The Enclave was Buick’s best-selling U.S. model last year, even in its fifth year on the market. However, in this competitive market, no manufacturer can assume standing pat with success will continue to work. So the 2013 three-seat-row midsize crossover, introduced at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, gets refreshed styling outside and in, and technical changes to improve its appeal.
In front, the grille goes from a relatively-thin waterfall bars design to a line of heavily three-dimensioned bars; there’s eyebrow lighting around the Xenon HID headlamp assemblies and LED daytime running lamps. The eyebrow lights automatically turn on at dusk. Articulating headlamps are optional. In the rear, the fascia was restyled to incorporate LED taillamps and integrate the exhaust system tips.
Inside, an ice-blue LED lighting line curves around the dash to provide an impression of greater spaciousness.
The 3.6-L V6 and six-speed automatic remain as the powertrain, but the transmission gets a Generation II control module with new software that improves the tune of the throttle response to eliminate the common problem of slight hesitations at numerous points on a throttle/shift map. Susan Eckel, Vehicle Line Director for the crossovers, told AEI that, in her daily drive to work, she’d notice the issues. “At 37 mph on a level road, I would get the hesitation if I touched the throttle to just go slightly faster. With the new controls I can’t get the Enclave to hesitate at all.” The new software, which does not use torque management, provides quick, direct shifting, one clutch on and the other off, she explained. “There’s never a pause to go through neutral,” she added.
The 2013 Enclave also has new shock absorbers. The fronts are a dual-damping design, with the primary valve providing a softer response to small road irregularities and the secondary coming in to help control the larger, high-velocity road inputs, Eckel said. The rear shocks are a single-stage softer-ride design for smaller impacts but with an internal rebound spring to help control larger ones.
All Enclaves have General Motors' new center airbag systems, which is in the center side of the driver’s seat “because there’s always a driver in the car,” commented Scott Thomas, GM staff engineer who led development. The assembly, developed in conjunction with Takata, an airbag supplier, provides added protection in far-side collisions, which account for 29% of the fatalities in side impacts. Although near side impacts are responsible for 71% of the side impact fatalities, the 29% still is an area sufficient to justify the system, Thomas said. Side airbags and curtains already provide near-side protection.
Enclave is the only one of the midsize crossovers, which are built on the Lambda platform, to be able to go across the board with the center airbag, because it has power lumbar in the driver’s seat. Although the 2013 GMC Acadia has the center airbag on some models, it can’t be used on those with manual lumbar (the base installation), as the lumbar handle in the carryover design interferes with the airbag package. There will be a similar limitation for the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse.
When it deploys in the far side (right passenger’s side) impact, the airbag forms a tubular-shape structure somewhat like a seat back, with two fabric tethers that hold it to the seat.
The airbag shape was dictated by the need to perform a number of functions. The uninflated area in the center accepts the driver’s shoulder to help cradle the upper torso. That section and an uninflated area near the top, provide volume control for the design. That is, the uninflated areas help keep the size of the assembly within packaging requirements while allowing the airbag, which has no vent, to hold its shape for several minutes, Thomas said, so the airbag also can help protect in a rollover. If there were no uninflated areas, and the entire airbag had to be kept inflated, he noted, a much larger assembly would be required.
The tubular shape and locations of the tethers tend to curve the airbag toward the driver, but the airbag also protects the right front passenger who is thrust sideways toward the driver from a side impact on the driver’s side.
The Enclave gets Intellilink, GM’s Buick-GMC connectivity system, in all models. It provides smartphone integration with the infotainment system, including voice command and Bluetooth-enabled streaming audio, such as Pandora.