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2013 Buick Enclave tops 3-row luxury crossover segment

2013 Buick EnclaveWhile owning a Buick in China is a status symbol akin to owning an E-Class or better Mercedes in America, and in spite of the average age of a Buick buyer declining from 64 to 57, General Motors’ (GM) still has its competitive hands full. Its Buick Enclave dominates the prestigious three-row luxury crossover segment against strong competition from the likes of Audi, Acura, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and even Lincoln, by offering an extremely attractive package of luxury, value and three-row flexibility.

Updated for the 2013 model year, Buick is focused on retaining that top spot in American sales. The Enclave presents a perceptively gentle restyling outside, while featuring a beautifully upgraded interior, that adds elegant ice-blue ambient lighting, brightly colored new climate controls and genuine upholstery stitching that reinforces the image of premium quality.

The 2013 Enclave is technologically adept as well, utilizing GM’s IntelliLink system, which supports audio streaming of Pandora Internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio as well as available Sirius/XM satellite radio.

Walkaround: The 2013 Enclave is easily recognizable. Its larger, more pronounced, resurrected trademark waterfall grille, and historic portholes on top of the hood, both scream “Buick.” Body-color rocker moldings and front and rear fascias, accented by tasteful chrome highlights, along with modern LED headlights and running lights, add to the Enclave’s luxury charisma.

At the rear is a stylish new LED taillight design resulting in a uniform strip of glowing red across the entire span. There are also provisions for its hefty 4500-pound towing capacity.

The 19- and 20-inch wheels add a bold exclamation point to the Enclave’s style statement.

Model Lineup: The 2013 Buick Enclave is offered in one model with three trim packages. Every Enclave is available with the choice of front-wheel, or all-wheel drive.

The base Convenience Package ($39,270) offers fabric upholstery, tri-zone climate control, a tilt-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel featuring audio and cruise controls, OnStar with automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation, IntelliLink connectivity to your cell phone and Pandora/Stitcher SmartRadio, AM/FM/XM/Sirius, with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, USB and power ports, cruise control, complete instrumentation including outside temperature gauge, second-row captain’s chairs for 7-passenger seating (8-passenger seating is available with second-row bench seat), 8-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, two-way power front-passenger seat, driver express up/down and front-passenger express down power windows, keyless entry, remote vehicle start, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, active noise cancelation, universal home remote, automatic on/off headlamps, power rear liftgate, heated outside power mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear parking assist, 17-inch or 18-inch wheels and tires, structure-less front wiper blades, and dual outlet exhausts.

The Leather Package ($43,285) upgrades to perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power passenger seat, memory seat settings, side blind-zone and cross-traffic alert.

The Premium Package ($47,625) adds 19-inch chrome wheels, articulating headlamps, power folding side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column, Bose 10-speaker premium sound system, and cooled front seats.

Other options include navigation ($1,540), trailering package ($525).

Interior: The big news for the 2013 Enclave is its chic, handsome new interior. It offers an elegant blend of stitched, high quality leather, brightly colored instrumentation and premium materials, tastefully blended with lots of wood and understated tinted chrome. The full-color screen on the touchscreen navigation package does double duty as a rearview camera with a cross-traffic alert.

Instrumentation features an analog speedometer, tachometer (with no redline), temperature, fuel and amp gauges. The leather-covered steering wheel contains the usual audio and phone controls on the right, and cruise control on the left.

The front bucket seats are firmly comfortable. The center stack is simply self-explanatory — which isn’t the case in the Enclave’s imported rivals. Dual climate controls, OnStar, rear wiper, seat heater/cooler controls, traction control, rear hatch release and power plug are all easily identifiable. Between the two front seats is GM’s exclusive front-center airbag, which could be a lifesaver in hard side impacts.

A second-row console offers separate climate controls and a second jack-driven audio channel, allowing kids their own entertainment center. In the seven-passenger configuration, the second row uses two captain’s chairs with armrests. The third row is a three-place bench seat with reasonable headroom. Behind the third row is a reasonable amount of storage for groceries and the like.

One oddity is that the Enclave eschews the smartkey/push-button start system that has seemingly become the norm for not only its competitors, but most vehicles. I’m not sure if it’s just a minor inconvenience, or an intentionally polite nod to the relative age of Buick buyers. The key fob does include remote lock/unlock, a rear hatch release, and remote start.

Under The Hood: All Buick Enclave models are powered by a direct injection, 3.6-liter 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing, that’s married to a 6-speed automatic — with no manual shift function — and delivers a spirited 288 horses to the highway.

Behind The Wheel: The Enclave is a well-designed combination of acceleration, comfort, and surprising agility. Despite its size, it moves with the athleticism of a much smaller vehicle, and actually feels smaller than it is — no trivial achievement in a 4,922-pound vehicle.

Acceleration, cornering, steering, braking, and overall handling are all competent and very confident, but not exactly what I’d call sporty — but they aren’t meant to be either.

On a trip to just south of Salem, Oregon and back on the same day — almost eight hours behind the wheel — the Enclave offered a ride marked by comfort and relative quiet in spite of some bad road surfaces.

Whines: Maybe I’m just clumsy, but I kept unintentionally changing the radio station from the steering wheel control. I’d prefer a manual shift option.

Bottom Line: The 2013 Buick Enclave is a people-pleaser — as its continuing strong sales confirm. It dominates the Luxury Crossover segment simply because there is no vehicle that can quite match its volume, comfort, value and stylish practicality. If there is an example of what American car companies do really well, this is it.

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