Driver's Seat: 2014 Buick Enclave gimmicky but luxurious

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2014 Buick Enclave: Three rows of Buick.

Price: A front-wheel-drive model starts at $39,665; an all-wheel-drive at $41,665.

Marketer's pitch: "Smart made beautiful."

Conventional wisdom: liked the "smooth and quiet ride; luxurious cabin; generous cargo capacity; seating for up to eight" but not the "occasionally finicky infotainment touchscreen interface."

Reality: Pretty much what Edmunds said.

Head-to-head: I was able to capture a week in a 2014 Buick Enclave and a 2014 Acura MDX. Both offer a luxury crossover in three rows. Next week, we'll see how the MDX compares.

Entry: You pay for Buick luxury and you want it to feel luxurious. The black dashboard, the blue lighted numbers on all the dials, the bit of wood trim let you know right away that you're in a Buick.

The grey woody trim is handsome, but the chrome is just a bit much for me. And, of course, all the luxury vehicles have to have a dial clock, and the Enclave is no different.

The big fella: Because the Sturgis Family Mazda MPV has come to the end of its road, I'm becoming familiar with cargo volumes as I weigh minivan versus crossover for the next Driver's Seat. So I know that when the Enclave brags about 116 cubic feet behind the first row, it ties its cousin the Chevrolet Traverse for Most Cargo Space in a Crossover Vehicle. Minivans still win the competition by far, though, with 150 in a Toyota Sienna, for example.

Function: The Enclave I tested came with seating for seven passengers, and configurations for eight are available as well.

The middle and rear seats are on the small side and sit low to the floor, so adult comfort decreases dramatically the farther back you go. And the seats are fixed in place, so legs and feet must adjust to accommodate them.

Get going: The 3.6-liter V-6 offers 288 horsepower. That many whinnies will make for a lot of movement, but it is moving almost 5,000 pounds of vehicle. It must not be in good communication with the six-speed transmission, as I could feel some hesitation.

Shift button: As for the transmission, drivers are only treated to a button to adjust the gears up and down once in Drive. This works well for downshifting, but not so much for sporty driving. (Not sure why I keep hoping for more, but a dad can dream, right?)

On the road: The Enclave definitely feels every bit the big vehicle that it is -- not a lot of excitement on the curves but no truck-like bounce either.

Driver feedback: I found the five-circle gauge pod a little too gimmicky, but that's just personal taste.

Wet weather: One thing I think the whole world should agree on is that all the wiper functions can be attached to a single stalk, because it's usually raining in both the front and rear of the vehicle. In the Enclave, the front wipers are on the left and the rear wipers on the right.

Keeping warm -- or cool: The HVAC has two dials for temperature, one for each side, and another dial in the middle for fan. A confusing array of buttons directs the airflow to feet, chest or head.

Playing some tunes: The Enclave as tested featured a touchscreen radio, with special soft-touch buttons outside the screen to change the stereo source or map display. Mr. Driver's Fingers must not have much life left in them, though, because both the special outer-rim buttons and the touchscreen buttons required two or three tries before functioning. The target audience for this machine (think AARP cardholders) would likely have even more trouble.

Storage space: The console in between the front seats provides minivan-like cavernousness and a tray and armrest keep it covered. Even the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat marveled at how cool it was.

Let your light shine: By day, two sunroofs brighten things up. By night, the ambient lighting is beautiful and bright, but never interferes with driver visibility.

Good view: Visibility from the Driver's Seat is excellent.

Fuel economy: I observed 19 mpg in a mix of highway and suburban driving. Feed the Enclave regular unleaded. Bonus.

Where it's built: Lansing, Mich.

How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability will be average.

Next week: How does it stack up to the Acura MDX?

Freelance auto writer Scott Sturgis:

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