It takes awhile for things to change – and sometimes, not for the better. One of the things that hasn’t changed – yet – is the Buick Enclave.
Which is good – because it still comes standard with what you soon won’t be able to get.
At least, not for just under $44k to start.
What It Is
The Enclave is a full-size, three-row (seven passenger) crossover sold by Buick – which is the last not-quite-luxury-brand on the market. There used to be brands like Mercury – which sold models that were nicer than Fords but not as expensive as Lincolns.
Today, Buick is the only surviving brand like that. Nicer than a Chevy – but not as pricey as a Cadillac.
The Enclave is also one of a dwindling number of crossovers – including those sold by luxury brands – that still comes standard with a six cylinder engine engine rather than a turbocharged four. That’s because the current (2024) model is essentially the same as the 2018 model – and six years ago, it was expected that when you paid $44k for a full-sized, three-row crossover, a V6 would come standard.
Today, you can still pick up a new V6-powered Enclave for $43,900 to start. In addition to the standard 3.6 liter V6, the Enclave Essence trim comes with heated leather seats and steering wheel, three-zone climate control and a hands-free rear liftgate. Unlike a growing number of crossovers, the Enclave is available with all-wheel-drive.
But you don’t have to buy it.
A top-of-the-line Avenir trim – which comes with a 10 speaker Bose premium sound system, Heads Up Display, surround-view camera, sunroof, digital rearview mirror, a 20 inch wheel/tire package and interior/exterior trim upgrades stickers for $57,100 with front-wheel-drive and $59,100 with AWD.
What’s New For 2024
This will be the last year for the current model; the Enclave will be updated for the 2025 model year – and this update is all-but-certain to mean no more standard V6. Probably in favor of a turbo four and possibly a turbo-hybrid plug-in four.
This may increase the MPGs slightly.
Standard V6 is becoming a luxury item – even for luxury-brand models (the Lexus RX350, for instance, is no longer available with a V6).
A huge, iPod-like tablet screen does not dominate the dashboard.
Rides soft and plush – as luxury vehicles used to do.
What’s Not So Good
All trims come standard with annoying “driver assistance technology,” including seats that vibrate if the vehicle thinks your driving needs parenting.
Only the passenger-side second row seat slides forward – making it harder to get into or out of the third row from the driver’s side.
This is likely to be the last new Buick you’ll ever be able to buy with anything more than a four.
Regardless of trim, every Enclave comes standard with GM’s well-regarded 3.6 liter DOHC V6. In this application, it produces 310 horsepower and 266 ft.-lbs. of torque, sufficient to get this Buick to 60 in about 6.4 seconds.
As per above, the ’24 Enclave is the last new Buick that comes standard with a V6 and it’s the only current Buick model that even offers one. Its siblings all have no more than fours and one of them – the Encore GX – comes standard with a three.
This is a pretty dramatic transition from the era when Buicks were big – and so were their engines.
Readers of this column already know why Buicks have been diminished – especially under the hood. If you don’t know why, here why: 18 city, 26 highway. Those are the city/highway fuel economy numbers for the Enclave. They are actually pretty good numbers for a large, seven passenger crossover that weighs just under 4,400 lbs. (for the FWD version; an AWD-equipped Avenir has a curb weight of 4,685 lbs.).
The lightest version of the Enclave is several hundred pounds heavier than the biggest car Buick ever made, the 1970 Electra 225 sedan. It weighed 4,296 lbs. And it was powered by a 7.5 liter (455 cubic inch) V8.
It also didn’t come close to getting 18 MPG . . . on the highway. And it needed about ten seconds to heave itself to 60.
So – in comparison – the Enclave is remarkably efficient. That’s what 50 years of refinement (of gas-burning engines) can and has achieved. But it’s not enough for the federal government – which continues to ratchet-up the MPG standards (CAFE) such that even a very fuel-efficient V6 that’s size-appropriate for a large vehicle like this is being pushed off the market in favor of ever-smaller engines, on the way to electric motors and batteries that cost more to buy and so do not save the owner money.
Leaving aside the cost of the lack of choice.
So this is your last chance.
A nine speed automatic is standard and this Buick can pull up to 5,000 lbs. when optioned with the available towing package ($650) that adds a heavy-duty cooling system, hitch and back-up camera system.
Six years ago, the Enclave was kind of like what my ’76 Trans-Am was 40 years ago – when cars like it were still commonplace. That made them nothing special. They are today – the few that are still around – because no one has made cars like them in 40 years. That makes them uncommon and so, special.
Today, the Enclave is like that.
This Buick hasn’t got the becoming-common enormous LCD touchscreen erupting like a Pop Tart from the dashboard that makes driving both an aggravation and a paradox in that you’re not supposed to tap and swipe at a screen while you’re trying to drive. Yet most new cars practically require it because that’s the only way to control many of the car’s systems. It’s legal to do this – but it’s arguably just as distracting as fiddling with a cell phone while you’re driving.
You can just drive this Buick – because it doesn’t have that oversized tablet Pop Tarting out of the dashboard. It doesn’t even offer one. It does have a small (8 inch) screen for the audio system – but you don’t have to use it to control the audio system. There are still knobs for that. And for the climate control, including the temperature controls. Left for cooler, right for warmer.
Buttons for the airflow control.
Ahead of you – if you’re behind the wheel – is an instrument cluster. Not a display. Speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, temperature and fuel. This is almost as unusual today as the V6 that’s under the hood.
All of this makes the Enclave appealing in the same way that real Coke with sugar in a glass bottle is more appealing than the “Coke” sweetened with corn syrup that comes in plastic bottles is. We took Coke sweetened with sugar that came in glass bottles for granted, too.
And now it’s something special, by dint of no longer being common.
At The Curb
It is a few inches longer than new rivals such as the just-introduced 2024 Mazda CX-90, which is one of the remaining few in this price range that also comes standard with a six (paired with a mild-hybrid system to bump up the MPGs to 24 city, 28 highway). But while the Mazda has seats for up to eight, it comes at the cost of space – for cargo – vs. the Enclave.
The Buick has 23.6 cubic feet of capacity behind its third row while the Mazda has only 14.9 cubic feet. This can be expanded to 74.2 cubic feet but it’s still significantly less space than the Buick’s cavernous-in-comparison 97.4 cubic feet of space.
Another possible cross-shop is the Kia Telluride (and its Hyundai Palisade twin). These also come standard with a V6 – because they both date back to the Before Time (2019, in this case) but they are also smaller-in-size (196.9 inches). They nonetheless still have almost as much space for cargo behind their third row (21 cubic feet) and in total (87 cubic feet).
But the Buick’s real uniqueness is that it’s the last-remaining near-luxury vehicle of its type available. It can be compared – favorably – with luxury-brand models such as the Lexus RX350 (which no longer comes standard with or even offers a V6) and the Acura MDX (which still has a V6, but comes standard with a much higher price).
In some ways – such as its soft ride, quiet and calm demeanor and non-aggravating controls – the Buick is more luxurious than its luxury-brand competition.
Speaking of them . . .
One of the slight changes Buick made to the Enclave’s interior was to swap out the BMW-looking toggle-type gear selector in favor of a Honda-style low-profile push-button selector system. This latter is eliminates the feel-less engagement of the former.
If you’re considering this vehicle, you will probably want to stick with the standard 18 inch wheels – so as to maintain the softer ride that you’re probably looking for.
A 20 inch package is available as a stand-alone option (standard with the Avenir) but these firm up the ride – which (when we’re talking Buicks) is kind of like asking for low-fat General Tso’s at the Chinese buffet, in that it runs counter to the point.
You can also get many other desirable options such as the available panorama sunroof, the upgrade 10 speaker Bose premium audio system, adaptive cruise control and a high definition “surround vision” camera system without first having to buy one of the more expensive trims.
Or even AWD.
All of the above can be ordered with the base (and FWD) version of the Enclave.
The Bottom Line
The Enclave is the closest thing Buick still sells to a ’70 Electra 225 – and that’s exactly the appeal.
While it lasts.
. . .
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