2014 Buick Enclave Premium AWD review:

Biggest Buick gets updated, still feels sort of old

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Engine bay
The 3.6-liter direct-injection engine isn't the most cutting edge, but it's smooth and quiet. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The engine's acceleration is competent, but not impressive. This engine and transmission combo's most interesting characteristic is its remarkable smoothness and quietness, but we'll get back to that.

Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg combined -- 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. During my testing, I averaged 18.3 mpg over a cycle that mostly consisted of casually-paced freeway cruising while enjoying the quiet cabin and the clear Bose audio system.

Cabin comfort
That the Enclave's cabin is so quiet is no accident. Buick has put a good deal of effort into isolating the driver with its QuietTuning. This feature suite includes noise cancellation; extensive sound deadening; acoustic-laminated windshield and side glass; quiet tuning for the air intake, exhaust, and suspension systems; and a wheel-and-tire package designed to dissipate noise.

Our Premium model ships with the Enclave's Luxury and Premium packages rolled into its list of standard features, including heated and cooled leather seats, active-steering high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, power adjustable front seats and steering column, and separate rear audio and climate controls with a pair of headphone jacks for second row passengers.

The Enclave Premium's HID headlamps steer with the front wheels. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Premium model is available with an optional Rear Seat Entertainment System that folds down from the roof and plays DVDs from the dashboard drive, but we're not fans of rear monitors -- ceiling-mounted models, in particular. Video quality is merely so-so, and competing models feature Blu-ray playback or HDMI inputs to differentiate themselves, making the Buick system feel even more dated and overpriced.

Our model was also equipped with an optional power sunroof and second-row skylight that lets some light into the cavernous Enclave's second and third rows, which may justify its $1,400 price tag.

Buick seems to fancy the Enclave as a luxury car -- as evidenced by that hallmark of luxuriousness, the dashboard analog clock -- but, aside from the quiet of its cabin, the vehicle doesn't feel very luxury. Beyond the touch points, where you'll find leather and soft materials, the cabin mostly consists of hard plastics, faux wood, and greasy-looking chrome trim. The dashboard illumination is still that same sickly 1980s green, which doesn't match the light blue illumination of the ambient lighting that surrounds the cockpit.

The 2014 Buick Enclave feels like an economy car with a coat of luxe paint. It's a remarkably well put-together premium economy car that offers a reasonably list of features and amenities. It prints more Hyundai Genesis than Lexus LS, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

In sum
I enjoyed lazing about in the Buick Enclave's quiet cabin, listening to music on its sorted Bose audio system, but at no point was I fooled into thinking that I was driving a luxury SUV. So coming to terms with the pricing becomes an exercise in managing your expectations.

2014 Buick Enclave
If you're looking for whisper-quiet transport for up to seven passengers, the Enclave is a reasonable (but maybe not the best) choice. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Our Premium AWD model starts out pretty close to the top of the line at $48,315, leaving little room for options outside of its list of standard features.

But we do have a pair of option boxes checked, including $2,240 for the IntelliLink infotainment with navigation and rear seat entertainment, and $1,400 for the power sunroof with second row skylight. Add $925 for destination charges to reach our $52,880 as-tested price.

As I said earlier, I'd skip that whole rear monitor system and opt for the less expensive $795 technology package that offers everything but, reducing the final recommended "CNET-style" price to $51,435.

Interestingly, the Enclave was the vehicle that I drove to visit the 2014 Toyota Highlander that I've recently previewed and found that the Toyota (particularly the 28 mpg, $49,790 Hybrid Limited with Platinum Package model) struck me as being a much better seven-seater with a more appealing list of features and a more luxurious feel for the money, despite not having an analog clock on its dashboard.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Buick Enclave
Trim Premium AWD
Powertrain 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6, 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, optional AWD
EPA fuel economy 16 city, 22 highway, 18 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 18.3 mpg
Navigation IntelliLink HDD navigation with SiriusXM NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone support Yes, with SMS reading
Disc player single slot CD/DVD
MP3 player support standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audio SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, Pandora, Stitcher, and Slacker app integration
Audio system 10-speaker Bose audio system
Driver aids Forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear-proximity and cross-traffic alerts, rear camera with dynamic trajectory guide and pedestrian detection
Base price $48,315
Price as tested $52,880

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