Buick Enclave — A fashionable 3-row crossover

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(August 30, 2020) The biggest problem for the Buick Enclave as it reaches the third year of its second generation is an ever-growing list of high-quality three-row crossover vehicles. There are a number of desirable people haulers now on the market with the entry of the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade and an-all new Ford Explorer. And if you are enticed by the top-trim Enclave Avenir, the competition is fierce in this price space with entries from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo.

What the Enclave offers is graceful and appealing styling, a comprehensive infotainment system, immense cargo hauling capability, a strong V-6 engine capable of towing 5,000 pounds, and a quiet and pleasant cabin.

The Enclave comes in four trim levels — Preferred, Essence, Premium and Avenir starting at $41,195 and topping out at the pricey Avenir for $54,995.

Buick introduced the Avenir — French for "future" — a few years ago to create a sub-brand to add luxury appointments and expand Buick's appeal to luxury shoppers and to lure owners of competitive brands. The Enclave Avenir adds a three-dimensional mesh grille, larger wheels, and unique interior finishes.

Our test vehicle was an Avenir with a handful of options that pushed the bottom line to $57,090 including destination charge. What takes the Avenir to the head of the class are standard 20-inch wheels, a large sunroof, premium leather upholstery, and a navigation system. But to get such things as adaptive cruise control and adaptive suspension you will have to opt for a $2,095 option. And all-wheel drive will push the price up another $2,300.

We think the sweet spot is the Essence with a base price of $43,195 including destination charge because it comes with a generous assortment of standard features as well as what we think is a safety feature that should be included on all vehicles regardless of price — blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, three-zone climate control, adjustable second-row captain's chairs, an excellent infotainment system with 8-inch touchscreen Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a WiFi hotspot, six USB ports, satellite radio, and a myriad of safety features.

All-wheel drive will push the price up $2,000.

The Enclave is available with only seven seats because the second-row features standard captain's chairs — no bench seat is available. We are good with that because our short stint in a second-row seat proved very comfortable. And the second row seats will slide and recline offering limo-like amounts of legroom. The third row is a bit cramped for adults, but it will do for two people on short jaunts. Otherwise make the far-back chairs the permanent home for the kids.

The Buick’s size and packaging yield a useable 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats up, and the standard power-folding third row and collapsible captain’s chairs allow quick access to its full 97.6-cubic-foot capacity. There’s also a three-cubic-foot storage bin beneath the load floor and a standard power liftgate with a remote-opening sensor under the rear bumper.

One of the highlights of the Enclave is its drivetrain that includes a 310-horsepower V-6 with 266 pound-feet of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.  This translates into a satisfying feeling of urgency whether in stop and start city traffic, merging into fast-moving interstate traffic, or passing slower moving vehicles on a two-lane blacktop. We were pleased with the performance in all situations.

You will feel it in the seat of your pants, but if you need numbers for further verification the Enclave has been instrument tested from 0-to-60 in 6.6 seconds and in 15.2 seconds @ 94 mph for the quarter mile. The icing on the cake is the Enclave's EPA mileage figures of 17 mpg city, 25 highway and 20 overall with all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive mileage is slightly better at 18/26/21. Important to note — less-expensive regular gas is recommended.

The interior offers a quiet environment even at highway speeds adding to its luxury attributes. While the Enclave handles well for a big crossover, the suspension yields a just-right ride quality with the ability to soak up road imperfections without disturbing the passengers. The front seats are plush, but supportive and should wear well over long stretches of driving. Inside, the Enclave loses many of its buttons and knobs in favor of a new 8-inch frameless infotainment screen. 

While the noted competition is extremely strong we still think the Enclave remains an excellent choice in the three-row transportation sport utility vehicle.

2020 Buick Enclave


Base price: $41,195; as driven, $57,090
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 310 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 266 pound-feet @ 2,800 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 120.9 inches
Length: 204.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,358 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Luggage capacity: 23.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 97.6 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 26 highway, 21 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Kia Telluride, Acura MDX, Toyota Highlander

The Good
• Generous cargo space
• Quiet interior, smooth ride
• Energetic V-6

The Bad
• Tight third row for adults

The Ugly
• Below average fuel economy