MM Test-Drive...2020 Buick Enclave


Reaction score
MM Test-Drive...2020 Buick Enclave

This post is for anyone on LE who may be interested in a new Enclave. Indeed, if the recent stories in the media about the Regal being dropped are correct, Buick will soon be nothing but SUVs in the American market anyway. Sad.

Anyhow, I was up at my Chevy/Buick/GMC dealership today for another reason (had to pick up a rebate-form for a GM wiper-blade purchase I made recently...I normally replace them once a year or so), and they told me my salesperson had just lost his mother, and had to rush back home to Kentucky. Poor guy (my condolences)...I lost my late mother just a couple of weeks before Christmas, so I know what he is going through. Tough time of year to lose any relative...particularly one that close.

Anyway, while I was there, I hadn't (yet) test-driven the latest Enclave, though I had seen it earlier and static-sampled it. Steve's looking for something to replace the Pacifica, and had sampled a Traverse, but not an Enclave (they share platforms and drivetrains), so, I figured....why not? There was a large selection of them in stock (this dealership is one of the largest GM shops on the East Coast), including a few Avenirs. I briefly looked at the Avenir, but didn't think it worth the additional money. The Avenir not only costs more, but the interior/exterior trim isn't that much different from lesser versions, and it comes with larger wheels and lower-profile tires that are likely to ride stiffer, though the premium-level suspension may compensate for that. And, from what I could tell, not even the Avenir comes with the rear-seat entertainment system that some people want for the kiddies. Avenirs also start at over 53K.

So, I chose an AWD Essence model, with essentially no options (AWD is not available on the base version) for the test-drive, that listed for around 45K. First, before we get to the test-drive itself, the interior seems virtually ideal for a family with two growing kids. It's roomy, versatile, and has a third row seat that, while (seemingly) not quite as roomy as in the last-generation Enclave, is fine for kids and even some teens. The materials inside, even on the Avenir Trim, while nice, are not as solid or upscale as those found on the new Lincoln SUVs....Lincoln clearly sets a benchmark in that category. The second-row seats, if desired, can be slid up to make more room for the third-row occupants in back. Being a fairly large SUV, the cargo area is generally large and roomy, though getting to the spare tire underneath a couple layers of screw-out covers/compartments can be a PITA. I'm surprised that the Essence model doesn't use the same analog/digital gauge cluster as my Lacrosse (and several other GM products) uses very simple BMW-type round primary gauges and very small circular secondary ones. And Buick has finally tossed the cheap, chrome-outline logo-shield on the steering wheel and used the proper tri-color one LOL.

OK...let's take a drive. This is (mostly) the same 3.6L N/A V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission as in my Lacrosse, with the same shift-paddles, E-joystick lever, push-button Park, and L-shaped Reverse-motion. So, in general, I was used to the feel/response of the system and knew what to expect, though, of course, in the Enclave, it is in a substantially heavier, less-responsive vehicle than the Lacrosse. The 9T65 transmission in the Enclave is slightly more beefed up than the 9T60 in the Lacrosse, but the basic design is almost identical. The 9T65 in the 2020 Enclave, two years newer and supposedly more perfected, seemed to lack the mid-range hiccups/flaring that comes and goes with early-production 9T60s. I'm not saying that my own car has a clunky doesn't. Most of the shifts, except for an occasional mid-range flare, which is controllable with light-throttle, are like butter. But, let's see what the new 9T65 in the Enclave feels like with time and miles on it. After all, this is a brand-new vehicle, with the transmission performing at its best.

The 3.6L V6 was just like my Lacrosse's 3.6L....buttery-smooth and seamless on the power, with only a small amount of engine noise, from the direct-injectors, on acceleration. The tach itself is marked with the Auto-Stop system, but the engine stayed on continuously during my test drive, not stopping at idle, and I couldn't find an on/off button for it. The AWD can be turned on and off......turning it on, of course, adds some drag and slows the response slightly. Once again, the Buick Quiet-Tuning process does its job....the interior, even with the large cavernous open-rear end that tends to amplify noises, is library-quiet on smooth asphalt surfaces, though, as with most vehicles, some tire noise comes through on concrete or rough-grained asphalt. Steering response, even with the tall 65-series tires, is much quicker than I expected for this class of SUV, though, as also expected, it is accompanied by noticeable body roll from the relatively high center of gravity. Wind noise, as with most Buicks, is minimal-to-none. Ride comfort is definitely on the good side, although, even with the tall-profile tires, it's still just a little firmer than the 18" wheel Lacrosse...the Lacrosse, especially for what it costs, wrote the book on ride comfort. In the Essence-trim version, I didn't see a control for adjusting the suspension/drive-mode, though it could have been buried away in the electronics screen somewhere, and I didn't have time for a really long test-drive or evaluation.

Overall build quality seemed pretty good, except, on the road, for a very small buzz in the structure somewhere in the interior...I couldn't pinpoint it, but it sounded like it was coming from the lower dash or console. It was also a cloudy/chilly day....sometimes, interior squeaks/rattles disappear when temperatures warm up or the sun heats the interior and expands the parts.

In short, this is generally a superb vehicle for long-distance cruising for small-to-medium-size families, although, even wth separate front/rear climate-control, it lacks some of the rear-entertainment options for the kiddies, and I'm not terribly confident that the transmission, though fine when brand-new, will be trouble-free as miles and age build up. GM also has problems with the electronic regulators for the climate-control systems.

And, as always, Happy-Vehicle-Shopping.