The 2014 Buick Enclave finds itself at a bit of a crossroads in the large crossover market. On the one hand, last year's refresh has given the Enclave's exterior styling a new lease on life, and the vehicle's bulk is less evident now that it has been concealed under a pleasing collection of curves and chrome. The passenger compartment, too, has been worked up to house the new Buick IntelliLink interface, which removes scads of buttons from the dashboard and adds impressive functionality vis-à-vis interaction with mobile phones and other devices. Throw in a generous helping of leather and wood, and it would seem that the Buick Enclave's status as the apex of the brand's pyramid of prestige is assured.
As appealing as these changes might have been the year before, there are some aspects of the 2014 Buick Enclave that remain status quo. Ultimately, they play an equally large role in defining the character of this comfortable people mover.
Out Of Character Omission
There's no question that the inside of the 2014 Buick Enclave is a pleasant place to spend some time, regardless of which of the vehicle's spacious three rows you might find yourself sitting in. I have always appreciated the way that the Enclave - and its Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia cousins - have maximized interior volume without sacrificing ride quality or inflating the vehicle's proportions past what most people would consider reasonable.
The 2013 update of the Enclave's interior materials and presentation was definitely a step forward for the vehicle, but there are a few areas that appear to have been overlooked. The most obvious is the crossover's gauge cluster, which features a tri-binnacle look framing a mono-color, GM corporate green LCD display. It's not ugly, per se, but it's a definite departure from the more upscale character of the rest of the car's interior, and a far cry from the beautiful LCD gauges offered on the slightly newer Buick Regal. For whatever reason, the area directly in front of the driver was given scant attention during the refresh process, and it stands out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the Enclave's elegant finish.
Aging Legs Can Still Dance
Another holdover from the Buick Enclave's original spec is its 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Although more recent versions of this particular motor produce over 300 horses in several different GM products, the 2014 Enclave sticks with the 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque configuration that it has sported since it first hit the scene roughly five years ago. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the Enclave, and all-wheel drive can be selected as an option.
There's nothing to dislike about the 3.6-liter mill - it gets the full-size crossover moving with little complaint - but what was impressive when new is now starting to feel a bit behind the curve from a power delivery perspective. The heavy Buick SUV isn't as smooth as it could be with the throttle mashed, which suggests to me that there's some additional yardage to be gained by re-tuning the Enclave's V-6 by way of a direct fuel injection system that would likely boost fuel mileage (currently 17-mpg city / 24-mpg highway) as well as output.
It might sound like I'm dissatisfied with what the 2014 Buick Enclave has to offer, but that's simply not true: this is one of the better, reasonably affordable premium three-row crossovers that money can buy, especially if you need class-topping cargo space. The vehicle's suspension system is also almost as smooth and quiet as that of a large sedan, which is in keeping with Buick's current market position and design philosophy. Contrasted against more modern efforts from the brand like the Regal, however, the Enclave feels like it's a half-step behind in terms of refinement. Buick is quickly becoming its own standard, which is an achievement in its own right, but it also means that more care needs to be taken to ensure that no family member is left behind.