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2014 BUICK ENCLAVE: Silent running

Buick Enclave offers serene cruising with a refined ride

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Buick's spacious Enclave is a seven-seater that weighs in at 2,241 kilograms.

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Buick's luxurious SUV is well-suited for long hauls and has plenty of stretch-room in the front and secondary rows of seating.


2014 Buick Enclave AWD for $31,500

2014 Buick Enclave AWD

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The Enclave is Buick's full-sized luxury SUV with seating for seven. It's exceptionally spacious and loaded with premium content, but what impressed me most was how quiet and refined this poster child for Buick is on the road.

Unless I'm driving a performance vehicle, I prefer an automobile to be quiet and operationally refined. I don't care to hear a V6 engine growl beneath the hood in a pointless effort to mimic something more deserving of an aggressive exhaust note. Fortunately, the Enclave is the antithesis of this annoying overused trend, and GM's QuietTuning technology is why.

QuietTuning has three basic goals: reduce noise at the source; prevent the transmission of noise from the source to the cabin; and absorb unwanted noise within the cabin. The application of these strategies is focused in three key areas: tires, powertrain and aerodynamic features. For example, the tactics used to prevent the intrusion of outside noise include laminated glass, triple-sealed doors and the addition of acoustic inner-door absorption panels to mitigate structural transmission of noise.

My explanation of QuietTuning is superficial at best, but trust me, it works.

The 2014 Enclave is relatively vault-like when it comes to insulating occupants from operational harshness and road and wind noises, but there's a lot more to consider when shelling out more than $50,000 for an all-wheel-drive SUV ($63,615 as tested), such as engine performance and fuel economy. Here things are not as encouraging.

There's no denying we're talking about a large, heavy vehicle when we speak of seven-seat SUVs, and the Enclave is no exception. With AWD, it weighs in at 2,241 kg.

There's only one engine available to mobilize its beef, and it's not in the 300-plus league. With 288 horsepower on tap, the Enclave's 3.6-litre V6 engine works a little harder and drinks a little more than it ought.

My tester's six-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly, but I don't think it's doing the vehicle any favours when it comes to maximizing performance and fuel efficiency. As eight- and nine-speed autoboxes propagate the SUV landscape, the Enclave's half-dozen cogs is looking a little light.

While not underpowered, the Enclave doesn't impart sporty dynamics through its throttle, yet in testing it consumed in the range of 16 litres per 100 km in the city. That significantly exceeds its city rating of 12.7L/100 km.

For the record, its highway rating is a much thriftier 8.4L/100 km. My testing this week didn't provide the opportunity for extended highway cruising to validate the numbers. Nonetheless, on the highway is where this vehicle is utterly delightful.

Despite facts and figures applicable to any given vehicle, how it drives must be a dominant consideration in determining desirability. I've driven many hot-looking rides and been disappointed in one way or another. Such was not the case with the Enclave.

Buick's luxurious SUV is a relaxing rig to administer, thanks to its high degree of operational refinement and smooth, absorbent ride dynamics. Forward visibility is good and the driving position well-suited to long hauls, with plenty of stretch-room in the front and second rows of seating. The third row bench accommodates a trifecta of butts, but best they be smallish. On the plus side, accessing the third row is unusually easy when the second-row seat is accordioned forward.

I've touched on the Enclave's quiet, polished performance. This, along with its smooth ride, are the two most prominent take-aways for me. Counter-balancing the good is the sense this is a heavy vehicle to propel. As a comparison, the new Acura MDX feels lighter and livelier on its rubber, but it's a more expensive unit to purchase.

I drove the full slate of SUVs in the over-$60,000 category at last year's Automotive Journalists Association of Canada Test Fest and came away a deep appreciation for the serenity and peace of mind delivered by the Enclave and would be exceptionally pleased to take this vehicle on a long trip.

My tester was equipped with navigation and a pair of rear-seat entertainment screens, along with 10-speaker Bose premium audio, to enhance such excursions for the entire family.

The last word: Luxurious seven-seat AWD SUVs are expensive. Pound for pound, and option for option, the Enclave is a reasonably priced unit capable of spoiling its occupants as well -- or better -- than rigs from overseas, be it the Atlantic or Pacific.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014