Many SUVs and crossovers are used more as Hollywood curb-hoppers than real 4x4s and they never see even an ounce of off-road action. General Motors has three offerings in the mid-size SUV segment and, alongside the Chevrolet Traverse and the GMC Acadia, there is the Buick Enclave. Being a mid-size, it offers loads of room for cargo and passengers with the option of front-wheel-drive and four-wheel drivetrains.
Buick, like GMC, is an automaker that produces mainly sport utilities and crossovers nowadays, although where GMC’s offerings are more adventure focused, Buick SUVs are more city-slicking crossovers than rock-climbing adventurers. So what are the benefits of owning one in the city? There is the increased ride height and the perceived improvement in the safety of driving a bigger automobile, as well as the extra luggage room – but beyond that, is there really much to be said for sport utility vehicles that will be restricted to city life?
Real pros, or is it a con?
Even luggage room is a debatable plus point to sport utilities and crossovers, as you can garner the same increased space from a station wagon – and there’s something far cooler about a station wagon than a crossover, in our opinion. Then there are the compromises you might be making by purchasing a sport utility that’s strictly for city life, potentially in the increased fuel it takes to cart that much more metal around the streets. That said, the Enclave’s figures are not terrible in that department. It offers decent fuel economy for a car of its size, with the front-wheel-drive variant having EPA-estimated city figure of 18 miles per gallon and a highway rating of 26 mpg.
Where sport utilities tend to shine is in their approach to safety. They often feature a high number of airbags and, tending to fall more towards the luxury end of the spectrum, they offer a host of active features to keep you safe too. These range from items as simple as parking sensors to avoid bumper bashings to more complex systems such as lane departure warning and collision avoidance systems that help drivers avoid more serious motoring mishaps.
The presence of specific features is obviously dependent on which model in the segment you opt for, but one of the undeniable benefits of owning a sport utility vehicle or crossover in the city, and arguably the biggest one, is the increased safety equipment that these larger vehicles offer.
Comfort counts too
The Enclave, like all of the American firm’s cars, features sophisticated styling and design and most certainly looks at home amongst tall buildings. However, being available in 4×4 configurations, it can venture off the beaten track – but is it likely to do so? The 4×4 system is automatically switchable, meaning it engages when the car’s systems determine that inclement weather or slippery road conditions require the traction of all four wheels. Like all Buick models, it is billed as premium, although it doesn’t quite match up to rivals in this regard in terms of fit and finish.
Furthermore, for something lacking the truly luxurious appointments of its rivals, it comes in a tad pricey, with an MSRP starting at around $41k for the base model. The range-topping Avenir retails at approximately $55k. Still, you do get three rows of seats and its touchscreen infotainment unit is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a Wi-Fi hotspot is an available option.
What is all the fuss about?
Under the hood lies a 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. It sends its power through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Of course, being among the more sizeable vehicles on the market, it doesn’t exactly boast blistering performance with a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph, but performance is not why you buy something like this. You buy it for its cargo room, for its safety, for its ability to house seven occupants in comfortable seats and, when it comes to these more luxury SUVs, for its ability to deal with mild off-road tracks when they’re encountered. The benefit of having that ability should you need it is not to be ignored; it carries weight even for curb-hoppers that rarely encounter such stuff.
These benefits are definitely significant, particularly the seating arrangement in models such as the Enclave, where a split third-row flat-folding back seat means that there a variety of handy configurations you can make use of if the passenger count is less than seven, and cargo requirements call for more trunk space. Ultimately, SUVs do have a home in the city where modern luxury offerings provide superlative ride comfort and decent handling to boot. Gone are the days when all SUVs were these clunky, boat-like creatures to pilot designed purely for off-road use – but there is definite peace of mind knowing that you can venture off the beaten track should the need ever arise.