Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

January 27, 2013

Buick Enclave is practical and a smooth ride

Buick Enclave is practical and a smooth ride

One of the weird things about reviewing new cars — a bizarre world where you drive a different, brand-new car every week — is that your expectations change so much with each vehicle.

If I drive a $15,000 economy car today after driving a $100,000 luxury car last week, how is that fair?

Is the cheap car really bad, or does it just feel bad because I spent seven days sitting in the Taj Mahal?

That's why I try to hit a mental reset button after each vehicle, so as not to set my expectations too high.

After driving a fancy Cadillac SRX last week, for example, I tried not to expect as much from the Buick Enclave, a crossover from a brand that traditionally sits lower than Cadillac's on General Motors' totem pole.

The weird thing? I think I like the Enclave even better than I did the Cadillac. This big Buick has a softer ride than the SRX, which seems fitting in a luxury crossover. If I wanted a sporty ride, I'd pick a sports sedan instead of a bulky, pseudo-sporty crossover.

It's also incredibly practical, with three rows of seats and minivan-like storage options.

And unlike some three-row crossovers, it actually has a decent amount of cargo space in back when the third-row seat is in place.

That makes it a good car for family road trips.

If you're cross-shopping with the Cadillac — and with a fully loaded price in the $50,000 range for the Enclave, you easily could — the one area the Caddy wins is in technology.

The Enclave lacks the "gee whiz" appeal of the SRX's fancy new CUE digital interface, opting instead for more traditional buttons and radio dials.

But in terms of the interior trim, the Buick definitely has Cadillac-level quality.

Gentle lights sweep around the cabin, from the back seats all the wayacross the dash, something that gives it an elegant, spaceship look at night unlike anything else on the road.

The materials are top-notch, too, with soft leather seats and classy stitching on the dash and door trim.

Buick made a long list of improvements to the Enclave for 2013.

It's not an all-new design, but it comes close with freshened exterior styling, a new instrument panel and interior lighting, an updated six-speed automatic transmission, new suspension design and more standard equipment.

The end result is a luxury vehicle that rivals some of the best crossovers in the world, including the category's standard bearer, the Lexus RX.

If your idea of a Buick crossover is built around the old Rendezvous, you'll be in for a shock.

Pricing starts at $39,340 for the base front-wheel-drive Enclave and ranges up to $48,520 for the Premium Group package with all-wheel drive.

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