2020 Buick Enclave ST – Road Test Review + Drive Video

The new-for-2020 Enclave ST looks amazing!  It is shocking how much the body-color grille edge and new gloss-black inner mesh changes the look of this jumbo crossover. Nowhere near as shocking as the resounding praise you’re about the read, though!  Believe me, this car will make anyone who drives or rides inside into a Buick fan.

This coming from the kid who truly believed the 1990s Skylark was the most hideous vehicle ever made, and had disgusted reactions to every element of LeSabre and Century.

This is a new era though, and this Buick is the best ever.

ST stands for Sport Touring and this option package adds some flair to what is otherwise a ubiquitous vehicle in suburbs across the country. We came to love not just its curb appeal with the new nose and darker alloys, but actually the entire machine which really achieves a new high for Buick and perhaps all of General Motors.

How so?  Well, you know Buick’s brand positioning: lux ride, ultra quiet cabin and near-premium prices. Yes, Buicks of old rode on softer springs than their siblings from other brands, but they never got anywhere close to how surreal the Enclave is on the road. This is an eight-seat, three-row crossover that feels more refined, insulated and hushed than Audi Q7 or the Mercedes GLS. (The new BMW X7 is pretty magical in ride quality department too.)  The Enclave’s ride is simply magic-carpet smooth.  Shocked? We were.

Without a Rolls-Royce Cullinan around to compare with, the Enclave is easily the comfiest SUV available at any price.  Road imperfections, grooves and expansion joints?  It is as if they do not exist in when driving Enclave.  This might sound like hyperbole but it is simply the truth! Getting out of Enclave and into any other car… you will suddenly discover that the roads you drive every day have grooves and grittiness that are simply imperceptible in the Buick.

We took the big comfy truck for a spin in the below Performance Drive Review to see if this comfort tuning still works on twisty roads, when pushed harder than most consumers will around corners.  Spoiler alert: Enclave does fine in the twisties and actually exhibits far less body roll than other ultra-floaty trucks like Toyota Land Cruiser or Nissan Armada.   And the good news doesn’t stop there!  Watch the vid and keep reading to hear some other highs (and a few lows) for this $50k Buick that beats all premium rivals on ride comfort.

2020 Buick Enclave ST Drive Video


The Highs

Just cant say enough about that ride quality and quietness inside!  But let’s keep moving as there are other great elements that deserve to be recognized.

The first is the drivetrain, which is the trusty GM 3.6-liter V6 paired with an all-new 9-speed automatic and optional push-button AWD. This Enclave might be gigantic (ties Tahoe for cabin and cargo volume) but no V8 is needed to hustle the big Buick up to speed.  Pace off the line is terrific with the ultra low first gear that nine cogs allows, and it keeps chugging forward with surprising intensity all the way to highway speeds. The automatic is near-perfect in delivering on-command downshifts, being in right gear in corners, and generally making no fuss whatsoever. The 1-2 shift might be the approaching perfection with millisecond speed and imperceptible refinement. This transmission is so good you hardly know it is upshifting at all, in fact.

How about cabin, where this truck and all family SUVs really need to shine?

Pleased to report that many old-fashioned parts of the previous Enclave (like the seat belt buckles and switchgear) are all updated to ultra-modern standards. Even in this near-base trim level Enclave has pretty awesome materials in most of the cabin. The touchable leatherette wrap of the entire dash, center console and upper doors is nice and very touchable.  Less good is that this vinyl leatherette also masquerades as real hide in all non-seating areas of the seats, like the backs and lower elements.  Dealbreaker? No.  But awesome to discover? Also no.

Honorable mention though for the actual seat comfort and support around corners, as well as the drive position and the quality of the new steering wheel.  Overall assembly feels pretty bullet-proof inside Enclave, with all pieces securely bolted down with no play or movement that might indicate they’ll rattle or come off after 100k miles.

The last high? The design of the Enclave is very cool and looks really good on these giant alloys.  (Although, the wheel arches themselves look like they could fit 22’s or perhaps 23’s and the tire sidewalls of these 20s are still pretty comfort-oriented.  Somewhat skinny tires too versus the X5’s you see on the road with those drum-roller rear tires visible from all angles.

The Lows

Comfy ride.  Speedy acceleration.  How about the handling?

The Enclave ST is a cosmetic upgrade, so besides the larger 20-inch alloys, there are no changes to the suspension setup. The surprising thing is: it doesn’t really feel boaty or floaty at all.  It has none of the dive and squat of Land Cruiser or Armada, and only a fraction of their body roll too.  Enclave easily wound through the twisties with only its slightly numb and slow steering being a demerit. A few instances where the Enclave overflowed from its lane onto the rub strips a few times in the video above but it’s easily corrected and brought back in line.

For this trendy look with the partially de-chromed nose and darker alloys… you might expect less chrome overall than the car wears.  There is still more bright trim on this Buick than any other car in recent memory.  The design might make more of a sophisticated statement if more of this were body-color, too.

The Enclave does still drive ‘big’ versus some crossovers like Highlander, but that might be because it is genuinely much larger than those car-based models. It is nimble and light light a city car relative to Tahoe, Yukon or Escalade though. As well as Expedition.  Enclave does all this with a much lower floor and the only thing it sacrifices is a lockable 4×4 system and a few (thousand) pounds of tow rating.  Enclave will tow 5000 pounds but if your boat or trailer is more than that you might be stuck in a truck-based SUV.

The AWD system is perfect in that you never really notice it is there when engaged. You just have perfect traction all the time. A prominent button to left of central touchscreen turns it on.  It would be nicer and easier if it were just a fully-automatic system, perhaps with a lock setting for extreme conditions.  As it stands, the default FWD is almost always fine for normal owners but boy-racers will note that it spins the front tires very easily even in dry weather with AWD off.

A downside that we must report is the lack of drive modes.  These are present in the top-dog Enclave Avenir trim (we believe) but absent in our tester, which was the fairly basic Essence trim level lower down the price ladder.  Along with missing the benefits is faster steering and more enthusiastic transmission settings, the lack of this and lots of other features means the cabin is left with lots of switch blanks.  Constant reminders that you were too cheap to get some unknown option.

Enclave also suffers from just a general lack of equipment for the price. The vehicle stickers from about $42,000 and goes over $60k in top models, which are easily $10k more than you’ll pay in the similar Chevy Traverse.  That upgrade money appears to have gone toward the ride comfort/quietness mission and not toward including a ton of standard features.

Examples? The test car had Apple CarPlay (yay) but no factory nav, which is just curious for a car that already has the giant touchscreen. Little things like Auto Hold to keep you at a stop without needing to hold down brake pedal are saved for the upper Enclave trims. The double moonroof is nice but the manual sunshades are pretty lackluster when Hyundai Palisade and many others have power operation.



No one is more shocked by how great Enclave is that this author.

It definitely deserves a test drive if you are considering any 3-row SUV, and it really holds its own versus Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, among others.

Buick seems to have finally put their money where their mouth is regarding world-class, world-beating ride comfort and cabin silence.  It’s not just marketing fluff — Enclave is sublime in those core areas, as well as drivetrain, performance and cabin comfort/usability. Our primary gripes about the car can almost be solved by spending more money on a more-loaded trim level. Luckily, even in loaded Avenir form, Enclave undercuts any three-row European SUV on price.