New car shoppers looking for a sporty or engaging driving experience should pass on the 2016 Buick Enclave, but for those on the prowl for easy luxury, it doesn't get much better. It is exactly what a Buick should be: big, moderately powerful and comfortable with a drive so smooth, you may forget you're behind the wheel. In fact, it feels the same around town as it does at the upper limit of legal highway speeds.
The kitted-out 7-passenger crossover I drove wasn't cheap, but that's to be expected. In the General Motors hierarchy, Buick is second only to Cadillac in terms of luxury (and maybe equal to GMC). The Enclave delivered on that reputation.
At first glance, the Enclave may not look like much. Sure, it's shiny with metallic paint and chrome trim, but it's basically the same thing as a Chevrolet Traverse and wears the unassuming bodywork to match. The signature chrome waterfall grille, portholes and giant 19-inch chrome-plated wheels are hints at what this car is about – comfort combined with a mid-century sense of style.
That's not to say the Enclave isn't thoroughly modern. Sure, the gauges in the instrument cluster are the old-fashioned kind with actual needles and there's only the most basic pixelated display in the center, but that's actually a bit refreshing. In this age of information overload, the Enclave keeps it simple. A small analog clock placed placed at the dash center just above the infotainment screen suggests there are some things more important than high-tech gadgetry. Class and elegance, for instance.
Seating is roomy and comfortable. The middle row features reclining captains chairs that fold and stow out of the way. The rear seat is a bit less plush, but its easy for passengers to access and to fold flat for more cargo space. With the rear seats up, there isn't much space left for cargo.
The Enclave devoured highway miles with ease. Its 288-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission moved the big car without too much trouble. Although I could never be sure what sort of fuel economy I was getting (I couldn't find the menu that showed it), a tank of gas lasted a long time and didn't cost more than $45 to replenish. Visibility out of the sides and back of the vehicle weren't all that great, but front and rear corner collision warning sensors with sideview mirror-mounted warning lights help me avoid catastrophes. The forward collision warning system actually helped me on one occasion.
The Enclave is a heavy vehicle – close to 5,000 pounds, depending upon equipment – and even with four-wheel disc brakes, stopping it takes time. When someone slammed on their brakes in front of me in traffic, I saw the flashing red warning lights on the dash before I saw the errant motorist. The panic it caused gave my brain the signal it needed to command my foot to brake hard immediately. I probably would've been fine without it but I appreciated the help.
Come the winter, the all-wheel drive (this model had it) wil undoubtedly come in handy on New York's snow and ice-covered roads.
Would I buy an Enclave if I had a big family to haul around? It's really nice, but probably not when there are so many less expensive options that offer similar amenities. The Toyota Highlander, Ford Flex and Dodge Durango all have three-row seating and can all be had nicely equipped for less than $40,000. Buick may have a reputation as a prestige brand in China, but it has yet to regain that kind of clout at home.
By the numbers: 2016 Buick Enclave AWD
MSRP: $53,630 (includes $925 destination charge)
Power and drive wheels: 3.6-liter, 288-hp V6 engine, all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy: 18/22 city/highway mpg
Safety: The 2016 Buick Enclave has not yet been rated by IIHS, but the rating for the 2015 model can be found here.