising speeds there is a minimum of wind, road and engine noise making its annoying way to the occupants' ears.
INTERIOR VERSATILITY Not only does the Enclave seat eight in relaxed comfort, the ingeniously-designed 2nd-row seats, with flip-up cushions and the capability to slide fore-and-aft, make it easy to access the 3rd-row seat or to increase the cargo capacity for those trips home from the big-box store.
QuietTuning Buick's QuietTuning method of in-vehicle noise reduction may sound like marketing hype, but there is actually something to it. At higher speeds the interior remains delightfully calm and free of the racket that can fatigue occupants on long drives.
2014 Buick Enclave Details
The 2014 Buick Enclave has a handsome instrument panel with stylized instrument faces and clean integration of the IntelliLink touch-screen display. Accented with real stitching and new ice-blue LED ambient lighting, the Enclave's interior makes for a warm, inviting cabin. Laminated glass and copious sound-deadening material create a passenger space that is whisper-quiet at highway speeds. Available with either 7- or 8-passenger seating, the Enclave features slide-and-fold second-row seats that can be operated with one hand, clearing a wide path to the third-row seat. Cargo space behind the third row is unusually generous for this class, and the easy operation of the seats makes it a cinch to haul larger items.
Up front, the 2014 Enclave has LED-enhanced headlights and Buick's signature "waterfall" grille. The sheet metal is clean and graceful, and the Enclave appears remarkably compact and tidy considering the generous interior space it encloses. Nuances include the traditional Buick "portholes" above the front fenders. Further luxury enhancements include standard 18-inch wheels (19- and 20-inchers are optional), chrome-trimmed roof rails and chrome exhaust tips integrated into the lower-rear fascia.
The 2014 Enclave comes in three equipment levels. The base package ("Convenience") includes 18-inch wheels, a power liftgate, power front seats, rearview camera and park assist, IntelliLink communications and Color Touch audio system with its 7-inch display. The standard airbag array includes 3-row side-curtain bags that stay inflated longer in the event of a rollover, and an industry-first "center-side" airbag in the center console that protects driver and front-seat passenger from opposite-side impacts. New for 2014 are standard charge-only USB ports at the rear of the center console.
Many of the available features for the Enclave are in option groups. The Leather group adds leather upholstery and heated front-row seats. The Premium Group brings heated and cooled front seats, articulating headlights and a Bose 10-speaker audio upgrade. Other options include a $2,000 all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for all-season capability, plus a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, 8-passenger seating, Bose audio, a DVD navigation system and a power sunroof. The new camera-based Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning is included in the Premium Group.
Under the Hood
Powering the 2014 Enclave is a responsive and smooth 3.6-liter V6. It delivers energetic performance and excellent fuel economy with the help of the modern technologies of variable valve timing, direct fuel injection and an electronic throttle. The V6 is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. A wide spread of gear ratios helps get the most out of the engine while maximizing efficiency. We did, however, notice some delayed reactions from the transmission and an occasional rough shift. An optional AWD system is also available that requires no driver intervention and automatically distributes torque between the front and rear wheels.
3.6-liter V6 288 horsepower at 6,300 rpm 270 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 mpg (FWD), 16/22 mpg (AWD)
The base 2014 Buick Enclave – the "Convenience" trim level – has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $40,000. Its main competitors, the Lexus RX 350, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Acura MDX, are all around there or substantially higher. A fully-loaded Premium Group model with AWD can top $55,000. The less-expensive Enclave may not come with all the brand prestige of the import alternatives, but it does offer seating for eight, which they don't. To compare the actual transaction prices that consumers are paying, be sure to check the Enclave's Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com. The price advantage offered by the Buick Enclave is somewhat offset by residual values that are expected to fall well below those of many of its competitors.
"2009 - I loved this car at first. Almost immediately noticed a creaking noise in the steering column. Tried to get it fixed but am told they can't hear it. (Am I sure?) Transmission jumps when it shifts gears. Especially when backing up. Seats air and heater have been fixed. Display button has worn off twice. GPS went out. Side view mirror got stuck. Freon leak - had to be fixed. Exterior molding has rippling. Oh yeah and at least 4 trips to the dealer for recalls."
Cons: "ACCELERATION STUMBLE IS CHRONIC - I HATE IT!!!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My Enclave has a horrible acceleration stumble 75% of the time I hate it!! It has gotten worse the older it gets. I have had it since it was new. Dealer claims it is because of the 6 speed transmission, I don't think that's what it is. But, I WILL NEVER OWN ANOTHER ONE!! This one thing has totally soured me on my Enclave - no matter how great all the rest of my experience with my Enclave has been. Also, battery in it died before it was three years old. General Motors products are showing the cost cutting going into their manufacture."
"In comparing the Enclave to others similar vehicles, the KBB expert review misses a huge issue -- second row captain's chairs. That was a must feature for my family, as it really makes life easier with young children who need to access the third row. The Acura and Infiniti (to which the reviewer compares) do not offer this option. The best I can tell, the only models that offer this other than the Enclave (and it Acadia and Traverse cousins) are the much more expensive Yukons and similars on truck platforms. Captains chairs were the deciding factor for us the Enclave, and I am surprised that the expert review misses this point entirely."