Buick’s big crossover is ancient but popular. Can new Sport Touring Edition keep 2017 Encore magic alive?

2017 Buick Enclave

2017 Buick Enclave

What changes will make the 2017 Buick Enclave different?

The Sport Touring Edition with styling tweaks designed to enliven this near-full-size premium crossover in the final year of its current design generation. The rest of the 2017 Enclave lineup will stand pat. Enclave seats seven or eight, depending on trim level and option selection, and shares much of its underskin engineering with the Chevrolet Traverse and the 2013-2016 GMC Acadia from its sibling General Motors divisions. While the Acadia undergoes a radical downsizing for model-year 2017 — losing 7 inches in length and dropping 700 pounds — the next-generation Enclave and Traverse are expected to retain the basic dimensions they’ve had since their model-year 2008 introduction.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

If you’re spoiling for the Sport Touring Edition. The changes are subtle, but if you know what to look for, they are distinctive (see below). Otherwise, waiting for the ’17 will get you a crossover in the last year of an aged design. That means it’s styling and features will have a relatively short shelf life. The redesigned Enclave is due in mid 2017 as an ’18 model. It’ll ride an extended version of the downsized Acada platform and have updated styling, a more advanced powertrain, and new features. Meanwhile, the swan-song 2017 will reprise the balance of the ’16 lineup: base Convenience Group model, volume Leather Group, and top-line Premium Group. The Sport Touring Edition is actually an option package for the Leather and Premium trim.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if the Sport Touring Edition doesn’t appeal to you, because that’s essentially what’ll distinguish a ’16 from a ’17. Buying a ’16 gets you an aged but still-appealing crossover that’s roomy, refined, and good-looking. Enclave’s received only a model-year 2013 freshening since its introduction. This is Buick’s second-best-selling vehicle, behind the Encore subcompact crossover; in fact, sales were up nearly 10 percent in the first few months of 2016. It’s Buick’s flagship vehicle, and will remain so even as the brand adds the Chinese-built Envision midsize crossover for model-year 2017.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, if you choose the Sport Touring Edition. The package, available on the Leather and Premium models, delivers a satin-black grille treatment and 20-inch chrome wheels with black inserts. You can only order the Sport Touring Edition with one of three extra-cost paint colors: Ebony Twilight Metallic ($395); Crimson Red Tintcoat ($495); or White Frost Tricoat ($995). Otherwise, Encore retains its original shapely contours, a look that helped it justify Buick’s upscale positioning. Sizewise, its larger than any midsize-class SUV and just short of the regular-length versions of GM’s big Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade. Those, however, use a truck-like body-on-frame design while Enclave, Traverse, and Acadia employ lighter-duty unibody crossover engineering.

Any mechanical changes?

No. The ’17 Enclave carries over GM’s stalwart 3.6-liter V-6 with 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Many three-row premium-class rivals offer engines with at least 300 horsepower and transmissions with a minimum of eight speeds, so Buick is a little behind the curve here. It doesn’t help that Enclave is among the heaviest vehicles in its competitive set. It tips the scales at more than 4,700 pounds with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive (AWD) will be a $2,000 option on the 2017 Leather and Premium grades and increases curb weight to 5,000 pounds. As such, acceleration is fairly leisurely on all models. You will find yourself having to floor the throttle when merging into fast-moving expressway traffic or passing on two-lane roads.

Will fuel economy improve?

No. Enclave’s portly curb weight translates into below-average fuel economy in its competitive set. The EPA rates the 2016 model 17/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 16/22/18 with AWD. These ratings have held steady since Enclave debuted; don’t expect them to improve until the model-year 2018 redesign. At least Buick doesn’t require you to use expensive premium-grade gasoline; 87-octane regular is recommended.

Will it have new features?

No — aside from the Sport Touring Edition package. The base Convenience Group comes with a respectable level of standard equipment, including eight-passenger seating, remove engine start, rearview camera, power rear liftgate, bi-xenon headlights, tri-zone automatic climate control, Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, and built-in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot capability via GM’s OnStar telematics service. The Leather Group seats seven and adds leather upholstery with heated front seats, eight-way power driver and front-passenger seats, driver-seat memory, heated steering wheel, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Premium Group further adds lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert, upgraded Bose-brand audio system, in-dash navigation system, ventilated front seats, steering-linked headlights, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and chrome-finish wheels. Seating that accommodates seven on the Convenience and eight on the Leather and Premium are no-cost options.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll almost certainly be higher but probably not too much so considering the carryover nature of the 2017 Enclave. The 2016 Convenience starts at $40,825, including Buick’s $925 destination fee. Leather models begin at $45,510 and Premiums at $49,365. Add $2,000 for all-wheel drive. Expect the price premium for 2017 models to be no more than $500. Any color other than Summit White should range from $395-$995. A $1,105 Hit-the-Road Package includes running boards, a roof rack, and a cargo mat. The $575 Trailering Package adds a hitch and upgraded cooling system to allow your Enclave to tow up to 4,500 pounds. Buick has not announced pricing for the new Sport Touring Edition, but we estimate it will be about $1,000. The Premium-exclusive Experience Buick Package is $2,375 and adds a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, and the Trailering Package. The sunroof can be added as a standalone option for $1,400 on the Leather and Premium, along with rear DVD entertainment for $1,395. Leather models offer In-dash navigation for $1,240 while forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning are a reasonable $395. Regardless of model and option selection, generous incentives are almost always available on the Enclave, so you can expect to pay well under list price.

When will it come out?

Look for a 2017 Enclave release in early summer 2016.

Best competitors

Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Volvo XC90

What change would make it better?

At its lowest levels, the Buick Enclave has remained fundamentally unchanged since its model-year 2008 debut. A freshening for 2013 has helped, but this “large-midsize” still feels dated compared it rivals that have received more recent clean-sheet redesigns. If GM engineers can give the next-generation Enclave more power and a lower curb weight all while maintaining the current models’ smooth ride, quiet cabin, and generous passenger and cargo room, they will be on to a winning formula.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]