2013 Buick Enclave

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Five years may not seem like much in the overall span of time. However, in the case of the Buick Enclave it’s been the length of an evolution. First debuted as a 2008 model in May 2007, the Enclave is a prime example of a vehicle whose instant success more than doubled Buick's annual sales volume.

Enclave was the first weapon in Buick’s new arsenal of vehicles that changed its image from that as a “reliable doctor’s car” to one that has won awards for styling, design and craftsmanship and has produced the industry’s best-selling three-row luxury crossover vehicle.

The Enclave has been updated for the 2013 model year and while it is still easily identified as an Enclave, it features improved styling inside and out and includes a host of new features that keeps it on the cutting edge in an increasingly competitive luxury SUV segment.

The 2013 Enclave's exterior sports a new front fascia with LED daytime running lamps, new hood and black-chrome waterfall grille, new rear fascia design with integrated exhaust outlets, new LED taillamps, monochromatic exterior appearance with chrome accents and available articulating headlamps to name a few.

It has an aggressive stance sitting atop standard 18-inch wheels or available 19-or-20-inch new aluminum wheel designs.

It has one of the most attractive interiors since the Royal Palace. Its new appearance is recognized immediately by what has to be one of, if not the most handsome dashboards in the industry. Soft-touch materials and real stitching are found there and throughout the cabin.

For 2013 there’s a new Cocoa interior color developed specifically for Enclave that’s complemented by the soft feel of the Nuance sandstone leather that has characteristics similar to leathers used in premium home furnishings. A new center stack is designed for easy, intuitive interaction with the new IntelliLink LCD touch screen display.

A tri-zone climate system is designed to be more intuitive with easier, at-a-glance operation, bold digital temperature readouts and larger controls that are easier to operate. Three rows of seating are available in seven-, or eight-passenger configurations. The second-row seats feature the SmartSlide system that allows for easier entry for the third row with the pull of a single handle.

Other interior highlights include new, ice blue LED ambient lighting around the dash, four interior color combinations with complementing wood tones and what I consider the best-looking instrument housings and easiest-on-the-eyes ice blue instrument lighting anywhere.

All of this is in addition to the vast amount of interior space the new Enclave offers — 151.1 cubic feet of passenger volume (115.2 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the first row with the two rear rows folded; 68.9 cubic feet behind the second row with the third-row seat folded and 23.3 cubic feet behind the third row (all figures are given with the cargo management system removed as well). Standard power liftgate and remote start also enhance the joy of ownership.

Buick’s IntelliLink color touch radio is standard on all models and offers a higher level of wireless connectivity and customized options. Its features (and even better, intuitive features) include setting up a home page for favorites, integration of online services such as Pandora internet radio and Stitcher Smart Radio, using hands-free voice and touch screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, a 7-inch diagonal high-resolution color display with touch-screen control, address book download and hands-free calling, USB port, auxiliary audio input port and a whole lot of others things I don’t understand but am desirous of.

The new Enclave is powered by a really sweet 3.6-liter direct injected V-6 with continuously variable valve timing that puts out 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque (that’s reached at 3,400 rpm) and is mated to a six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission.

Fuel economy is not bad for this slightly less than 5,000-pound vehicle, 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the front-wheel drive and 16/24 for all-wheel drive. With a fuel capacity of 22 gallons you’re easily looking at a 400-plus mile trip whose stops are only determined by who has to use the facilities. Towing capacity is 4,500 pounds so don’t forget to bring the boat.

It’s hard to tell the difference between driving a luxury sedan from the versatility of an SUV-like Enclave. Buick engineers have revised front and rear dampers for greater smoothness and enhanced feeling of control. New dual-flow dampers in the front suspension and rebound springs help reduce the jarring feeling of bumps and also provide a quieter, smoother ride. New rear low-velocity control shocks greatly reduce road bumps that would normally be experienced by the passengers.

Safety is a major element of the 2013 Enclave and it boasts an industry-first front center side air bag that assists in collision-avoidance of the two front-seat passengers. There’s nothing like surviving a horrific crash but be left with a lifetime of headaches and dependence on soft foods because of damage caused by a severe impact between you and Uncle Barney riding shotgun.

Other standard safety features include StabiliTrak, traction control, panic brake assist, rearview camera system and seven air bags. Want more? Available are side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and several other technologies designed to help avoid and/or survive an accident.

And how much will all this cost, you ask? Not as much as one would think, especially when considering the standard and available content. MSRP is $39,270 (including $825 destination charge). Granted, a final price tag in the $50,000 neighborhood is easily attainable with upscale trim levels, inclusion of luxury packages and other factors.

But it’s certainly an aspirational neighborhood. If you’ve achieved a station in life where you can afford a vehicle like the 2013 Enclave then you’re smart enough to reward yourself with the fruits of your labor.

This just in, as they say — the 2013 Buick Enclave has just been voted the Crossover Utility Vehicle of Texas  by the prestigious Texas Auto Writers Association at its annual Truck Rodeo event in San Antonio.

Buick used to have an advertising tagline that went, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” Apparently the Texas journalists think so.

— Al Vinikour