The SUV Showdown

This winter slapped us with a cold, hard reminder: living in Canada means dealing with whatever sub-zero mood Mother Nature blows our way. Spring may be finally settling in, but when the cold returns, a blend of utility and comfort will be warmly welcomed on the road. That’s why large SUVs have become the go-to for many growing families. With so many brands vying for your hard-earned bucks, here’s a look at two options for different tastes.

Buick Enclave

While the luxury SUV segment is full of worthy offerings from European and Japanese powerhouses, the 2014 Buick Enclave has one thing that makes it particularly alluring: sensibility. The Big Daddy of the Buick lineup, the Enclave isn’t a vehicle that blows you away with performance or style — but it delivers where you really need it.

Visually, the Enclave takes design cues, such as the brand’s now signature “waterfall” grille, from its smaller cousins, like the Verano and Encore. While not overly exciting, it’s imposing in size and exudes the dignity and class that goes hand-in-hand with the “luxury” descriptor. The Enclave’s direct-injected 3.6-Litre V-6 may seem underpowered with only 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque — especially being in the luxury segment with no V-8 option — but the Enclave never feels flat-footed or underpowered during everyday use and its ride is also whisper-quiet. Inside it’s lined with plush material, like soft, hand-stitched leather and woodgrain accents. You’ll find staples of the segment, such as heated seats, touchscreen navigation and safety tech, including rear-vision camera, lane departure warning and forward collision detection. But what really sets the Enclave apart is its spaciousness. Its three rows of seating are designed to comfortably accommodate full-sized adults, even in the third row. It also features a maximum 3,263 litres of cargo space — more than the similar offerings from Mercedes, Infiniti, Lincoln and Audi.

While the Enclave may not present anything awe-inspiring, it’s an SUV that gets the job done for everyday needs — and it does so at a great price. Its MSRP is $43,995, which is well under what the Europeans and Japanese bring to the table. And that’s, well, sensible.

Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
If fuel economy is what you’re after, then the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid may be more up your alley.
While the Pathfinder Hybrid is identical to the standard model, save for the “hybrid” badges, it’s what’s under the hood that counts. The Pathfinder’s 3.5-L V-6 has been replaced with a supercharged 2.5-L four-cylinder coupled with a 15-kW electric motor. The hybrid’s two hearts provide a total of 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque — performance numbers similar to the standard Pathfinder’s 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.

The bonus of the hybrid is its great fuel economy: 7.8 L/100 kilometres in the city and 7.1 L/100 km on the highway. Thanks to a well-placed battery under the third row of seats, the hybrid doesn’t lose any interior space over the standard Pathfinder either.

The one downside is that the hybrid takes a hit in towing capability. The standard Pathfinder lugs a class-leading 5,000 lb., while the hybrid drops down to 3,500 lb. Those numbers are still good enough to carry a small fishing boat or a couple snowmobiles or jet skis, and thanks to the boost of torque from the electric engine, all that power is available far earlier in the revs.

General Specs

Buick Enclave
Engine options: 3.6-L V-6
Fuel economy: 12.7 L/100 km (city),
8.4 L/100 km (highway)
MSRP: $43,995

Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
Engine options: 2.5-L 4-cylinder, 15-kW electric
Fuel economy: 7.8 L/100 km (city),
7.1 L/100 km (highway)
MSRP: $39,448

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