Families in the market for a large crossover SUV have a lot of factors to consider, from versatility and technology to safety and fuel economy. But what about luxury? If you’re looking for a little more serenity in your drive — and if your family is big enough to require an eight-seat vehicle, surely you’ll take some serenity anywhere you can get it — the 2016 Buick Enclave is one of the smoothest, quietest crossovers in its class. Moreover, it doesn’t carry the megabucks price tag of a luxury-branded vehicle.
A waterfall grille and smooth, rounded contours set the 2016 Buick Enclave apart from other SUVs.
The Enclave distinguishes itself from the mechanically similar GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse with its dignified styling and library-quiet ride. This Buick pours down the road at speed, silently soaking up bumps like a proper land yacht. Equally extraordinary is the Enclave’s efficient use of space. Unlike with some three-row SUVs, the Enclave’s third-row seat isn’t an afterthought. It’s a full-size seat, though it’s best suited for children and small adults. Access is relatively easy, thanks to big rear doors and (optional) second-row captain’s chairs that slide out of the way. And even with the third row seat in place, the Enclave still offers a reasonable 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space. With all backseats moved out of the way, the Enclave is one of the most commodious large SUVs on the market.
While the Enclave is a cozy cruiser on the open road, it’s a bit ponderous closer to home. This is a big and heavy vehicle, and its 40-plus-foot turning circle can make it difficult to maneuver in tight spots. In contrast, the Acura MDX feels quite sporty to drive, although its third-row seat and cargo area aren’t as roomy. Other solid picks for an upscale large three-row crossover include loaded versions of the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. Still, if you want to enjoy some serenity while schlepping around your brood, the 2016 Buick Enclave should not be overlooked.
The 2016 Buick Enclave isn’t exactly light on its feet. The V6 engine provides decent performance but lacks authoritative punch during passing maneuvers. In addition, the automatic transmission can be slow to react when a quick downshift is needed, though the gearchanges are generally smooth. Overall, performance is adequate but falls short of segment leaders.
The Enclave is an excellent highway cruiser thanks to its impressively smooth drive and low levels of wind and road noise. But with its turning circle of over 40 feet, U-turns are difficult and maneuvering in tight parking lots will have you calling for the harbor pilot. The Enclave certainly isn’t as unwieldy as full-size body-on-frame SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator, but smaller vehicles like the Acura MDX feel sportier and more maneuverable.
The 2016 Buick Enclave is a large three-row crossover available in three trim levels that Buick refers to as "groups": Convenience, Leather and Premium.
Every Enclave comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs and seven-passenger capacity. A second-row bench seat, which increases passenger capacity to eight, is optional on the Leather and Premium groups.
Standard equipment for the Enclave with the Convenience Group includes 19-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, rear privacy glass, a power liftgate, heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, remote start, cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (plus two-way lumbar adjustment), a two-way power passenger seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Electronics for the Convenience Group includes OnStar telematics with 4G LTE, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, Buick’s IntelliLink electronics interface (which includes voice control and smartphone radio app integration), dual USB charge ports (on the rear of the center console) and a six-speaker sound system that includes a CD player, an auxiliary sound jack, a USB sound interface and satellite radio.
Subtle colors along with metallic and wood trim give the 2016 Buick Enclave a premium ambience.
Stepping up to the Leather Group adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustment for the front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, driver memory settings and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert.
The top-of-the-line Premium Group includes all of the above plus adaptive headlights, chrome-clad wheels, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, a power-adjustable steering column, heated and ventilated front seats, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.
Options on the Leather and Premium groups include 20-inch wheels, a dual-panel sunroof, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Bose surround-sound sound system and a towing package.
The interior of a Buick Enclave isn’t quite as rich as those found in some premium competitors, but most surfaces are still attractive and of good quality. We particularly like the padded vinyl trim on the dashboard — thanks to contrast stitching, it looks like real leather and contributes to the Buick’s classy character.
The climate controls are operated by three easy-to-use knobs, though the controls interspersed with them are very small. Every Enclave features Buick’s IntelliLink 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which provides smartphone integration for Internet radio and other apps. It features a clean layout and an intuitive menu structure, though learning one’s way around the system can take a while. The screen itself is mounted low in the driver’s sight line and requires a longer glance away from the road than we’d like. In addition, the system is sometimes slow to respond to touch inputs (and occasionally misses them entirely), making the interface a bit frustrating.
The Enclave is unusual in that it offers seating for eight with usable luggage space.
In terms of versatility, the Enclave is one of the most spacious crossovers available for both people and cargo. Front-row passengers will enjoy abundant head- and legroom, as will most second-row occupants. But those middle-row seat cushions are mounted a bit low, which impacts comfort for adults. Sliding the second-row seats all the way back helps alleviate this issue, but doing so effectively kills third-row legroom.
The third row is actually roomy enough for adults to fit in comfortably (as long as second-row occupants are kind enough not to slide their seats all the way back), though it’s best for those of smaller stature or children. This is especially true if you want to fit three across. Rearward visibility is almost nonexistent when you have a full crew aboard.
When it comes to cargo space, the Enclave is definitely a leader in its class. Even with the third-row seats in place, it can carry more luggage than most rivals. Space is abundant when lowering either the second or third row, as the Enclave offers more cargo space than any crossover apart from its Chevrolet and GMC siblings.
The 2016 Buick Enclave is equipped with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Also standard is a large airbag that deploys between the front seats; it’s designed to protect occupants from colliding with one another in the event of a side impact. The standard OnStar system includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, an emergency button, stolen car locator and active intervention, and remote door unlock.
The Leather and Premium Groups include rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot warning system. The Premium Group also includes forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems, both of which are available on the Leather Group as extra-cost options.
In SUVS brake testing, an Enclave with the optional 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 126 feet, which is an average distance.
In government crash tests, the Enclave earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Enclave also did well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, earning the highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test as well as the side-impact, roof strength and seatbelts and head restraints (whiplash protection) tests.
All 2016 Buick Enclaves come with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on Leather and Premium models. Properly equipped with the optional towing package, the Enclave can haul up to 4,500 pounds.
In SUVS performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Enclave went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 8.6 seconds, which is a little slower than average for large crossovers, some of which are equipped with more powerful V8 engines.
The EPA estimates that a front-wheel-drive Enclave will return 19 miles per gallon combined (17 city/24 highway), and all-wheel drive brings that number down slightly to 18 miles per gallon combined (16 /22). These are average fuel economy numbers for a large, V6-powered crossover.
Smooth and quiet ride; luxurious cabin; generous cargo capacity, even behind the third row; seating for up to eight; top safety scores.
The 2016 Buick Enclave is a great middle-ground option for families who want a lot of space and a luxurious ambience, but don’t want to pay the luxury-brand premium.