A Touch-Up is Just Enough
Without the Buick Enclave, the tri-shield brand might still be catering to retirees and grandparents. The Enclave’s introduction in 2008 signaled Buick’s intention to completely reinvent itself, and it’s done just that in the years since. Now that the rest of Buick’s lineup has been updated, the 2013 Enclave gets its turn under the knife for a bit of a makeover. Will the changes be enough to satisfy Enclave customers and keep the big crossover’s sales soaring?
The exterior alterations are immediately noticeable. The headlights are sleeker, with standard HIDs and LED daytime running lights, and the grille is enlarged significantly. The changes to the taillights are more subtle, but still make the 2013 model easy to identify from the rear. Overall, the face-lift enhances the Enclave’s look, and brings it into the twenty-teens.
Fewer changes were made to the interior, but GM spent money where it counted. A larger touch screen now adorns the center stack, bringing with it Buick’s Intellilink infotainment system as standard. Just as in other Buicks, the system is easy to use, and places Bluetooth and media controls, navigation, and other features easily within reach. The system also allows for streaming use of certain smartphone apps such as Pandora and Stitcher Radio, and comes standard with a rearview camera for 2013. As with other recent Buicks, a thin strip of Ice Blue ambient LED lighting now runs from the door panels across the dash, adding a peaceful glow to the cabin at night.
Our tester’s Choccachino brown-and-tan leather interior further enhances the crossover’s luxury feel inside, but it is let down by the faux-wood trim and still-dated instruments and in-cluster digital display. Another feature sorely missed in the update is a hands-free keyless access option, available on many other Buicks. Behind the front seats, there’s less to complain about. The second-row captain’s chairs are spacious and comfortable, and the cargo area behind the third row is ample enough for at least a couple carry-on bags. Folding the third-row seats flat frees up a total of 67.5 cubic-feet of space.
Our 2013 Buick Enclave, equipped with all-wheel drive, navigation, 20-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, and optional White Diamond Tricoat paint, rang up at $51,690. If you’re in a climate that doesn’t require all-wheel drive, you can skip that $2000 option. Forgo other frills like the $1400 sunroof and $745 tricoat finish, and you’re back in the mid-to-high-$40,000 range.
Under the hood, the 2013 Enclave is much like last year’s model, as the crossover packs the same 288-hp, 270-lb-ft 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission, which reportedly has had software updates designed to improve shift smoothness. The changes must be seamless, as I couldn’t feel much of a difference.
The previous model was already a smooth-riding vehicle, but Buick engineers also saw fit to upgrade the Enclave’s suspension for 2013. New dual-flow dampers and rebound springs are fitted in the front MacPherson struts, while the rear gets low-velocity control shocks. Buick says these parts are intended to help the Enclave ride quieter and smoother, but again, the changes weren’t easy to discern from a seat-of-the-pants observation.
The benefits of those tweaks also weren’t apparent in testing. The 2013 Enclave hit 60 mph from a standstill in 8.5 seconds, almost matching the 8.4-second result of the 2011 Enclave CXL AWD we last tested. The new Enclave completed the quarter-mile in 16.7 seconds at 84.6 mph, versus 16.5 seconds at 84.2 mph in the pre-refreshed model. Those figures aren’t quite enough to beat the less-powerful 2013 Infiniti JX35 three-row luxury crossover we recently tested–it posted a 7.9-second 0-60 mph time, and finished the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 90 mph.
Braking improved slightly for the 2013 model, however, with the Enclave stopping from 60-0 mph in 118 feet, versus 124 feet in the old model. Lateral acceleration nearly matched the previous model, at an average of 0.76 g. The 2013 Enclave completed our figure eight in 28.4 seconds at an average of 0.55 g, reasonably close to its last performance of 28.1 seconds at 0.57 g average.
As mid-cycle refreshes go, the 2013 Enclave’s updates are relatively mild. But considering the Enclave’s upscale three-row crossover competition is still slim, the model will likely continue to attract buyers. The crossover retains all the same qualities we praised at its introduction, and with the updates, the Enclave feels like a modern car again. If GM continues to subtly update the model with additional content each year, the Enclave will probably keep its sales momentum for years to come.
Enclave Taillights: Lighter, Cheaper, Thinner, Better
Lighting is all the rage in new cars these days, be it ambient mood lighting inside or flourishes of light outside designed to distinguish a model or brand from far away at night. BMW‘s headlight halo rings and Cadillac‘s taillight spears are two perfect examples that employ LED lights (illuminating a light pipe in the BMW’s case). The declining cost of mass-produced LEDs has helped make this possible, and now supplier 3M has devised a way to make LED lighting look better for less money.
This so-called Uniform Lighting Lens utilizes a microstructured polycarbonate thermoformable lens that distributes light from a small number of LED light sources across a wide area. These microstructures serve to bounce light around a reflector until it hits the ULL at an almost perpendicular angle. With all the light coming straight out of the entire lens, it’s almost impossible to detect where the actual LED light sources are, giving a more uniform appearance than is possible with a solid field of LED lights. Packaging depth is still slimmer than using conventional incandescent bulbs; service life is vastly longer; and cost — while higher than incandescent — undercuts the price of contiguous LED arrays considerably. We expect lots of other models will follow Enclave’s taillights down this technology path. — Frank Markus
|2013 Buick Enclave AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$51,690|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.6L/288-hp/270-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5036 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||201.9 x 79.0 x 70.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.7 sec @ 84.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||118 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.4 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||16/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.06 lb/mile|