The 2014 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. While the Acadia takes on a more trucklike 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.
What's New for 2014?
The Enclave adds two new safety features for 2014: a forward-collision alert system and a lane-departure warning system.
What We Like
Spacious cargo area; 7- or 8-passenger seating; upscale interior; extensive safety equipment; plush ride; stylish appearance
What We Don't
Relatively low towing capacity; poor rear visibility; difficult to maneuver in tight spots
The Buick Enclave uses a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission offered is a 6-speed automatic. The result is Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings of 17 miles per gallon city/24 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive, or 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
Standard Features & Options
The Enclave doesn't technically offer trim levels like a normal car. Instead, there are three equipment groups drivers can choose from: Convenience, Leather and Premium.
The Convenience ($40,500) already features a long list of standard equipment. That includes items such as a rearview camera, a power driver's seat, a power lift gate, tri-zone automatic climate control, SiriusXM satellite radio, rear park assist and a remote starter. Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system, with a center-mounted touchscreen, is also standard.
Step up to the Enclave Leather ($42,200) and you add several more items. As expected, leather upholstery is one of them, and heated seats, as well. The Enclave Leather also adds 19-inch wheels, a blind spot alert system, heated front seats and a memory system for the driver seat.
At the top end of the Enclave spectrum is the Premium ($48,000), which adds ventilated front seats, a Bose sound system, a navigation system, a power tilt steering wheel and dynamic headlights.
Options on all Enclave models include a rear-seat DVD player, a power sunroof, and the new forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems. Drivers can also choose between an 8-passenger model and a 7-passenger version at no charge.
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. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning also improve safety, as do newly optional forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems.
In government crash testing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Enclave a rating of five overall stars. That includes four stars in frontal and rollover tests along with five stars in the group's side impact assessment.
Behind the Wheel
The 2014 Buick Enclave, like its GM large-crossover brethren, delivers a nice, relaxed carlike 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 trucklike edge for these activities. But available all-wheel drive helps the Enclave deal with harsh on-road conditions.
The Enclave has good off-the-line acceleration but could occasionally use extra horsepower. When it's loaded 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.
The best 2014 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 standalone navigation and rear DVD systems. These are absolutely worth the extra price. And cold-climate buyers should definitely choose all-wheel drive.