Pros: Spacious cargo area; 7- or 8-passenger seating; upscale interior; extensive safety equipment; plush ride; stylish appearance.

Cons: Relatively low towing capacity; poor rear visibility; difficult to maneuver in tight spots.

What's New: Updated styling inside and out; front center airbag; updated suspension and transmission; standard backup camera; available blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning.

The 2013 Buick Enclave is many things at once. The large, luxury crossover is accommodating, luxurious, practical and relatively fuel efficient. For those in need of a premium family hauler, there might be no better choice. Not only does it offer seating for eight, a carlike ride and functionality second only to a minivan, the Enclave is also a status symbol suitable for a night on the town without the kids. The only things it won't do well are tow a big boat or crawl up the side of mountain.

The Enclave is built on the same General Motors unibody architecture as the Chevrolet Traverse and the GMC Acadia. In a short time, all three have built reputations as capable people movers. But while the Acadia takes on a more truck-like personality and the Traverse is a well-rounded everyday runner, the Enclave is the most upscale member of the family. It isn't quite at the caliber of a Lexus or a Mercedes, but it's not far off those marks. For the price, it might present the best near-luxury value among all 3-row vehicles.

For 2013, the Enclave is offered in three trim levels: Convenience, Leather and Premium.

Refreshed styling inside and out mark the new model year. Exterior changes include a new grille, hood and front fenders; chrome bodyside molding; and LED running lights and taillights. Inside, the Enclave has new dash and door trim, ambient lighting and climate controls.

Two safety items, a backup camera and the industry's first front-center side airbag, are now standard equipment.

With its comfortable cabin and wide array of amenities, the 2013 Enclave is a sensible choice for executive families of five or more.

Comfort & Utility

The Enclave's airy and refined 7- or 8-passenger cabin is its most impressive attribute. Touting soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish, this interior is both elegant and well crafted, with new details such as ambient lighting and real stitching on the door panels. Its classic-looking wood-splashed dash features a new instrument panel and climate controls.

The front seats are comfortable, supportive and well shaped, intended to minimize fatigue even after long journeys. Eight-way adjustable front passenger seats and 4-way adjustable head restraints are available for 2013. But the second row features truly heroic seating. Not only does it offer 2- or 3-passenger configurations and an abundance of headroom and legroom, it also comes equipped with flip-up cushions and the ability to slide forward, making it a breeze to access the third row. Although the third-row seat can accommodate a pair of adults, it is better suited for two or three kids.

In terms of cargo space, the Enclave affords more room and versatility than most large SUVs. The second row comes standard with captain's chairs or an optional 60/40 folding bench. The third row folds 60/40, too, maximizing the Enclave's flexibility to haul multiple combinations of people and things. For hauling, both rows can be folded flat to create an expansive cargo floor. With the third row upright, the cargo area still has enough space for two to three pieces of luggage. And all of this area is accessible via an oversize hatch with remote capabilities.

With the base model out of the 2013 lineup, the Enclave offers three separate trim packages bringing an array of content and convenience features. The entry-level Convenience trim includes tri-zone climate control, a power liftgate, power-adjustable front seats, a 6-speaker color touchscreen stereo and remote start. The Leather trim, as its name suggests, offers leather upholstery all around, heated front seats, an 8-way power passenger seat and a blind spot warning system. The range-topping Premium trim adds cooling front seats, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a high-end 10-speaker sound system adaptive headlights and 19-inch chrome wheels. Stand-alone options include dual sunroofs available on both the Leather and Premium trims.

Overall, the Enclave is a plush and well-equipped vehicle with the ability to meet most large-family requirements.

Technology

The Enclave offers a number of useful tech features, including Buick's IntelliLink infotainment platform. The base model includes Bluetooth connectivity and touchscreen as well as steering-wheel-mounted and voice-activated controls. Parking sensors and a backup camera are included--both useful features for a vehicle this size, especially when steering through a crowded parking lot. The Leather model doesn't add any relevant electronics, although audio upgrades are available for the mid-range model. Premium trim adds a USB interface in conjunction with its premium stereo. Notable stand-alone features are navigation and a rear DVD system for occupying second-row and third-row passengers during long drives.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The front-wheel or all-wheel-drive Buick Enclave is outfitted with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Energy is managed by a new 6-speed automatic transmission. Updated for the 2013 model, Buick says the new gearbox is more refined than the previous 6-speed. The Enclave's maximum towing capacity is 4,500 lb.

Government fuel economy for the Enclave is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway, with front-wheel drive and 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Safety

Occupant protection comes from seven airbags, including 3-row head curtains and GM's OnStar telematics. The new, front center side airbag, an industry first, protects the driver and passenger from bumping into each other in a side impact.

The Enclave is also equipped with ABS, traction control and stability control. These systems, in tandem with optional all-wheel drive, are highly effective in keeping the Enclave balanced and planted despite hard corners and difficult weather conditions. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning also contribute to improving safety.

Driving Impressions

The 2013 Buick Enclave, like its GM large-crossover brethren, delivers a nice, relaxed and car-like ride. Above everything else, it's comfortable. And thanks to Buick's efforts, this ride is free of most wind, road and tire noise.

The Enclave's crossover architecture exhibits more precision and agility than a similarly sized SUV. Its overall dynamics feel secure and confident. That said, the Enclave is still a large and heavy vehicle, and it must be managed like one. Its size can become an issue on small city streets or crowded parking lots. Furthermore, this crossover's poor rear visibility makes these driving venues even more challenging. At least the standard backup camera helps.

The Enclave is not really intended for trail riding or mud running. It lacks the truck-like edge for these sorts of activities. But available all-wheel drive helps the Enclave to deal with the harsh, on-road conditions that Mother Nature can bring.

The Enclave has good off-the-line acceleration but could occasionally use some extra horsepower. When it's loaded down with passengers and cargo or pulling a trailer, the V6 can seem labored.

Other Cars to Consider

Acura MDX: The MDX offers more convenience and technology features but less overall space for passengers and cargo. The MDX's all-wheel-drive system is more sophisticated than that of the Enclave.

Volvo XC90: The Enclave is much more spacious than the XC90--all the way back to the third row--and it feels more athletic and nimble. Both vehicles offer top-rated safety, but the Volvo has the more prestigious nameplate.

Ford Flex: The Ford Flex offers a better balance of upscale and modern, providing more amenities and tech features. But the Enclave is a more spirited handler. Both vehicles enjoy well-designed passenger configurations and cargo capabilities.

AutoTrader Recommends

We think the best 2013 Enclave is the entry-level Convenience model. It offers just the right features, while the top two trims (Leather and Premium) bring some over-the-top amenities that needlessly push the price up. But go ahead and opt for the stand-alone navigation and rear DVD systems. These are absolutely worth the extra price. And cold-climate buyers should definitely choose all-wheel drive.


author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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