I’m driving my 2003 Mazda MPV back from the shop and I almost turn around and take it back. Sure they’ve put in a new catalytic converter and fixed the brakes, but a new problem has cropped up. What’s all the whirring and buzzing, what’s that grinding sound? What’s with all the noise?
Then I realized that after spending full week, and almost a thousand miles, behind the wheel of the 2010 Buick Enclave, I had gone soft. After all that time being spoiled in the relative peace of the Enclave’s quiet cabin, the interior my minivan now sounded like being inside an activated trash compacter being pulled behind a dump truck.
When I first told my tween son that the good folks at GM had provided us with an Enclave for the road trip down to Houston for his soccer tournament, he turned at said only one word: “Fail.” He was hoping for a Camaro, so the news of the impending arrival of a crossover SUV was a bit of a letdown. As soon as he crawled into the middle seat captain’s chair, he changed his tune pretty quick. “I can roll like this.”
He was responding in part to the legroom and comfort of the middle seats, but what really captured his imagination was the gadgetry. For a twelve year old boy, nothing is more horrifying than six hours trapped in a car with your dad and having to listen to his music. The Enclave solves this by offering a complete back seat entertainment suite. I may be listening to the Coffee House on the XM up front, but in back he’s scanning for hip hip on the FM, playing DJ on the iPod, or watching a DVD. He also fully approved of the GPS system that guided us to out hotel, and he insisted in being sole operator of the power tailgate.
The younger kids were pretty enthused as well, proud to show their friends in carpool, and a bit bummed when I explained the concept of “loaner.” As a long-time minivan owner, I was most interested in how kids would move in and out of the third seat of this vehicle. I like my sliding doors. This morning, with a few round trips to school under their belts, my younger kids (9 and 6) were able to operate the folding second row seats without an assist. Though on arrival at school they didn’t bother with the folding mechanism, and just climbed over the center console in the second row.
I found driving the Enclave surprisingly pleasant. I’ve insisted on the superiority of minivans over SUVs on three points — sliding doors (see above), unibody construction (handling), and fuel efficiency. I think the solid steering feel and road manners of this hunky crossover may be partly a result of the unibody construction. So there goes that argument. And I got about the same gas mileage — 19mpg overall in mostly highway – -as I get in my van. Though my van has evidently been handicapped by a bad catalytic converter for some time (but that’s another story).
Trips to Dallas and Houston from our Austin base of operations gave me ample opportunity to gauge the long-haul comfort of the vehicle — outstanding. The seats were comfortable and ventilated. I’m a long time Garmin user, so it took me a while to get accustomed to the Enclave’s disc-based navigation system, but it guided us successfully to all of our various destinations.
Other plusses — The backup camera was helpful as I re-adjusted to a longer vehicle. And I geeked out over all the customization possible. When you first take delivery of this vehicle, plan to spend some time in the driveway setting up your “preferences” on your new car.
A few nits to pick — I noticed that even when in drive, this vehicle has a disconcerting tendency to roll backward on inclines when you lift your foot off the brake. It reminded me of my stick CRX back in the day. Also, I’m not a wood guy. Give me black plastic and leather in the interior of my car any day. I have a feeling that if I went shopping, I might gravitate toward the interior styling of the Enclave’s stablemates, the GMC Acadia or the Chevy Traverse. Though I do have a soft spot for any vehicle with a name that might reasonably appear on the SAT.
Given the luxury and options, it shouldn’t be surprising that the sticker for this vehicle comes in around $40K.
Overall, I would say the Enclave should be on the short list of any family going on the market for a 3-row SUV.