Buyers who see a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz as too flashy may find a more low-key—but also lower grade—version of luxury in the 2021 Buick Enclave SUV. With three spacious rows of seats, the Enclave is also a good choice for growing families. It is mechanically related to the Chevrolet Traverse and uses the same 3.6-liter V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission as its bow-tie-clad cousin. Performance is agreeable, and the Enclave delivers a creamy ride and a quiet cabin. The Enclave’s downfall is its down-market interior materials, which don’t differentiate it enough from the cheaper, non-luxury Traverse trims. And the Enclave’s lack of refinement is obvious when it’s parked next to comparable Audis, Lincolns, and Volvos—then again, its starting price is thousands less than those luxury models.
What’s New for 2021?
Buick’s three-row family SUV rolls over to 2021 with only a few tweaks. Premium and Avenir models now come standard with power-adjustable lumbar support for the front seats and a massage feature, while the air ionizer is no longer available. Those two top models also receive a formerly optional package of driver-assistance features—including automated emergency braking and lane-keeping assist—as standard.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Spending big bucks on the top-spec Avenir model doesn’t quite get you the lux environs we expect from a premium SUV, so we’d save the money and go with the midrange Essence. At a bit more than $43,000, it’s a well-equipped family vehicle with plenty of features—such as on-board Wi-Fi, perforated leather seats, and six USB ports—that will keep passengers happy.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Under the hood of every Enclave is a 3.6-liter V-6 making 310 horsepower driving either the front or all four wheels via a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s not the quickest crossover, but the Enclave is fast enough that there’s never any cause for anxiety when driving around town or merging onto the highway, and the engine goes about its business while leaving the passenger cabin undisturbed. For those who need brawny towing capacity, Buick offers a Trailering package that ups the Enclave’s capacity to 5000 pounds. A well-damped suspension helps the Enclave hide its mass, but it never feels as athletic as the Audi Q7. Instead, it trades on comfort with a smooth, luxurious ride, gliding over pockmarked asphalt and barely registering harsh impacts. The steering provides an appropriate amount of feedback for a crossover, responds relatively crisply, and is nicely weighted.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
It’s unfair to expect economy-car fuel efficiency from a hulking three-row such as the Enclave, but rivals such as the Volvo XC90 and the Acura MDX simply outshine the Buick in our testing. While the EPA’s ratings have these people haulers in a close heat with each other, the XC90 and MDX exceeded their EPA estimates significantly. For its part, on our real-world highway fuel-economy test route, our all-wheel-drive Enclave Avenir delivered exactly as promised: 25 mpg. Not bad, but not on the others’ level.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Enclave’s cabin is as roomy inside as you’d expect from a vehicle this size, and Buick has integrated many comfort and convenience features. Altogether, the interior’s design is handsome and practical, but material quality and attention to detail are what hold the Enclave back from being competitive with its luxury-branded rivals. The wood trim looks and feels chintzy, the sunshades for the optional panoramic roof aren’t power operated, and only the passenger-side second-row seat slides forward to allow third-row passengers in and out—a clear cost-cutting move that compromises convenience. If cargo space is your main concern, the Enclave is the best choice in this segment, as it offers the most cubic feet of storage space in each of its configurations. In our testing, it swallowed a whopping 38 carry-on boxes with all of its seats down and provided space for an impressive five carry-ons behind its power-operated third row of seats.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Nestled into the dash between two asymmetrical air vents is the Enclave’s standard 8.0-inch IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system. The interface is user-friendly and rendered in a lovely arrangement with crisp graphics and an abundance of features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, and users can connect their devices to the internet via an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot powered by a 4G LTE data connection. Navigation with real-time traffic and weather updates is optional, as is a wireless charging pad for smartphones. All three rows of seats have two USB ports for charging devices, too.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Plenty of space for child seats and a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sound appealing, but adding almost all of the Enclave’s driver-assistance features requires upgrading to a more expensive version—something that may discourage some buyers. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Available lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning
- Available adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlamps
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Buick offers the most powertrain-warranty coverage among its key rivals and even sweetens the deal with a free maintenance visit within the first year of ownership. The XC90’s powertrain-warranty term isn’t as long as the Buick’s, but the XC90 offers a lot of extra maintenance and six more years of corrosion protection.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
More Features and Specs