VW Beetles are for girls. The FIAT 500 is a gay man’s car. A Subaru driver wears hiking boots. Prius drivers are self-righteous jerks. Van owners have lost their will to live. And Buicks are for old people.
How do automotive stereotypes get their founding? At least in the case of Buick, I think I know.
You have undoubtedly been behind a late 90s Buick LeSabre doing 15 mph under the speed limit — in the left lane — and braking heavily whenever a car approaches from the opposite direction. The Buick driver will refuse to turn out of a junction when they have miles between cars, only pulling out when they are assured to cause an oncoming car to slam on the brakes.
And sure enough, once you are finally able to scream by this LeSabre and take a gander at the public menace driving it, you are met with the face of someone who resembles Queen Elizabeth, only much, much older.
Buick themselves even had a little fun with the stereotype, casting a woman older than their marquee to state in a commercial that one of the company’s new offerings, “Doesn’t look like a Buick.”
Perhaps it was that marketing campaign, or perhaps just coincidence, that Buick sales numbers have been gradually rising. In the first quarter of 2018, the brand saw an over eight percent increase in sales from the same period of last year. And, if you are unlike the pensioner in the commercial who can’t pick out a Buick from 10 yards, you have undoubtedly seen evidence that there are more Buicks on the road lately, and most of them aren’t being driven by those with blue hair.
And Buick’s lineup is certainly doing its part to gauge the interest of a younger crowd.
In the 1980s, Buick had the Century, Skylark, Park Avenue, Riviera and Roadmaster. All of these offerings were large, four-door sedans. This lineup remained virtually unchanged in the 90s, with the exception of dropping some of its sportier options such as the Regal Grand National and Reatta. So, your options for Buick’s in the 90s was, well, cars primarily driven by old people.
Though Buick still offers large sedans, their current lineup features many more cars not geared for those who eat dinner at 4 p.m.
One such offering is the Enclave, which in 2018 has received its first major update since the crossover was first introduced a decade ago. And I can say this as someone approaching his 30s, and not born in them, the Enclave not only truly surprising, it should be on your short list if you are in the market for a luxury seven-seater.
The Enclave is all the things we expect from Buick — four doors, big and comfortable — but perhaps the crossover’s party piece is the way it drives.
The Enclave is just shy of 17 feet long, but you are hard pressed to feel that from the driver’s seat. Piloting the Buick is no more difficult than a midsize sedan and doesn’t feel much bigger.
Though the suspension is stiff enough to limit body roll around corners and handle trips through roundabouts with gusto, the Enclave’s ride is still smooth.
There is plenty of room for the driver and passenger, as well as from the two captain’s chairs in the second row. The Buick is listed as a seven-seater, but that may be a stretch considering even a child would be fighting for room in the middle of the third row.
But even with seven seated, there is ample cargo room in the back which is extended by a compartment under the deck. And when you don’t have the family in tow, the rear seats fold down flat with the push of a button. For even more cargo area, the second row seats collapse easily with a lever that even a small child would have no trouble engaging.
The Enclave comes with front wheel drive as standard. In the Premium model tested, drivers can switch between front wheel drive only for city cruising or four-wheel drive when needed.
The 3.6-liter V6 may not blow the doors off the 2.5-ton crossover with 310 horsepower, but it provides plenty of torque and acceleration to move your brood quickly.
The interior is well appointed and buttons and knobs are easily navigable, with the exception of my favorite button to push on this car — the button designated for the air-conditioned seats.
Obscured behind the electronic shifter is the button to release a cooling rush of cold air onto your backside. While this technology may not be new, I’ve never experienced a system so effective at #DrainingtheSwampButt than the Enclave. If it were up to me, the Enclave’s booty-cooling system would come as a standard feature on all cars sold in Georgia.
Technology also benefits the Enclave in the form of its rear-view mirror. Vision out of the back window is lacking in general and non-existent with anyone sitting in the third row. Buick addresses this with its mirror that, with the push of a tab, converts to a screen using the feed from a rear-facing camera. However, this can prove a distraction as you are easily able to view the driver behind you two knuckles deep into their nose. It was distracting for me, at least.
There are a bevy of other technological features that come standard in the Premium trim, including a bird’s eye camera system that projects on the Enclave’s eight-inch touch screen, providing you an extra bit of comfort when parking in tight spaces, a collision avoidance system and OnStar.
The updated 2018 version also looks better than the first generation, with sleeker lines that make the Enclave look more like a crossover than a van on stilts.
So, the Enclave is comfortable, easy to drive, well-appointed and has plenty of room for passengers and cargo and has good looks in the new generation. I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked it. But there is an underlying issue.
The Enclave comes with a heavy sticker price.
A standard version rings in at just under $41,000, and though it is still rather well-equipped, opt for the Premium or top-of-the-line Avenir versions and you’ll quickly be pushing over the $60K mark.
This puts the top-tier Enclaves in the same realm as fellow seven seaters, the BMW X5 or Volvo XC90.
But if you are looking for a luxury, seven-seat crossover and are ready to take a hit to the checkbook, don’t overlook the American.
And maybe if more young people, such as myself, will give the Enclave a try, maybe the brand will finally be able to shake its stereotype of an old-person car. That stereotype may also die off once all the LeSabre drivers have driven beyond the pearly gates — while traveling no faster than 23 mph and signaling left for 18 miles without actually doing so.