Test Drive column: 2021 Buick Enclave

Greg Zyla
More Content Now USA TODAY NETWORK
2021 Buick Enclave

Base price: $41,195

Price as tested: $59,290

This week, we’re driving the 2021 Buick Enclave, General Motor’s upper class midsize SUV that delivers the best of both SUV mechanicals with minivan-like passenger room. Built in Lansing, Michigan, Enclave debuted in 2008 and was popular from day one. It actually replaced three 2007 Buicks, including Terraza, Rendezvous and Rainer, all at the same time. Since then, Enclave has become Buick’s flagship SUV model that now competes with numerous foreign and American manufacturers in this popular category.

Listed as a standard size SUV by the EPA, Enclave is available in four distinct trims starting with the entry model Preferred at $41,195; then moving upward with Essence at $43,195; Premium at $49,995 and then top line Avenir at $54,995. If you choose the AWD versions the Essence is $45,195, Premium $51,795, and Avenir $56,000. AWD is not available with the entry Preferred.

Our tester this week is the top-class Avenir, delivered with AWD underpinnings that came in handy during several smaller snow events that hit our northernmost Pennsylvania state. Although nothing near the 38-inch snowfall we experienced some six weeks ago, the fully automatic AWD underpinnings helped tremendously and for those who live in climates where snow is a yearly expectation, I highly recommend adding AWD to your Enclave order form.

Our tester is Enclave’s new generation that debuted in 2018 and features a 2-inch longer wheelbase than the previous generation. It still shares some mechanicals with Chevrolet Traverse, but overrides the Chevy in side-by-side luxury and amenity comparisons. The current model is also more aerodynamic thanks to a lower roofline and more refined front end, grille and headlight design.

Powered by the proven GM 3.6-liter double overhead cam (DOHC) V6 with 310 horsepower and 266 lb. ft. of torque, Buick now mates the proven engine to its new nine-speed automatic in either front drive or Intelligent AWD, replacing the six-speed automatic from the previous generation. The AWD features a twin-clutch rear differential that delivers better torque distribution and driver selectable AWD or front-drive only modes.

Our tester Enclave Avenir comes near fully loaded with leather appointed seven-passenger seating. The second row Captain Chair buckets feature a “smart” feature that easily moves the seat forward and then tilts it to allow non-cumbersome third row access. All three seating areas are zoned for heating and cooling, while modern standard fare tech appointments throughout the cabin include Bluetooth, USB, SiriusXM Satellite, remote start, 4G Wi-Fi, 8-inch diagonal high-resolution color touch-screen, Apple/Android compatibility and a great sounding Bose Premium 10-speaker infotainment system with navigation.

Our tester also featured as standard what is optional on the lesser trims, including 20-inch premium pearl nickel finish wheels on name brand Continental tires. Its hands-free power rear liftgate and dual-pane sunroof with rear fixed skylight are also standard, as is power tilt and telescopic steering instead of manual.

Spacious and ultra-quiet, Enclave Avenir is noted for its beautiful cabin. However, as inviting and beautiful as it is, all Enclave trims quickly become a vehicle capable of loading up at the home improvement center if needed when the three rows of seating are arranged for moving needs. Clearly, the Enclave is usually purchased more so for its family moving and luxurious ride attributes, but it’s an added advantage knowing it has numerous multi-use possibilities.

Driving manners are good and the ride is ultra comfortable. What really continues to impress this scribe is the power available from the DOHC “High Feature” 3.6-liter V6 the Enclave has utilized since day one. When the accelerator is fully matted our Enclave accelerates more like a V8 than a V6 thanks to the three extra gear ratios from the nine-speed automatic. It enhances full-throttle acceleration while also assisting in delivering better highway fuel economy, too. A start/stop feature to help save fuel when the Enclave is not in motion is also standard.

Additionally, those who need to tow a small boat or pop up camper can safely complete the task up to 1,500 pounds. If you need to tow more weight, a trailer package is available that moves tow capacity up to 5,000 pounds. Your dealer will explain when you call or visit.

Safety items on our tester include rear cross traffic, rear park assist, high-definition rear camera, electronic stability, lane change alert and much more. Unfortunately, some of the modern high-tech safety items (like emergency front collision braking, pedestrian braking, lane keep assist) are not available on the Essence and Preferred trims. However, they are either standard or available once you get to the Premium and Avenir. Considering how important these modern driver-assist safety features are, it’s an area Buick needs to address as many competitors now offer high-tech safety on all trims.

Still, all Buick Enclave models score Five Star overall ratings in government crash testing thanks to its rollover sensing seven-airbag system that encompasses the entire vehicle, front, side and head curtain for all three rows. Significant is GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability system and traction controls that are standard across the line and also add to the vehicle’s security features.

Notable is the only option our tester featured, namely a $2,095 Avenir Technology Package, which also heightens the safety factor. Included are adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and premium suspension upgrade with continuously variable real time damping. With the above mentioned option and its AWD base price of $56,000, the final Avenir retail came in at $59,290 with $1,195 delivery included.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 120.9 inches, 4,685 lb. curb weight, from 23.6 to 97.6 cu. ft. of cargo space, 7.7-inch ground clearance, 21.7-gallon fuel tank and 17 city and 25 highway the EPA estimates.

In summary, I’d start with the Premium model as the high-tech safety features are either standard or available. There are also some outstanding dealer enticements currently in force, including both lease and purchase deals along with added GM credit card monies added to your plan. If you can find a leftover 2020, you’ll save even more. Either way, you’ll be happy with your new Buick Enclave as it’s a great SUV worthy of serious buyer consideration.

Likes: Looks, excellent crash test ratings, Buick affluence.

Dislikes: High-tech safety not available on lesser trims, AWD unavailable on entry model.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

2021 Buick Enclave