The more time I spend in a Buick, the more I want to own one. We had an opportunity to test out the brand new 2016 Buick Enclave this past August during a family travel adventure to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.
If we didn’t have two kids in tow, I would have loved to be buzzing around in a blue Cascada Convertible, which is so far, my favorite line. That said, when there’s four of you and two of them are children, the Enclave couldn’t be a more perfect choice. It certainly was for us!
She was a 2016 model and so her gleam shone wherever we went, whether it was in a sun-filled parking lot, on a golf course (above) or on a shady street.
This car is ideal for family road trips, largely because there’s plenty of space and luxury amenities throughout that simply make your trip so easy and more importantly, seamless from smart packing and organization to navigation and technology.
Separate Back Seat & Individual Charging Stations
Unlike previous cars we’ve used for road trips including our own, the kids had their own separate seats and that division made a big difference; it kept them quieter than normal because they weren’t on top of each or blaming each other for a random annoying thing. If you’ve ever been on a long road trip with kids in the back seat, you will resonate.
The individual seat design meant that we also had extra space for storage, so we piled bags in the middle which gave the kids a sense of privacy from one another. In the back seat, there’s a Charging Station on both sides, which meant that they could keep their devices charged during the 6+ hour trip north. And, they didn’t have to compromise — one of them listened to new age and the other to a Spanish music station.
Enclave offers three rows of seating, available in seven or eight passenger configurations, with the second-row seats using something they refer to as the SmartSlide system. With the pull of a single handle, SmartSlide allows easier entry to the third row, which in our case, we used for luggage storage. There is 23.3 cubic feet (660 liters) of cargo space behind the third row and a maximum of 115.2 cubic feet (3,263 liters) of cargo space available behind the front row of seats, ample for a road trip for a family of four.
Signature design elements on the Enclave include sculpted styling and a black-chrome waterfall grille, signature wing-shape LED lighting and monochromatic paint schemes accented with chrome.
While we drove a white car for the week, Enclave offers three new exterior colors for the 2016 model year, which include Summit White and premium colors Ebony Twilight Metallic and White Frost Tricoat. The car’s wheels are standard 19-inch aluminum or you can opt to get 19-inch chrome-clad wheels instead.
If you go for the Tuscan Edition, you’ll get a striking bronze waterfall grille and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels with bronze pockets. Sweet!
And, all models are powered by a direct-injected 3.6L V-6 that delivers an EPA-estimated 24 mpg on the highway (FWD models) which is fairly decent given the size of the car.
Let’s add the LED daytime running lamps and accent lamps, blue translucent rings around the standard Xenon HID headlamps and this baby shines on the road. Articulating headlamps are part of the Premium model’s content package, which also includes power-folding, heated outside mirrors, as well as interior features such as power tilting/telescoping steering column and heated/cooled front seats. Who doesn’t love temperature control?
A chrome finish within the rear fascia frames the exhaust outlets, for an integrated appearance that exemplifies Buick’s attention to detail. LED-accented taillamps give the vehicle a distinctive signature at the rear that reflects Buick’s elegance. A power-operated liftgate is standard and the front lights are creatively and elegantly designed.
Photo credit: GM and Buick Corporate
In addition to the three new hues offered on 2016 models, additional exterior color choices on Enclave include Crimson Red Tintcoat, Dark Sapphire Blue Metallic, Dark Chocolate Metallic, Midnight Amethyst Metallic, Quicksilver Metallic, Sparkling Silver Metallic and Iridium Metallic.
Buick’s signature QuietTuning engineering process, which uses laminated glass and extensive sound blocking and absorbing materials, makes Enclave’s cabin quieter than a Lexus RX350.
Luxury Seating & Internal Design
Inside the Enclave, high quality Nuance sandstone leather combined with the installed IntelliLink makes it feel as if you’re never left the comfort of your living room. Color matters and the more muted sophisticated style and color Buick offers makes you feel more at home — after all, think about how much time you spend in a car, especially on a road trip. One choice is an exclusive Dark Plum interior color, which offers a higher degree of visual warmth — a great choice when so often, you’re faced with black, gray or white.
Below is an interior shot of the 2015 model in a different color (LOVE the richness and depth here), and in the front seat, the style is similar to the 2016 — luxury and decadence at its best!
Photo credit: GM and Buick Corporate
We also really liked the Wood-Trimmed Steering Wheel which is not only elegantly designed but entirely heated and comes standard on Leather and Premium models. While this wasn’t needed during our August road trip, what a godsend for colder New England and I’d argue even useful for cooler San Francisco mornings where we live when not on the road.
In other words, a heated steering wheel can be handy even if you don’t live in a snowy cold state. Other notable interior design features include:
- Ice-blue LED ambient lighting around the dash that highlights Enclave’s flowing lines
- Eight-way power front driver seat with power recline and lumbar support (standard on Convenience models)
- Eight-way power front driver and passenger seats with power recline and lumbar support – and driver memory – (standard on Leather and Premium models)
- Heated front seats standard on Leather models and heated/cooled seats standard on Premium models
- Power-tilting/telescoping steering column standard on Premium models
- Soft-touch materials, real stitching and chrome accents throughout the cabin (sweet)!
- Available dual moon roof; power front, fixed rear
- Standard storage system under the floor in the rear cargo area (this is incredibly useful for #FamilyTravel)
- Standard power windows with driver and passenger express up/down feature
- Standard rear view camera
- Standard remote vehicle starter
Connectivity & Infotainment
The Enclave comes with Seamless Connectivity which we all used during our trip. Buick’s IntelliLink color touch radio is standard on all models and enhances the driving experience with a higher level of wireless connectivity and customized options.
For me, it was a godsend to have my laptop connected so I could upload photos and answer email. Through the OnStar 4G LTE and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, we essentially had a mobile hub so we could keep connected en route. This was also beneficial when we were driving through poor cell phone areas as it didn’t interfere with our GPS navigation which was essential on some of those more remote mountain roads. The hot spot allows you to connect up to seven personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets to high-speed wireless Internet whenever the vehicle is on.
4G LTE is the most current and fastest mobile data network – 10 times faster than 3G and 100 times faster than the previous generation of OnStar hardware. And with OnStar, it also offers stronger, broader coverage than smartphones on the same network. OnStar 4G LTE comes with a three-month/three gigabyte data trial.
IntelliLink is intuitive and easy to use, and includes the capability of setting up a “Home Page” for favorites. It integrates online services such as Pandora internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio using hands-free voice and touch-screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled smartphones.
Photo credit: GM and Buick
Since it was a family trip, it’s worth mentioning their Enclave’s great Safety record. The predecessor received a 5-star Overall Safety Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and it also ranked high in J.D. Power 2015 Dependability StudySM, where it outperformed several luxury brands.
The 2016 Enclave offers you the luxury of playing music or making calls hands-free using voice commands thanks to the Buick IntelliLink† system with natural language voice recognition. You can also organize your home screen so you can easily access the features you use most. Also Pandora†A, SiriusXM† Radio (three-month trial standard) are never more than a touch or voice-command away.
Connectivity, Voice Control & Alerts
Enhanced connectivity and convenience includes a Text Messaging Alerts feature for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile (M.A.P.), which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users. Each enables voice-controlled connectivity, to help keep phones in pockets and hands on the wheel, another great safety feature.
Additional features include:
- 6.5-inch diagonal high-resolution color display with touch-screen control
- Bluetooth with hands-free (for phone calls) and A2DP audio-streaming protocol support
- Address book download and hands-free calling
- USB port
- Auxiliary audio input port
- Steering wheel controls
- Enhanced voice recognition powered by Nuance
- AM/FM/HD Audio CD/MP3 CD
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio and data services, including available NavTraffic
- Selected smartphone apps can be controlled through the IntelliLink interface via the touch-screen, steering wheel controls or voice commands. The first apps to be supported are Pandora and Stitcher
- Supports playback of MP3 files stored on flash memory drives.
IntelliLink is standard on all Enclave models, including those with the available navigation system and DVD capability and the IntelliLink screen also serves as the display for the standard rearview camera system.
Photo credit: GM and Buick
Of course, even if you use Google Maps on your phone for navigation, it’s never as seamless or eyes free as an internal advanced navigation system is, especially one with a large enough screen to zoom in and out of streets when necessary. We used the voice control feature of the navigation system more often than not and found this to be a more convenient way to go.
Oh So Smooth of a Ride
Now, a bit about the engine. Not only is it a smooth ride, but a powerful one. The Enclave finds its power in a 3.6L V-6 engine featuring fuel-saving direct injection technology and continuously variable valve timing, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Direct injection helps the engine produce power comparable to a V-8 – SAE-certified 288 horsepower (215 Nm) and 270 lb-ft of torque (366 Nm) – with good efficiency. EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models are very competitive with other three-row crossovers and utilities. We thought this was fairly decent considering the size of the vehicle — remember the trade off here for ample storage room, advanced tech and spacious comfortable seating, which is critical for a long road trip with multiple people in the car.
The strong V-6 engine also enables Enclave to tow up to 4,500 pounds (2,045 kg) when properly equipped, and it can be flat-towed in both FWD and AWD configurations. The available intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD) system provides increased traction on slippery roads by actively managing the torque distribution between the front and rear axles, based on factors such as wheel speed, throttle and surface conditions.
There is no driver intervention; the system automatically decides how much torque to apply and delivers it to the wheels that have the best traction. This is a great feature during tougher weather conditions. Some of their chassis and suspension features include:
- MacPherson strut front suspension, with a direct-acting stabilizer bar and aluminum knuckles. Isolated mounting points help reduce noise and vibration
- Compact linked “H” design rear suspension, with an isolated mounting system to reduce noise and vibration transmitted to the passenger compartment
- Power-assisted, variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering
- Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock are standard on all models, with additional brake features including dynamic rear proportioning, hydraulic brake boost and panic brake assist
- Nineteen-inch wheels are standard and 20-inch wheels are available.
OnStar for Safety & Security
Six months of OnStar Guidance service is standard on every Enclave so we were able to play with it a bit to test it out, which we did on occasion, including the first time we tried to enable the Wi-Fi in the car. As noted above, OnStar is a godsend especially for family travel. The OnStar service is available simply by touching a button on the rear view mirror so whether you’re lost and need help, stranded and need more serious assistance, or you want to tap into Wi-Fi settings.
Photo credit: GM and Buick
OnStar’s RemoteLink Mobile App allows you to use your smartphone to control vehicle functions, access vehicle information and send directions directly to the vehicle, which is really cool to make your trip that much more seamless. An opt-in service called FamilyLink allows you to stay connected to family members by checking the location of their vehicle online or by signing up for vehicle location alerts. Here’s where this gets really interesting — when you’re wanting to keep better tabs on your kids who may be new to driving or to your parents who are getting older and you want to have an additional safety feature in place for their well-being on the road.
Photo credit: GM and Buick
If you opt for an extended Basic Plan with OnStar, you get the RemoteLink Key Fob Services, which allows you to remotely start and lock/unlock a car (a great feature for cold winter months) and activate the horn and lights from anywhere with a data connection. It also includes OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, which runs monthly checks of a vehicle’s engine, transmission, antilock brakes and more, and Dealer Maintenance Notification, which sends diagnostic report directly to a preferred dealer to make service scheduling simple.
The Enclave includes the industry’s first standard front center side Air Bag which was developed to help protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes. It deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and positions itself between the driver and front passenger, which is aimed at delivering a more comprehensive occupant restraint system.
Standard safety features also include StabiliTrak, traction control, panic brake assist, rearview camera system (noted and shown above) and seven air bags – including head-curtain side air bags covering outboard occupants in all three passenger rows.
Camera and radar-based safety features monitor areas around the vehicle and provide alerts to help the driver avoid collisions. Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are radar-based, while Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning are camera-based. Forward Collision Alert detects a possible crash threat and alerts the driver, giving him or her extra time to stop and/or change course. With Side Blind Zone Alert, the driver is alerted to vehicles in the blind sport during a lane-change or merging maneuver. The rearview system is enabled by default as are the others, however the side blind zone alert can be turned off, which depending on where you’re traveling to, might be worth doing — we found it a little sensitive on wide open highways, but useful particularly for city driving.
An Additional Note on Luxury:
New for 2016, the Enclave offers a Tuscan Edition on the 1SL Leather and 1SN Premium trim levels. We haven’t seen it yet, but it looks simply gorgeous!
The Enclave Tuscan Edition is available exclusively with premium paint choices White Frost Tricoat, Dark Chocolate Metallic or Ebony Twilight Metallic. The Tuscan Bronze Package includes 20-inch chrome wheels with bronze pockets and a waterfall grille clad in bronze.
Photo credit courtesy of GM and Buick
Also, a premium 10-speaker Bose audio system with 5.1 surround sound is available and is optimized for the Enclave’s refined interior acoustics. Entertainment and audio are not an afterthought, another godsend for luxury family travel.
Photo credit: courtesy of GM and Buick
There’s also great front and back window visibility and when you’re on a spectacular adventurous road trip where the scenery is stunning all around you, great visibility is important.
We can strongly recommend the Enclave as an ideal family trip road trip car as well as a great solution for home use — think of all that back storage space for Home Depot runs, or for storing kid’s sports equipment when you’re bringing them to and from soccer games. Even if you’re not on a summer road trip like we were, it’s a convenient choice for weekends away as well.
The other aspect which I alluded to several times throughout the review is Buick’s gorgeous design and luxurious fine touches, which can’t be emphasized enough. Think about how often you spend in your car? Imagine feeling pampered and taken care of, surrounded by decadent design and sophisticated interior every time you get into the front seat. Isn’t it time?
Two thumbs up!
More information on specs and details can be found here: http://www.buick.com/enclave-mid-size-luxury-suv.html.