There might not be a brand that’s slept on more than Buick – although Kia is probably a close second.
Digressions aside, it seems to be stuck in a perpetual state of purgatory, with an unshakeable stigma that it’s as closely associated with old age as early-bird dinners and winters in Florida. In reality, the brand is building some seriously stylish and modern sport utilities, including the refreshed 2022 Buick Enclave.
It’s not as if the pre-facelift Enclave was an unattractive vehicle; far from it, in fact. But where that version was more classically elegant, the 2022 update brings about a much more modish flair. It retains the same soap-bar shape as before – this is a refresh, remember, not a redesign – but boasts a new face that amps up the aggression at least a few notches. While not quite as bold as the glinting and grinning Genesis GV80, few could accuse Buick of playing it safe.
The cabin gets a few enhancements of its own, including a new steering wheel that looks less like a General Motors (GM) parts-bin piece than before, plus some slight revisions to the look and feel of the seats. The gear selector has also been swapped out for a more stylistically streamlined button-based setup. Flowing lines fill out the space just as before, while Essence and Premium trims can be had with a slate blue upholstery that’s at least a little more interesting than the top Avenir’s black or beige choices.
The eight-inch touchscreen set into the dash now features wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections (they were wired before), while an accompanying wireless charger is also standard across the lineup for 2022. Likewise, all trims now get a heated steering wheel to go with heated front seats.
A subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot also comes standard, as does satellite radio and GM’s OnStar suite of connected services – both of which also require paid accounts to access. There’s also a built-in Amazon Alexa assistant that, again, requires an account for its various voice commands and integrated features. Otherwise, nothing really stands out as special – especially not in this entry-level Essence trim – but then the Enclave isn’t missing much, either.
The top two trims (Premium, Avenir) add three-stage ventilation to the front seats as well as heat in the second row, although the latter seems to be a victim of the industry-wide semiconductor shortage, with a disclaimer on Buick’s Canadian website warning that certain units built after November 2021 dropped that feature from the list. Otherwise, both trims also have massaging front seats – rare at this price point.
This tester being the Essence trim, it skips such accouterments, but the driver’s seat proved fairly comfortable during an initial six-hour stint behind the wheel. The cabin remained mostly quiet, too, courtesy of extensive sound-deadening materials and acoustic-laminated glass – although the door mirrors managed to generate noticeable wind noise above city speeds.
In terms of the drive, GM has a way of making some of the smoothest riding front-wheel drive-based SUVs around and this Enclave is no different, with a kind of cushy composure that’s befitting of its bloated size. While the upscale Avenir trim can be had with adaptive suspension, the standard setup is more than adequate on its own, eschewing road imperfections like a luxury vehicle.
The powertrain, meanwhile, is perfectly even-tempered – precisely how it should be in a family-friendly SUV like this. The tried-and-true 3.6L V6 under the hood motivates the mass of this three-row with a cool confidence when called upon, with a heavy foot sending a surge of torque to the prescribed wheels with the help of a seamless and smooth nine-speed automatic transmission. The naturally-aspirated engine makes 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, both of which are competitive for the class, not to mention more than enough for the Enclave’s roughly 2,100-kg (4,630-lb) curb weight.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The Enclave even manages to feel lighter on its toes than its size might suggest – not that the steering lacks heft, with just the right amount of resistance programmed into its electrically power-assisted rack. But there’s a nimbleness that’s counter to this sport utility’s stature, with much of its mass well hidden on winding roads.
The ability to engage and disengage the standard all-wheel drive is noteworthy, too, this being one of the few SUVs like it to feature a selectable system. That means traction can be directed to the front wheels alone for reduced fuel consumption, or to all four of them at the press of a button.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
Either way, this isn’t an especially efficient entry, with an official combined rating of 11.8 L/100 km (that number drops to 11.2 when running in front-wheel drive). The similarly sizeable Hyundai Palisade does a bit better, according to the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) guide, as does its mechanically identical cousin, the Kia Telluride. Over at Volkswagen, the three-row Atlas and its available 3.6L engine does a little worse.
An evaluation drive to Port Dover, Ont., on the shores of Lake Erie spanning some 320 km, most of which were covered on fast-moving rural roads, finished at 9.8 L/100 km – impressive, yes, but it’s important to note that it was done purely powering the front wheels. A full week of testing ended at 11.1 L/100 km across a total of 530 km.
While others in this segment are more boxy and upright than this Buick, appearing bigger as a result, the Enclave is among the largest three-rows to employ a unibody construction. Believe it or not, it’s even slightly longer than a minivan like the Kia Carnival (although it’s not quite as family-friendly inside).
Much of that length is put to use behind the B-pillars, with some of the largest rear doors around that also open nearly a full 90 degrees for outstanding access. The second row consists of two captain’s chairs that slide fore and aft on rails, although only the one on the passenger side tumbles forward for access to the rearmost seats.
Both sets of back seats offer plenty of space, particularly with the legroom divided democratically between them, while cargo room behind them stands at 668 L. That’s nearly 100 L more than its next closest rival, the VW Atlas, although nowhere near what’s offered in a minivan. Folding the third row results in a maximum of 1,634 L, while doing the same to the two captain’s chairs in front of it turns up 2,758 L.
User Friendliness: 9/10
There’s loads of interior storage for personal effects, including a pass-through beneath the centre console and a large covered bin that doubles as an armrest. The front door pockets are big, too, while even the farthest reaches of the cabin have cubbies, cupholders, and charging ports.
Opening the large rear doors reveals wide plastic steps that provide a place to stand when accessing roof-mounted cargo (fixed rails come standard), while the cabin is packed with proper buttons and knobs for climate and audio control. The infotainment screen looks a little small in this age of mega displays but it’s more than adequate, while the interface is smartphone-like and easy to use.
The only betrayal of the Enclave’s overall simplicity is its button-based gear selection system, which features tiny triggers for drive and reverse. It may look more sleek than a handle or dial, but both of those formats are far more intuitive to use.
This being such a bulky sport utility, the chunky rear corners limit visibility a bit, although it’s a fairly common shortcoming in the segment. What’s less typical are the massively thick A-pillars that frame the windshield, which obstruct outward views – particularly problematic when turning through pedestrian crosswalks.
Technological bells and whistles have been bolstered as part of the Enclave’s 2022 refresh, with blind-sport monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and keeping assistance, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam headlights standard across the lineup. So, too, is a commendably high-quality back-up camera, and GM’s so-called Teen Driver system that enables all advanced safety systems and provides remote access to location and speed data, among others.
The only notable absence is adaptive cruise control – a feature that competitor products from the likes of Honda, Hyundai, and Kia, among others, have made standard – but it can be equipped optionally with the Essence and Premium trims (it’s included with the Avenir). Opting for the Technology package ($1,595) also adds surround-view cameras, a camera-based rearview mirror, and rear pedestrian detection.
Starting at $51,998 including a non-negotiable $1,900 freight charge, the 2022 Buick Enclave is a bit cheaper than it was before – although it’s pricier than the cheapest versions of its rivals. Looking past the initial sticker shock, there’s a sense that even this Essence trim has a bit of a premium flair to justify its asking price (and it goes beyond the leather upholstery that’s standard, too).
In the case of this tester, the premium paint ($495), Sport Touring package ($1,495), advanced safety upgrades, and other options pushed the asking price to $58,588 before tax – similar to a fully loaded competitor like the Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy that has a few features missing here (head-up display, ventilated seats front and rear). On top of that, there are the Enclave Premium ($57,998) and Avenir ($62,998) trims to consider, both of which get pricier still with options.
The 2022 Buick Enclave is expensive, which is by far the harshest criticism levelled against it. The rest – the fiddly gear selector, reduced visibility, and so-so fuel consumption – are more like the kind of minor annoyances found in most vehicles (although it’s equally important to ensure they aren’t deal-breakers in their own ways).
It’s hard to find fault in a vehicle that executes the majority of its mission so well, although that’s nothing new for the Buick brand despite the stereotypes that have dogged it for decades now. This is an SUV that’s stylish, spacious, and uncomplicated – characteristics that should be appealing regardless of age group.
|Peak Horsepower||310 hp @ 6,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||266 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||13.6 / 9.6 / 11.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||668 / 1,634 / 2,758 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Buick Enclave Essence|
|Price as Tested||$58,588|
$6,490 – Experience Buick Package, $2,905; Technology Package, $1,595; Sport Touring Package, $1,495; Ebony Twilight Metallic Paint, $495