From the outside, the 2019 Buick Enclave isn’t particularly flashy, nor extremely memorable. I personally could not quite recall its looks until I had its picture right in front of me. But it’s comfortable, quiet and does all of the big-car things you ask it to without complaint or drama, which is why I ended up liking it so much.
There are many other luxury SUVs, of course. Usually they are German. Or Japanese. Or even Italian, lately. These are the ones you bring around to the family barbecue to show off. And the only thing that seems to want to show off as badly as you do is the car itself. Maybe it even has a light-up badge on its face.
This is not the Buick. The Enclave is decidedly un-flashy (except for the chrome), built to be functional and very comfortably so. Things don’t have to be any more complicated than that.
(Full disclosure: I asked Buick if it would be willing to loan me a big car. Buick said yes and set me up with the Enclave for a week and kicked me a full tank of gas, too.)
What Is It?
It’s a medium-sized, somewhat luxurious crossover. It’s no Mercedes, but you won’t be left without quality, either. It’s a seven-seater with folding second- and third-row seats for additional storage space. Vaguely oblong in shape, it’s inoffensive to anyone who would happen to lay eyes on it.
There’s a great amount of legroom for the first- and second-row passengers. And with that third row of seats folded down, you’d be able to fit a decently sized dog crate. Or small livestock. Hey, I don’t know your life.
Specs That Matter
Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 mated to a nine-speed automatic, the Enclave makes a claimed 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but the Premium trim I drove comes with all-wheel drive Buick also claims that it can tow up to 5,000 pounds with a trailer package.
Clearly, the Enclave really makes use of its 120.9-inch wheelbase.
I wasn’t altogether completely unfamiliar with the Enclave when I got behind the wheel, as my parents own a 2018 Traverse. That car, also painted a shade of sparkly metallic brown, was surprisingly impressive in its utilitarian abilities. The Enclave is no different.
The Enclave’s second-row captain’s chairs are comfortable and extremely versatile. They slide backwards, forward and recline easily. Both have their own armrests, so you can really feel like you’re sitting in your own throne. And if you need to access the third row, they fold down quickly with another pull of a release.
That third row isn’t just for show, either. Sure, you might not fit happily if you’re extremely tall or long in the leg, but you can get three people back there without much of an issue. Certainly, we can get my family of six adults to fit, but the tallest one of us is five feet 10 inches.
If you get the crappy seat in the middle of the third row, at least you can stretch your legs out into the aisle.
One of the biggest complaints I have about cars today, especially luxury cars, is that they have too many buttons. Buttons for the climate, buttons for the infotainment, buttons for the safety tech, buttons for the damn satellite that’s tracking our every move (not really) (but maybe).
The Enclave’s interior is refreshingly absent of such a plethora of buttons. It doesn’t even have one of those screens that’s stuck on top of the dash. The screen it does have is integrated nicely, which is the way it’s supposed to be.
There are a few buttons below for climate, and that’s about it. And as soon as you memorize where those climate controls are, you don’t even have to look down anymore to press them. This kind of functional muscle memory is becoming rarer and rarer in today’s cars that increasingly rely on touchscreens as a primary access point.
Of course, all of that storage space means that the Enclave is a big car to maneuver. You feel its girth in the corners and on highway merges. It actually has decent pickup, but nothing that would frighten your mother-in-law.
The car is also long, which makes over-the-shoulder glances and backing up a challenge sometimes. But for navigating those tight spaces, it comes with a 360-degree camera, as well as a backup camera, so you’re never going into these situations blind. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to completely rely on technology just in case it fails, but this large car gave me no choice.
And for all of the space that was allotted to passengers, the trunk admittedly isn’t huge when the third-row seats are up. You can fit some groceries and a suitcase, sure, but if you really want to maximize the storage room, you’ll need to fold at least the third row down. Once that’s been done, you can load up with all kinds of stuff. I’ve used my parents’ car for bags of mulch, full sets of tires and wheels, bicycles and furniture.
To drive the Enclave is to feel like you are enveloped in a big, comfortable and cushy bear suit, traversing (sorry) America’s roads with a lot of car hanging out behind you and just sitting above it all. The steering is never heavy regardless of your speed and the suspension, though rather stiff at low speeds, became absolutely pillowy on the highway. Meaning that, there was a strange, upwards “leap-y” sensation over bumps. Maybe this was Buick’s idea of a luxury ride quality? Unclear.
But if you needed a big car to commute in or move across the country or take all of your friends out to dinner with? This is a perfectly viable option.
The Enclave in the Premium AWD trim starts at $50,400. But options like the wheels, dual moon roofs, infotainment system with navigation and some metallic trim brought the final price of my loaner up to $55,735. As a piece of friendly advice, don’t get the chrome wheels. They are tacky. Save yourself some money.
Additionally, from within the GM family itself is the Traverse. More on that in a second.
The Enclave is a car for driving around tons of stuff and people. And it does that in simple and unfussy ways. I think there’s so much merit to that. This is a car that you can actually use. It’ll happily store whatever you need in the trunk and you won’t feel bad about it because it’s not lined in wool shag or anything crazy like that.
Buick also makes sure that you have heated seats and a heated steering wheel, which are both a joy. The front seats provide ample cushioning and support. Expanses of annoying piano black trim, so prevalent in other cars, are skipped here. There are dials, buttons and knobs where you’d expect them to be. Things are intuitive.
Overall, it’s a very easy and pleasant car to be in and drive, as long as you have the space to use it. The face, though reminiscent of its wagon brethren, is still a little anonymous, but it has nice, frosted silver touches and its lines are clean.
Perhaps Enclave’s biggest problem is the Traverse. Besides some badging differences and design here and there, you wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart from the inside. But whereas the Enclave starts at $40,000, the Traverse starts at $29,930.
That’s a very big leap for what is essentially the same car. Even though the Buick is technically supposed to be the more luxurious offering, the abilities and and interior of the two are so similar that it almost doesn’t make sense to consider the Enclave.
Unless, of course, you just love Buicks.
Update 6:49 p.m. EST: A GM spokesperson pointed out that the base Enclave also adds LED headlights, an extra one-inch infotainment screen, more sound deadening, an air ionizer, rear park assist and a hands-free power lift-gate over a base Traverse.