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Crossover Competition of the Three-Row SUV Variety

A grey 2019 Buick Enclave is shown from a front side angle driving.

 

We have done the heavy lifting for you as far as gathering research and set up a comparison page with a spec by spec analysis pitting two of the top contenders in the three-row, full-size SUV category against one another: the 2019 Buick Enclave vs 2019 Honda Pilot. Both brands put forth enticing carryover models for the new year with slight modifications and all the necessary tech upgrades. Although the Honda Pilot does come at a budget-friendly price for a full-size SUV (MSRP ranging from $31,450 – $48,020), we are pretty certain that the comparison will reveal that a budget cost goes hand in hand with a budget quality vehicle. Essentially, you pay for what you get, and you will want to pay the little extra for the superior quality 2019 Buick Enclave.

The term “crossover” has been thrown around a lot as of late in automotive circles to mainly depict what the automotive industry has deemed slightly uncategorizable vehicles. The newly coined term serves the dual purpose of creating a new subset in the ever popular truck and SUV market that allows auto manufacturers to release more vehicle models as well as to give a fresh marketing spin on the already existing sport utility vehicle. The sub-compact “crossover” SUV, in particular, has been making a big splash with their boasts of car/SUV hybridization plastered on all the automotive advertisements without any clear delineation of what particular aspects crossover from car or SUV. Let’s face it, these are just mid-sized sedans bulked up with oversized outer plastic casings sitting high atop stilted wheels. They are the automotive equivalent to a gym rat on steroids, and the worst part is that the functionality of a roided out sedan is all flash with zero of the substance you would come to expect from an SUV; most fail to provide any sort of sporty angle while only maintaining appearances of the illusion of utility. Just try fitting five adults in a subcompact crossover, and you will quickly learn a lesson in patience and tolerance from the knees to the chest intimacy of shared lap seating.

Adding the term “crossover” to the ubiquitous sport utility vehicle is all the rage today, but for our money, a true crossover does not involve the melding of two vehicles but three with each of the three models accurately represented in functionality. That’s right, we are talking about the big girl bottle of Sport Utility Vehicles, the three-row, full-size SUV segment. Not content to consume the empty calories of the subcompact market, we want a four-course meal with some substance, and it better include dessert.

Performance and Powertrain

For those who assumed that GM’s Buick brand of vehicles had died out from old age, the 2019 Buick Enclave is here to prove to the naysayers that Buick is alive, well, and no longer the brand for individuals seeking early bird specials. Part car, part truck, and all SUV, the Enclave has been a cornerstone of Buick’s recent rebranding to provide a youthful edge to an old-timey demeanor proving that they are still viable to the next generation of car buyers.

Available in four trims, the Enclave benefits from a bevy of standard features equipped no matter the trim level including the same high-performance V6 engine. Each Enclave from the base Preferred to the top of line Avenir trim level is outfitted with a powerhouse standard 3.6-liter V6 engine capable of churning out an industry impressive 302 horsepower with 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission and has a nice kick off the starting line with some serious towing power to back up an already impressive degree of acceleration.

Car and Driver’s tested Enclave was slightly above average for its class in acceleration able to take it from 0-60mph in around 6.6 seconds; not a small feat given the full size of this large SUV further proving that its V6 engine really pulls its punches when it comes to power. Drivers will have no trouble passing in the left lane or accelerating at the on-ramp when it comes to highways and should be more than capable of keeping up with the stop and start traffic of city driving, an area that is typically more of a drag for 3-row SUVs as far as handling. And if the standard towing capacity is not enough, Buick also offers a more than capable Trailering package that increases the Enclave’s capacity to 5000 pounds. Even down to what is under the hood, the 2019 Buick Enclave performs like a crossover champ more than capable of handling city, highway, off-road, and worksite driving conditions.

In comparison, the Honda Pilot follows suit with the Enclave in powertrain options by providing a single engine selection across the board, or should we say under the hood, for all trim levels. Honda’s engine of choice, unfortunately, is the weaker 3.5-liter V6 engine that although provides similar towing capabilities with 262 lb-ft of torque still manages to come up short lacking in engine strength at a disappointing 280 horsepower.  We would not go so far as to say the Pilot is underpowered, but drivers will have to really slam the pedal to the floor to get up to top speeds and feel the full performance power of its engine. Passing on highway traffic can prove to be testing given the need to really hit the pedal and drivers should be prepared to audibly hear the roar of the engine when accelerating in stop and go city traffic.

Standard features, or the lack thereof, across all trim levels is another aspect that the Pilot fails to match up with the Enclave. Drivers at the lower trims levels will start off with a six-speed automatic as standard the transmission while the nine-speed transmission (an upgrade which still manages to have some problematic jumpiness shifting between gears) only comes by upgrading to the Touring and Elite models. On the towing front, the Pilot is capable of matching the Enclave’s high capacity at 5,000 lbs, but this is only possible with the upgraded all-wheel drive feature, a $1900 option on all trims except the Elite.

Interior

The interior tech features of the 2019 Buick Enclave are shown. Check them out when comparing the 2019 Buick Enclave vs 2019 Honda Pilot.

The Enclave, of course, comes outfitted with Buicks renowned all quiet cabin which is almost reason enough to purchase any Buick brand vehicle. Active noise canceling technology proves more than capable at keeping the sounds of outside road noise at bay, and when combined with the available adaptive suspension, the Enclave feels like driving on a supremely quiet cloud even with inclement road conditions.

The appeal of the Enclave does not stop with just a smooth, quiet ride that handles nicely for a vehicle its size. The interior is best described as overly roomy capable of seating seven adults comfortably no matter if they are in the second or third row. Third-row access is conveniently granted by a tilt forward second row that provides quick and easy entry and exit for passengers as well. Along with ample passenger room, Buick’s full-size SUV also has best in class cargo space; with seats folded down, drivers benefit from a load floor that measures out to a maximum of 97.6 cubic feet. And in case that is not enough cargo space, standard roof rails are provided to allow for additional storage when it comes to bulkier items.

For a sport utility vehicle that sacrifices aesthetic exterior appeal with a van like appearance, the Honda Pilot is surprisingly un-van-like when it comes to interior space which most critics describe as cramped especially in the third row of seating.  Drivers and passengers seated in the first and second rows will generally have enough legroom, but the third-row seating is a much tighter squeeze that has the further drawback of awkwardly lower positioned seats. The Pilot falls short once again in comparison with a mere 16 cubic feet of space at the rear with all seats up and a maximum cargo volume of less than 84 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded down.

Tech

Both the Enclave and the Pilot have well-functioning infotainment system, but the Enclave stands apart from the pack once again with its offering of standard features across all trims. All Enclaves are equipped with a standard 8.0-inch IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system that is user-friendly providing crisp graphics that are easy to read/operate even while driving. As per usual these days, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also both standard, and an onboard internet is provided through a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that easily connects to smartphones. Adaptive cruise control is also an available option on upper trim levels.

The Honda Pilot provides an upgraded infotainment system from previous years, but the touchscreen still remains a few steps behind the times in comparison to modern vehicles. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not standard features and only come as optional upgrades on the upper trim levels. The Pilot also has yet to receive the option of a decent adaptive cruise system, but it has yet to find its way into the Pilot.

Conclusion

Although the Enclave is the pricier of the two full-sized SUVs with a starting MSRP of $40,000, buyers would end up spending just as much if not more on the Pilots necessary upgrades just to match the litany of standard features included on even the base model of Buick’s Enclave.  Dollars for cents, the Enclave still manages to be the better deal based on higher quality and a multitude of standard features across all trims. With best in class towing capacity, a powerful engine with plenty of get up and go, and an overall superior interior (quality materials, roominess and hushed cabin), the 2019 Buick Enclave clearly edges out Honda’s full size offering proving a much more comparable rival to the pricier luxury model vehicles than the budget-friendly Pilot.

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