Even as three-row crossovers become increasingly ubiquitous, the rate of change in this class isn’t exactly what you’d call fast-paced. The previous generations of the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot hung around showroom floors for six and seven model years, respectively. The current Ford Explorer has been with us since 2011, and after a refresh this year, appears set to stick around for quite some time to come. The Durango seen here also bowed in 2011, and plans for a follow-up act are still unclear. We like the Dodge a lot – I have fond memories of it being one of the first vehicles I reviewed for this site – but five model years is fast approaching “over the hill” in the car business.
It’s clear that despite strong sales, several of these vehicles could be accused of greying a bit around the temples. In fact, it’s the Enclave that really feels familiar – this largely-unchanged model first hit showrooms in mid-2007. Along with the 2008 Malibu, it’s the vehicle that most heralded the General’s return to competitive form. GM has adopted a “don’t mess with success” attitude toward the Lambda platform underpinning the Enclave (platform mates include the GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, and long-defunct Saturn Outlook) since in most of the model years since its introduction, its sales have steadily increased. 2016 will be the current generation’s final model year, with a complete redesign expected to be unveiled this winter.
How do these old guards of the three-row crossover set compare? Read on to find out.
The Toyota Avalon has always occupied a sort of tenuous middle ground between the Camry and its Lexus platform mate, the ES, in that it is somewhat larger and nicer than the former, but lacks the brand cache and upscale interior detailing of the latter despite costing nearly as much. The ES pips it on rear seat legroom as well, a category you’d think the longer Avalon would surely excel in. So then, what purpose does the Avalon serve in the Toyota ecosystem? Let’s find out.
Having spent a bit of time in Europe, I recall the new Opel Insignia I rented once from an airport counter a few years back. That car was an “estate”, a body style we’re not fortunate enough to get here, for obvious sales reasons. Still, the brief encounter with that station wagon was a pleasant one, and a driving experience immediately drawn to mind during my week with the Insignia’s American stepsister, the Buick Regal. I don’t think I’m wrong in my belief that it’s the most European car GM sells in this country.
Toyota’s midsize sedans recall the old German automaker mantra of “one sausage – three lengths” – in that the platform that underpins the Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES350 makes them all essentially the same underneath, but they wear vastly different sheetmetal and appeal to different buyers. You might think I’m stretching the metaphor a bit, but hear me out: all of these cars are remarkably similar under the skin, and yet they drive, feel and look completely different. So maybe it’s not a take on the German mantra, but a Japanese one – one sushi roll, three lengths.
It’s hard to believe, but the Lambda platform architecture that underpins the GMC Acadia Denali tester seen here is now more than seven years old. As part of the product onslaught that kicked off GM’s current renaissance era, the Lambda (also recognizable as the Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave and now-defunct Saturn Outlook) was ushered in just before two other heavy-hitters of the General’s new quality image: the 2008 Chevy Malibu and 2008 Cadillac CTS.
“Engineered in Germany – Manufactured in Asia” might be a good tagline for the advertisements of Buick’s new compact baby, the Encore. It was conceived as the funky Opel Mokka, and is sold under that nameplate in Europe. With GM interest in the Chinese market strong, a manufacturing base there and in nearby South Korea seems a well-thought-out plan, so that’s what GM executed. As Opel’s unofficial stateside dealer network, Buick picked up the ball and ran with it – marketing the Encore toward urban young professional female types who want strong feature content in a small and upright package. The Encore I drove delivered on those counts, being both quite compact and imbued with feature content that wouldn’t be out of place in a vehicle a few size classes up.
Sound good? If you live in Kansas and are thinking of purchasing your own Buick, you can reach out to this Wichita Buick Dealer for a closer look.