2014 Buick Enclave Long-Term Test Wrap-Up: Good-bye to Big Blue
In our family we are not in the habit of naming our cars. We like them; you could even say we have affection for them, but name them? No. Yet, though the 2014 Buick Enclave in our Kelley Blue Book long-term test fleet was not precisely "our" car, we did make an exception in its case. Based on its rich navy color and its uncanny ability to swallow up large portions of passengers and cargo we began to call it "Big Blue," and the name stuck. Always referred to with fondness as if it were a pet, Big Blue quickly became our family conveyance of choice for outings like softball tournaments and birthday parties. And, as I leaf though the logbook that has notations that extend for well over a year, my name is there on the vast majority of occasions. So not only did we use it for family excursions; I also used as my daily driver - including an 88-mile round-trip commute each day - for the better part of the past 12 months.
Perfect vehicle for family weekends
Typically, I have the pick of the litter around here, so the fact that I kept opting to drive the Enclave tells you a great deal about it. Turns out it was a perfect vehicle for family weekends. As the manager of the local 12U softball all-star squad, I used Big Blue to transport my daughter (the pitcher), her Mom and several of her teammates to a magical "road trip" and tournament. Big Blue was also the vehicle of choice when my oldest daughter decided to celebrate her 18th birthday by hosting three friends - and the rest of our family - for an overnight stay at Disneyland. (We're still paying for that one but well worth it for the memories.) For the softball tournament-month Big Blue was covered with all-star slogans, players' names and their uniform numbers. At Disneyland it was filled with fairy dust. And it always performed in exemplary fashion.
Surprisingly good for long daily commutes
Equally exemplary was the way it performed in my lengthy daily commute, most of it on Southern California's most crowded freeways. Toting around six extra seating positions and luggage space is not a formula for high fuel efficiency, but the Enclave typically turned in 16-19 mpg for that duty, including tons of stop-n-go. (As you know, every car gets 0 mpg at idle.) On the highway, fuel economy often climbed into the 22-mpg range, darn good for a 7-passenger vehicle. Other strong positives were the comfortable ride, noticeable quiet and better-than-expected handling. Fun to drive? Well, maybe not in the performance sense, but the Buick Enclave is definitely a fulfilling vehicle to drive.
The switches and controls are straightforward and easy-to-understand with a couple of exceptions like the fact that the switch to operate the rear wiper is low in the center control pod rather than with the on-stalk wiper controls. Placing the USB interface in a covered bin on the top of the dash might seem like a good idea at first blush, but in practice it wasn't especially convenient in part because it is a long, awkward reach from the driver's seat. On the plus side, the interior was a big hit with my family that includes three nearly adult-sized children. The second row bucket seats accommodated two of them, and the third found a cozy place in the third row, sometimes with a portion of the seatback folded to hold extra luggage. (All my children are girls.)
Minor issues didn't interfere
We acquired the Enclave with about 10,000 miles on the odometer after it had gone through Buick's Certified Pre-Owned Program, so it was well broken-in, and though the following 18,000 miles weren't completely trouble-free, the substantial SUV was never troublesome. Early in our possession we had a recall fix of a seatbelt issue performed without drama and several thousand miles later a Buick dealer successfully repaired a rear hub issue under warranty, a CPO nicety. Other than those minor issues, the Enclave performed like a champ.
Our examination of Consumer Reviews submitted to KBB indicate that our very positive experience is representative of the bulk of ownership experiences reported to us. Several consumers called their Enclave "the best car they've ever had." A number of consumers also compared their Enclave favorably to their friends' and neighbors' luxury import SUVs. Our Kelley Blue Book Cost-to-Own data also indicate that the Buick Enclave is one of the least expensive luxury SUVs of its size to own and operate over a five-year period.
Provides what families need
Summing up, the Buick Enclave impressed us in the way it hit all the important hot-button issues for today's families. Its size, cargo space and passenger accommodations make it perfect for school carpooling, family vacations and jaunts to concerts and sporting events (and the increasingly popular concerts at sporting events.) With a smooth, quiet ride, easy-to-operate infotainment system and comfortable interior, cross-country travel with kids, like the Bugelwicz' drive to Tulsa and back, proved completely palatable. Truth be told, many of us loved Big Blue, and we're sorry he's gone. But we expect he's now making another family as happy as he once did ours.
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