This Motley Fool headline speaks volumes about the utter and almost universal contempt so many have felt for General Motors over the years, even decades:
“How Did General Motors’ Buick – Yes, Buick – Beat Toyota in Quality?”
That headline is pregnant with astonishment. The headline assumes that everyone knows Toyota is the platinum standard in quality and Buick – yes, Buick – somehow, miraculously, stunningly, unbelievably topped the embodiment of excellence. It was written in 2015.
Two years later, we see that Buick’s quality story was not a fluke, a one-off. In this year’s long-term Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) from J.D. Power and Associates, you will find Buick still among the industry quality leaders. For 2017, Buick is ranked fourth overall, just behind Lexus, Porsche and, of course, Toyota – and ahead of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Audi and Volvo.
So, let me ask you: Would you buy a Buick?
If you’re over 60, you might — out of nostalgia or some sense of loyalty. If you’re 45-60, you’d probably grouse about General Motors’ bankruptcy bailout (I hear from these people all the time). If you’re 30-45, you would likely say you thought Buick had gone the way of Saturn, Pontiac, Saab, Hummer and Oldsmobile: “They’re still making Buicks?”
But if you’re under 30, Buick to you is the nifty little Encore urban SUV. And you might be open to that. The slightly larger Envision SUV might also grab your interest on styling alone.
If you’re in the critical 45-60 demographic, and you’ve actually done a modest cost/benefit analysis of the taxpayer bailout of GM – and mountains of credible research shows it was worth every penny – then you might be willing to park your anti-GM bias and unbridled free-market ideology. You might give Buick a look. Perhaps for that buyer, Buick is not a total write-off and a complete non-starter.
This is the hope and prayer of Buick types ushering into the market an all-new version of the Buick Enclave, Buick’s sister model to the recently introduced Chevrolet Traverse. Current Enclave owners are inching towards falling from the edge of the demographic table. For this particular model, it’s get young or die.
Consider the numbers shared by Buick brand manager Mark Alger: the average age of an Enclave buyer is 61, versus a youngish 49 for competitive models like the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60. Moreover, today’s Enclave buyer has less money and is not as well educated as buyers of competitors. Alger and his crew want to rope in 49-55-year-olds who make more money and are much more likely to have a university education.
To that end, the latest 2018 Enclave has a modern, handsome look that is lit up with LED lamps and marked by crisp lines in the sheetmetal; there is seating for up to seven; and the cabin looks and feels rich and modern, right down to the well-stuffed seats and eight-inch touchscreen.
Alger gets misty when talking about the Enclave’s new air ionizer designed to clean up odors and reduce cabin bacteria, viruses, dust, debris, and pollen. A new frontier in cabin design: fighting in-car air pollution.
Power comes from a 3.6-litre V-6 with the now-common stop/start technology to save fuel and irritate drivers. There is a 5,000 tow limit, a nine-speed automatic and a very modern all-wheel-drive system.
Really and truly, the Enclave is smooth, powerful and quiet, certainly less clunky than a QX60, perhaps dynamically on par with a Mercedes-Benz M-Class, but a notch below what I think is the best among intermediate luxury SUVs, the Volvo XC90.
Buick has loaded up this rig with technological baubles like a rear camera mirror, adaptive cruise control and low-speed forward automatic braking. A display shows what’s all around you when backing up, too.
The cabin is big. There is plenty of cargo space, and even underfloor storage at the rear. Even big humans will feel at home. The seats are road-trip comfortable.
The verdict? Buick is in the game here. The $49,690-$63,690 pricing is competitive, though not a bargain by any means. And note that the least expensive Enclave is a front-drive, while all the rest have standard AWD. In fairness, Buick has lowered Enclave pricing across the board, modestly, while adding some content.
And, of course, quality is not a worry at all.
2018 Buick Enclave
Price range: $49,690-$63,690.
Engine: 3.6-litre V-6 (310 hp/266 pound-feet of torque)
Transmission: nine-speed automatic.
Drive: front- and all-wheel.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city/9.4 using regular fuel.
Comparables: Volvo XC90, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Lincoln MKX, Lexus GX470, BMW X5.