The Buick Enclave is a three-row midsize SUV that was first introduced for the 2008 model year. With standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, the Enclave has no shortage of competitors from mainstream and premium brands alike. Offering room for seven or eight, the Buick Enclave and models like it provide excellent room, very good utility and decent fuel economy. We’ll look closely at the Enclave as well as the chief alternatives in this segment.
The Buick Enclave remains a first-generation model with a 2013 refresh, bringing in a revised grille, LED exterior lighting treatments, a redesigned dashboard and an updated infotainment system.
All models are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 288 horsepower. This engine comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Enclave is available in three trim levels represented by Convenience, Leather and Premium groups.
Common standard features include a power liftgate, keyless entry with push-button start, remote start, Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, a rearview camera and the OnStar telematics system with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. Leather seating, heated and cooled front seats and upgraded safety features are also available.
The Ford Explorer was introduced in 1991 as a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Earlier models were based on the platform underpinning the Ford Ranger pickup truck.
For 2011, Ford released the fifth-generation Explorer, basing this model on a carlike unibody chassis. Like the Buick Enclave, the Ford Explorer seats seven or eight and offers the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The Ford Edge is a similar model, offering room for five across two rows.
Upon its release, the 2011 Explorer came with a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower, which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Beginning in 2012, Ford expanded the engine line to include a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower. For 2016, Ford replaced the 2.0-liter turbo with a larger one displacing 2.3 liters and making 280 horsepower.
The Ford Explorer is available in base, XLT, Limited and Sport editions. A top-of-the-line Platinum edition was added in 2016. The 2016 Ford Explorer comes standard with a rearview camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and Ford’s voice-activated Sync system. Leather seating, heated and cooled seats, an upgraded audio package and navigation are available.
Introduced in 2001, the Acura MDX was one of the first premium three-row midsize SUVs to hit the market. The first-generation model was built from 2001 to 2006; the second-generation model was produced from 2007 to 2013; the third-generation MDX was released in 2014. The Acura MDX shares its platform with the Honda Pilot.
Initially, the MDX was all-wheel drive only, with a front-wheel drive option introduced in 2014. Earlier models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine paired with a five- or six-speed automatic transmission. An updated 3.5-liter V6 engine was released in 2014, making 290 horsepower. Models equipped with all-wheel drive benefit from an active rear differential that’s similar to what’s found in some race cars.
Beginning in 2016, the six-speed automatic was replaced with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
For 2016, Acura offers the MDX in a standard trim level with more than a dozen packages available. Acura’s AcuraWatch safety system brings in features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.
Like the Ford Explorer, the Nissan Pathfinder has made the transition from a traditional truck-based SUV to a crossover utility vehicle. The Pathfinder was first introduced for the 1985 model year, with the fourth-generation arriving for 2013. It offers standard front-wheel drive, available all-wheel drive and room for seven. The premium Infiniti QX60 is based on the same platform.
All fourth-generation Pathfinders are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 260 horsepower. This engine comes paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The Nissan Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL, SL Tech, SL Premium and Platinum editions. Common standard features include three-zone automatic climate control and a unique glide, flip-and-fold seating system.
Popular options include a rearview monitor, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, a power liftgate, leather-appointed seats, a navigation system, a Bose audio system and climate-controlled front seats. Numerous safety features are available, including blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
Best of the Rest
There is no lack of three-row midsize SUVs to compete with the Buick Enclave. Shoppers might also consider higher end versions of the Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Dodge Durango, Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Besides models from Infiniti and Acura, premium SUVs that compare well with the Buick Enclave include the two-row Lexus RX 350. The Audi Q7 is another option to consider. If you want a larger SUV, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are available in the same showrooms as the Buick Enclave.