Maybe this isn't a fair fight, considering that the 2014 Acura MDX is completely redesigned and the 2014 Buick Enclave is much the same vehicle that originally debuted for the 2008 model year. Last year, though, Buick gave the Enclave a long list of upgrades and sold almost 7,500 extra Enclaves compared to the outgoing Acura MDX while beating its 2012 sales tally at the same time. Clearly, people aren't shying away from the Enclave, despite its graying hair.
So which one of these 7-passenger luxury crossover SUVs is really better? That's what we're here to find out. First, let's talk about the changes for 2014.
2014 Acura MDX
Completely redesigned, the latest edition of the MDX loses hundreds of pounds and is equipped with a new engine in order to improve fuel economy. A new front-drive version debuts too, and Acura endows the MDX with added standard equipment and new, more modern technologies.
2014 Buick Enclave
One year after key updates for the 2013 model year, the Enclave's standard IntelliLink infotainment system gains a new text-to-voice capability. Charge-only USB ports are added for second-row passengers, and dealers can install a mobile Wi-Fi kit. Buick also provides new forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems in a very affordable option package for the base and midlevel versions of the Enclave. The top-of-the-line version gets these features as standard equipment.
Historically, and according to Consumer Reports, the Acura MDX has provided better-than-average reliability, which means predictions for the new model are also better than average. J.D. Power agrees, but it should be noted that in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, owners of the 2014 MDX had a lot of complaints about the new multiscreen infotainment system.
The Buick Enclave's reliability track record is slightly less than average, according to Consumer Reports, with the 2008-2010 models receiving the lowest possible rating for reliability. J.D. Power has a more favorable view of the Enclave's dependability performance, with the market research firm giving the SUV average ratings for the 2008-2010 models followed by the highest possible rating for the 2011 model. As such, J.D. Power thinks a new 2014 Enclave will return better-than-average levels of dependability.
Nevertheless, the nod goes to Acura, which has delivered a more consistent performance in terms of reliability and dependability.
The redesigned 2014 Acura MDX is equipped with a new 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine equipped with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). The VCM system shuts down half of the engine's cylinders when appropriate in order to reduce fuel consumption. The new MDX also weighs 699 pounds less than the bigger Buick Enclave, which surely helps the Acura secure a win in terms of fuel economy.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the MDX gets 23 miles per gallon in combined driving with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg in combined driving with all-wheel drive. Compare that to the Buick's ratings of 19 mpg and 18 mpg, respectively. Also, note that the Buick's 3.6-liter V6 is good for 288 hp but charged with motivating far more weight.
Clearly, when it comes to fuel economy, the Acura emerges victorious.
Buick provides a number of safety-related features as standard equipment; many of the same items aren't offered on the more expensive Acura unless you upgrade to an equipment package.
The Enclave comes with 6 free months of OnStar service, which includes automatic crash response among numerous other useful features. In the event of a collision that causes the airbags to deploy, automatic crash response immediately contacts emergency rescue personnel to send assistance.
Additionally, the Enclave is equipped with a unique front-center airbag designed to protect front-seat occupants from injury when the opposite side of the Buick is struck. The Enclave also comes with text-to-voice technology, which is optional for the Acura. Spend more money, though, and the Acura provides greater access to safety-related technologies, including next-generation AcuraLink service similar to the Buick's OnStar system, front parking sensors, automatic pretensioning seat belts, a lane-keeping-assist system that encourages the driver to remain within a lane, and a collision-mitigation braking system. Many of these features are unavailable for the Enclave.
Additionally, the MDX gets slightly better crash-test ratings. Both SUVs receive an overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Acura also gets a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on the strength of its optional collision-mitigation braking system. This makes for an Advanced front crash-prevention rating from IIHS, compared to the Buick's Basic rating. IIHS hasn't assessed the Buick in the small-overlap frontal-impact test.
Given its more comprehensive optional safety technology coupled with top marks from both NHTSA and IIHS, the Acura takes the win when it comes to safety.
For both standard equipment and available options, the Acura is more technologically advanced than the Buick.
The 2014 MDX is equipped with standard LED headlights, which are not available on the Enclave. Additionally, the Acura is available with a GPS-linked climate-control system that's designed to enhance cooling on the side of the vehicle that is in direct sunlight. The optional rear-seat entertainment system can be upgraded to a 16.2-inch widescreen view display that shows two different forms of media or provides a theater-style viewing experience.
The Buick does offer an available 3-prong, household-style power outlet and can be optioned with articulating headlights, but the Acura counters with standard wiper-linked automatic headlights and an optional adaptive cruise control system with low-speed following capability. Acura can't match the Buick's dealer-installed Wi-Fi access, though.
In the end, especially given that the 2014 Acura MDX is a complete redesign, it's not surprising that it is also the more technologically advanced vehicle in general.
The 2014 Acura MDX has a base price of $43,185, which is $3,370 more than the base price of the bigger 2014 Buick Enclave. Consider that the Enclave is usually available with rebates and other appealing deals, and you might conclude that the Buick is the better value.
Before rushing to judgment, consider that ALG gives the Enclave a 2-star residual-value rating, while the MDX gets a 4-star rating. That probably cancels out the Buick's lower starting price. Next, consider that Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says the MDX will cost about $100 less to operate on an annual basis than the Enclave. KBB also gives the Acura a value rating of 8.3, while the Buick's value rating is 7.2.
Up front, the deals appear more appealing for the Buick, but over time, the Acura MDX will likely prove itself to be the better value.
Unless you need the 115.2 cu ft. of maximum cargo space that's provided by the bigger Buick Enclave, we'd recommend choosing the slightly smaller Acura MDX, which supplies 90.9 cu ft. of maximum cargo volume. The Acura MDX bests the Buick in every single one of the evaluation parameters above, making its higher price tag much easier to accept.