Buick Enclave sales in the second quarter of 2018 soared 25 percent to 12,551 units, catapulting the premium full-size crossover to first place in sales volume in its competitive set. In doing so, the new Enclave outsold the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7. And to only think that the big Buick CUV managed that feat with a last-generation engine under the hood.
It would seem, then, that buyers simply do not care that the Enclave uses last-gen powertrain technology. Here’s the story of how, and why, this could be.
For all intents and purposes, the LFY is identical to the LFX, but with the addition of an automatic engine stop/start system.
By comparison, the newest GM V6 engine family is the recently-introduced 3.6L LGX that, over the past few years, has made its way across most vehicles in GM’s product portfolio. For instance, the Buick LaCrosse and Regal both offer the LGX, leaving the Enclave as the only Buick with the last-generation six.
The development is somewhat surprising, given that the Enclave is an “all-new” model that, one would expect, should be powered by an equally all-new engine. Alas, that’s not the case.
A Matter Of Choice
The second-gen Enclave (along with its platform mate – the second-generation Chevy Traverse), are two of four GM vehicles currently in production to use the last-gen LFX/LFY engine rather than the new LGX (the other two models are the Chevy Impala and Cadillac XTS). All other GM models that offer six-cylinder engines use the new LGX (or LGZ in the case of the Colorado and Canyon), which begs the question why the Enclave (and Traverse) got stuck with the last-generation engine.
It doesn’t appear that the decision to use the LFX/LFY is related to any engineering limitation, such as not being able to fit the LGX under the hood of the Enclave. We say that because the LGX is standard in the Cadillac XT5 and available in the GMC Acadia, both of which are based on a shorter variant of the same GM C1 platform that underpins the Enclave (and Traverse). As such, not deploying the LGX in the Enclave seems to be a pure business decision in order to maximize profit per vehicle.
Not A Big Deal, On Paper Or Otherwise
Despite the LFX-derived LFY not being the latest and greatest among GM’s six-cylinder engines, it doesn’t show that – at least on paper.
In fact, the only difference between the LGX and LFY on paper is that the latter makes 5 pound-feet torque less than the former. It’s probably safe to say, then, that the difference is negligible and therefore, unimportant, to most buyers of vehicles in this segment.
Engines Comparison - LFY vs. LGX
|Vehicle:||2018 Buick Enclave||2018 GMC Acadia|
|Power (hp @ RPM):||310 @ 6800||310 @ 6600|
|Torque (lb-ft @ RPM):||266 @ 2800||271 @ 5000
|Engine Auto Stop-Start System:||Yes||Yes|
|Active Fuel Management:||No||Yes|
|Fuel Economy (city / hwy / combined):||18 / 26 / 21||18 / 25 / 21|
Then there’s the matter of Active Fuel Management, which is present on the LGX but not on the LFY. Otherwise known as Cylinder Deactivation, the technology disables half of the engine’s cylinders under light load conditions, thereby delivering better fuel economy (at least in theory). Better fuel economy might be more relevant to car buyers than a difference of 5 pound-feet of torque.
Even so, AFM doesn’t seem to do enough to deliver an improvement in fuel economy, since the Enclave and Acadia both have identical combined and city fuel economy ratings. Interestingly, the Enclave is rated 1 MPG higher on the highway. As it turns out, having a newer and more advanced engine doesn’t give the Acadia a leg up in the fuel economy department.
Then there’s the case of the NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). Being an all-new engine design, the LGX is more refined than the LFY. That much becomes readily apparent to anyone who drives a GM vehicle with the LFX/LFY followed by one with the LGX. But to notice the difference in refinement between the two engines, one must actually drive two models with both motors back-to-back, while paying attention to very specific powertrain-related behaviors and characteristics, which most consumers simply aren’t looking for (and are probably not even aware of).
All About The Target Market
According to Assistant Buick Marketing Manager Susanne Hinz, the target market for the Enclave are successful, affluent people who skew slightly older. We’d go a step further and say that the target market is the opposite of automotive enthusiasts who are up on the latest engine, their figures and technologies.
So what the Enclave achieves in exterior and interior design, refined driving characteristics, safety as well as advanced technology features appears to be enough to sway a large group of buyers into Buick dealerships and away from competitors such as Acura, Infiniti, Volvo and Audi. What’s more, consumers don’t seem to notice that the Buick Enclave is using a last-generation engine; if they do notice, then it would seem that they simply don’t care.
The GM Authority Take
One could say that GM took a risk in its attempt to maximize profit by using the older LFX engine architecture in an all-new, premium-level product like the Enclave and Encalve Avenir. But the rewards of focusing on other aspects of the vehicle seem to be paying off in a big way. So perhaps GM didn’t take much of a risk at all, but instead made a very conscious and calculated decision by understanding that current and potential Enclave customers don’t really care about having the latest and greatest under the hood, so long as it works.
Either way, it appears to have been the right move, as sales figures unequivocally confirm.