We recently tested the Buick Regal TourX and concluded that it’s a sweet sport wagon – and not the big and friendly family Roadmaster wagon of day’s past.
What if a big comfy wagon is what you’re looking for?
As we like to say, step right this way, to the 2019 Buick Enclave. While the wagon market is rapidly shrinking, the crossover segment is going like gangbusters. And for the family with places to go, the three-row Buick is a great way to get there.
If you’re hoping for slabs of plasticized pine, you’ll be disappointed here. On the other hand, if you like your style crisp and modern, the Enclave will please the eye. After a complete re-do last year, the 2019 retains the same modern aero look. It remains instantly recognizable as a Buick, with its signature front grille and winged LED headlamps. Nice contouring around the fenders, and scooped-in lower door panels create a sporty look.
This is a big vehicle – larger than a VW Atlas – but instead of looking like a big box like the VW, the Enclave looks stylish and contemporary. In fact, rolling on optional 20” polished alloys and wearing a distinguished Ebony Twilight Metallic, our tester looked a bit badass. No family truckster here.
A modern take on luxury
You will find some faux wood inside, but it’s beautiful, and works well with brushed-chrome accents to serve up a luxury vibe. Like the Regal TourX, the gauges are on the plain side, but the rest of the design is so clean, it doesn’t bother. The sweep of the dash feels wide and expansive, and the 8-inch touchscreen is sleekly integrated – we felt that the navigation display was one of the best we’ve seen, modern, with great graphics.
Info-tainment is everything you could ask for, with a great-sounding 10-speaker Bose Audio system, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and onboard Wi-Fi. There are also 6 USB ports – two for each row (the front 2 can share data, the rest are for charging only),
The leather on our tester was plush, and the front seats were well sized, supportive, and heated and cooled. A power tilt and telescope steering column makes it easy to find that perfect driving position, while the memory system makes it easy to share.
The heated 2nd row captain’s chairs are equally comfy, with the passenger-side tilt and slide for access to the third row, which is usable – but best for kids.
On our tester, the third-row seats power-fold down, and with 5 on board, you have a spacious 58 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down the second row, and the 97-cubic foot cargo hold is humongous. Access is easy too – the remote will let you both open and close the tailgate, and as you walk up, the Enclave senses your arrival and projects a Buick logo on the ground below the rear bumper. Classy.
Cruise Ship but no Land Yacht
We found the Enclave an excellent drive – offering a large, supple ride, but never becoming a big boat. Power comes from a 310 hp, 3.6-liter V6 that has a nice growl on start up, and is quiet going about its business. Unless you punch it – there’s some nice power here and the engine actually sounds great winding it out. Few may try, but fewer will be disappointed.
Buick went to extended lengths to make this a quiet ride, and you notice it – it’s easy to have conversations without raising your voice, or just enjoy a peaceful ride.
When you do want to hustle, the 9-speed automatic helps keep things on the boil. It’s a well-sorted automatic, and it responds quickly to the spurs when needed, and otherwise glides along happily. With all that power, we were pleased to find no torque steer through our front wheel drive tester. We arrived around 20 mpg combined, which is about right for a big vehicle.
The ride is a perfect dancing partner for the smooth powertrain, supple, compliant, but never wallowy. The steering has nice weight to it, and it’s easy to maneuver. One of the Enclave’s strongest points – it drives much smaller than it actually is, making it fine for city traffic and parking lots, as well as long road trips. The only thing missing is Adaptive Cruise Control – you’ll have to go to the top of the line Avenir model for that – but we really didn’t miss it.
Buick knows this is a family vehicle, so they bring the goods in the safety department. Our Premium was loaded with standard gear, including Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Safety Alert Seat, Front and Rear Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Following Distance Indicator, and auto high-beam headlamps. You’re well looked after.
Will I have to raid the kid’s college fund?
How about sending them to JC for a couple years? Just kidding – for a premium brand, the Enclave is nicely priced.
The lineup starts with the Enclave Preferred at $41,995, and you get a large, well equipped vehicle with that powerful V6, keyless open and pushbutton start, smartphone connectivity trizone climate control, hands-free power liftgate, and rear park assist. Exclusively in front wheel drive.
We would recommend stepping up to the Essence, starting at $43,195. The extra two grand is well spent, getting you leather seats in rows 1 and 2, Lane change alert with blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert. Add $2,000 for All Wheel Drive.
There’s a premium for our front wheel drive Premium model, starting at $48,100. You get the Driver Confidence Package with that full suite of safety gear, the Premium Package, including, Bose Premium audio system, climate controlled front seats, heated steering wheel and 2nd row captain’s chairs, and Memory Package.
Our tester also had the Experience Buick package, which included 20-inch alloy wheels, dual moonroof, trailering package for $3,250. Add in the infotainment system with navigation ($ 450), Ebony twilight metallic paint ($395), and destination ($1,195), and we rang the bell at $53,435.
Loading up a VW Atlas SEL R Line we came in at $46,000, but you’d be sitting on Leatherette. Going for a comparable Audi A7 got us up to $63,940 – but you get Quattro all wheel drive. So the Buick sits somewhere in the middle of the class.
As much as we liked the Premium model, we’d lean towards the Essence. It gives you the safety items you need, the luxury items you want, and would keep it within a reasonable budget for a large family vehicle that’s pretty darn upscale at the same time.
We really enjoyed our time with the Enclave. It’s an attractive package – sleek style, well equipped, family-friendly, with a drive that’s a nice blend of European sport and American comfort – and no fake wood paneling!
The Buick Enclave is today’s family wagon.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.