The Buick Enclave is a full-size, three-row crossover that – in a few words – is one fine vehicle. The 2020 Enclave brings with it a number of changes and improvements, including a new standard 8-inch touchscreen, standard massage seats for the Premium and Avenir models, and a few updates to the exterior to boot. However, there’s something strange about its front fascia, as some GM Authority readers have pointed out.
Specifically, the grille in the lower fascia of some second-gen Enclave models features three different panels, each with a different texture than the other. Trying to understand what this is all about started a debate amongst ourselves here in the GM Authority office.
Our first thought was that the reason for the three different grilles covers is that some of them house sensors for the crossover’s various active safety features. However, examining the 2020 Buick Enclave owner’s manual doesn’t mention the lower fascia as a spot to keep clean or free of obstructions in order to ensure proper operation of any driver assistance systems.
Another possibility, then, is aerodynamic functionality, with section 1 blocked off to reduce drag and funnel more air into section two to keep the radiator as chilly as possible, while the third section cools additional bits and pieces further back in the engine bay. However, this seems like a very strange way to handle aerodynamics, and it probably wouldn’t have that big of an effect on fuel economy figures, even over the long term.
There’s a third possibility here as well: future-proofing the lower fascia bumper design for some upcoming autonomous drive system. Basically, the idea here is that Buick designed the lower bumper with the intention of adding new sensors to it or behind it sometime down the road, which means it wouldn’t have to redesign the fascia when the time came to upgrade the onboard systems with some new feature. However, this also seems rather iffy, as automakers typically don’t make those kinds of changes until they need absolutely to.
As it turns out, option number one was the right one: the asymmetric grille is specific to the range-topping Enclave Avenir models equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, with the design enabling the system’s visibility needs, Buick spokesperson Stuart Fowle explained to us. By comparison, an Enclave Avenir without Adaptive Cruise Control has a full mesh lower grille.
Makes sense to us, and it finally puts to rest the question various GM Authority readers have written in about on numerous occasions. Meanwhile, Enclave sales are through the roof and the full-size crossover is about to get better with a refresh / midcycle enhancement, in the near future.