Buick makes major design changes, inside and out,with the 2013 Enclave.
There aren’t many cars that can take credit for saving an entire brand. But the Enclave crossover-utility vehicle is arguably one of the main reasons why there’s still a Buick.
“It was essential” when originally introduced five years ago, suggests marketing chief Tony DiSalle. “The Enclave led the renaissance of Buick.”
And a significantly updated version of the now aging Buick Enclave will be rolling into the New York Auto Show this week as the General Motors “mid-luxury” division continues rebuilding the brand.
When Enclave debuted in 2007 it was yet another crossover designed to look more like a conventional sport-utility vehicle, recalls Dave Lyon, Buick’s design chief. “Everybody was trying make crossovers look as truck-like as possible.” But this time, he says, “We’ve gone the other direction.”
The basic powertrain carries over for 2013.
While the 2013 model still delivers the same three-row layout – and seating for either seven or eight – Lyon’s design team has opted for a more sports sedan-like design. It looked better planted, without the traditional high-off-the-ground stance of an SUV. The updated Buick grille is timely and elegant, with offset chrome and satin splines. The headlamps feature LED brows that are echoed in the taillamps.
“We wanted a design that is more assertive and aggressive,” said Lyon, noting the 20-inch relatively low-profile tires.
The 2013 Buick Enclave’s interior has also been upgraded, reflecting the general trend upmarket by the brand’s more recent entries, such as LaCrosse, Regal and Verano. There’s a soft blue ambient light that sweeps from the doors through the center of the instrument panel. A heavily grained leather panel rides atop the IP, framing the all-new center console and contrasting the softer leather used throughout the rest of the big crossover.
The 2013 Buick Enclave's redesigned interior.
The center stack is anchored by an updated LED screen that features Buick’s all-new touch and voice-controlled infotainment system – which can remotely operate a number of smartphone apps, including Pandora and Stitcher.
One of the three top-sellers in the big crossover segments, the Enclave has shown surprising pulling power. When it was first introduced, Buick was an also-ran that, after years of steady decline seemed destined for the automotive scrap heap. The brand was unexpectedly retained following GM’s 2009 bankruptcy – even while the maker abandoned Saab, Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac. The strength of the Buick brand in China was one reason but, DiSalle says, Enclave was another plus.
Particular surprising, despite a steady onslaught of competitive models, Enclave sales actually rose last year, even as Buick prepared for the newly revealed remake.
The revised grille of the '13 Enclave.
The new model retains its underlying platform – as well as a direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 paired with a revised 6-speed automatic. The 2013 Buick Enclave will continue to be offered in both front and all-wheel-drive configurations, with the FWD model delivering an EPA-estimated 24 mpg on the highway.
DiSalle is betting that this number should appeal to those who still want the roominess of a three-row ute but want good mileage.
Another pitch to family buyers is the world’s first front-center airbag system, which will be shared with several other GM crossovers, including the big Chevrolet Traverse. The technology is designed to minimize injuries in the event of a size-impact collision when passengers might otherwise bang into one another.