BMW. Mercedes-Benz. Bentley. Lexus. Cadillac. Audi. Rolls-Royce. These names often pop up when talking about luxury car brands. Buick is not as well-known as a luxury brand as these brands, but it definitely is marketed as such. What makes it different is the fact that it offers luxury without being as expensive as most other luxury brands. This article aims to answer two main questions. One, what makes a car a luxury brand? And two, what makes a Buick luxury brand?
What makes a car brand luxury?
By definition, luxury means the state of extravagant living and great comfort, or a non-essential, desirable item which is either expensive or hard to obtain. When you say a luxury item, it’s beyond necessity, higher quality than usual, and also creates a statement that one can afford such an unnecessarily fine object.
In cars, there are a number of checkboxes to tick off for a car to be considered a luxury car, or a brand to be labeled as a luxury brand. What usually comes to our mind when thinking of luxury cars (aside from being expensive) is that it is made of or made use of premium quality materials. But it goes beyond just that. Let’s have an example.
The BMW uses a lower grade leather than that of a Kia Optima which can be optioned with Nappa leather seats. This Kia even offers more features than the BMW yet it is not considered a luxury car. This is due to brand reputation. Kia is a newer auto manufacturer, and despite currently leading in quality and reliability, the first cars they made were not able to give a good impression.
People still remember their crappy, stale and cheap cars. That hurt their reputation from the start, and so the skepticism about their brand still exists despite now making excellent cars. On the other hand, BMW has already established itself as a maker of impressive, engaging to drive sports cars in the 20th century. They have already made their mark in the public as makers of premium quality and engaging to drive cars (despite having cheaper models that aren’t very luxurious and not as fun to drive as previous BMWs).
BMW enjoys having a good reputation despite not really bringing their A-game on their more recent cars. Kia is making a tremendous effort and are making better cars than BMW, however, their sales and reputation is still not at par as BMW’s. Brand reputation and history are two contributing factors to what makes a car or brand luxury.
In general, a luxury car is one that provides increased levels of comfort, quality, amenities, equipment, performance and status in comparison to regular cars. This often means a more expensive price tag than regular cars. But as mentioned previously, brand reputation matters so even if a car is able to offer better comfortability, performance, quality, amenities, etc., it may still not be enough to be considered a luxury car.
Is Buick a luxury brand?
Yes, Buick is a luxury brand. It has been marketed as a premium automobile brand of General Motors, advertising its cars as “luxury cars built with luxury features.” It is placed above GM’s mainstream brands like Chevrolet, but below the flagship Cadillac division.
What makes Buick a luxury brand is the fact that it does offer car models that are above mainstream vehicles. But not all are convinced. This is probably because of the fact that most of its products suffer from being completely off the radar of luxury car shoppers despite being good enough to be considered a luxury vehicle.
Some say it’s a premium brand, but not a luxury brand. It lies between mainstream and luxury. But is there such a category between the two? That’s another question that needs to be answered. We’ll answer that in another section of this article.
A little history…
Buick owns the distinction of being the oldest active American marque of automobiles. Its origins date back to 1899, being first founded in the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company prior to its incorporation into the Buick Motor Company in May 1903. It was founded by automotive pioneer David Dunbar Buick. It has been known to be a premium brand that sold affordable luxury cars.
The first Buick available for the public was the 1904 Model B. William Durant came in 1904 to manage Buick and was able to make Buick become the biggest automaker in America back then. They were able to acquire other carmakers, naming the corporation General Motors. Each model was to target a particular market. Buick was close to the top.
It became the first car manufacturer to introduce turn signals in 1939. It would take another decade for other brands to include them in their vehicles. Buick would continue to break its own sales records and add and discontinue makes and segments that were not performing in sales.
Buick is able to survive GM’s brand discontinuations (such as Saturn and Oldsmobile) and economic problems. It did not stop innovating even during difficult times.
In 2005, Buick trimmed down its lineup to just Enclave, Lucerne, and LaCrosse/Allure. Yes, it is small in comparison to other GM brands but its profitability meant that Buick would be here to stay. It didn’t take long for Regal to be introduced. Shortly after matching Jaguar for most reliable brand in the United States, Buick dropped the Lucerne. In 2012, the Encore mini crossover and Verano sedan made their debut.
Today Buick is positioned between Chevrolet and Cadillac, selling entry-level luxury vehicles at affordable prices. Its models include luxury sedans, crossovers and SUVs. They are known to be popular to older drivers and Chinese. Eighty percent of Buick models are sold in China.
What are the different tiers and levels of luxury cars?
As mentioned above, Buick is positioned between the mainstream Chevrolet and the flagship luxury division Cadillac. To understand further why Buick is considered a luxury car, it is important to know the tiers and levels of luxury cars.
- The first tier is what we’ll refer to as Super-Luxury which include Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
- The second tier, where Lexus, Maserati, Audi, Cadillac, Genesis, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, belonged to, is called luxury.
- The third one is premium. We can put Buick here along with Lincoln, Acura and Infiniti.
The tiers stated above are based on their cars’ actual quality and consumer’s perception. For instance, a tier 1 Bentley is nicer and has more prestige than a Mercedes-Benz.
But how come an Acura is just a tier 3 while Lexus is a tier 2? Lexus comes with the F-sport series which rivals BMW M and AMG, but Acura has no sub-brand. You can also distinguish the difference between their flagship. The Lexus flagship, the full-size V8 LS, is a lot nicer than Acura’s V6 midsize RLX. The former could be a Mercedes, while the latter could just be mistaken as a Honda Accord on the inside.
Hyundai’s luxury brand belongs to tier 2 as well. This is because like the Lexus, it has a true flagship in the form of Genesis G.
Now we’ll go to Buick’s case. GM places Cadillac as a competition to the likes BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, which makes it a tier 2. But Buick is positioned between mainstream Chevy and full-on luxury Cadillac, which makes it a “premium” brand, a tier 3. It rivals Acura and other tier 3 brands. They are advertised as luxury cars with luxury features but with a more affordable price. Therefore, we can consider Buick a luxury brand but it belongs to the 3rd tier.
Lincoln is another tricky case. It is still working on brand differentiation. Despite being set to compete with Cadillac, it still belongs to tier 3, not tier 2. For one, Cadillac’s reputation is more solid than that of Lincoln. But Lincoln still has the potential to go up a tier depending on the vehicles they’ll produce in the future.
Which Buick model is the best?
Among all Buick models, the Buick Enclave earns the highest rating from critics as well as consumers. The 2020 Buick Enclave sits on the top half of the midsize SUV class. It’s mainly praised for having an energetic powertrain, providing a refined ride and offering a rich array of tech features and a large cargo hold.
It lives up to what Buick stands for, having features more than mainstream SUVs but at a lesser price than luxury SUVs. The 2020 Enclave offers sophisticated in-car tech, a quiet, comfortable cabin plus a long list of standard features. It may not be in the same league as European luxury SUVs, but it is definitely more opulent than most family SUVs.
The Enclave also comes with one of the most spacious cabins in its SUV segment. Passengers will love how roomy and comfortable it is. Folding down the 2nd- and 3rd-row seats will give you nearly 98 cubic of cargo space.
Buick Enclave comes in four trim levels namely, Preferred, Essence, Premium, and Avenir. All trims are powered by the same 3.6-liter V6 engine. They mainly differ on the features. The entry level trim is already well-equipped of technology, which makes it a good option. But if you want more safety features, all-wheel-drive and leather upholstery, you should consider at least the Essence trim since this is the first trim to offer these as options.
But among all the trims, the top-of-the-line Avenir gives you the best there is. Aside from having all the options from the lower trims, it also comes with an 8-inch customizable driver display, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, and wireless device charging.
The Avenir is also the only trim with the technology package that gives you an upgraded automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a retuned chassis and suspension. In actual driving, the Avenir performs well on every type of road surface which is unexpected. You’ll enjoy a smooth ride in its quiet cabin. The handling is also decent plus the suspension is excellent. The headroom is not that impressive but is tolerable and not too cramped. The Avenir is also packed with lots of standards in-car tech and safety driver aids features.
Is the Buick Enclave a reliable car?
Enclave is a testament of Buick’s ability to maintain a fine balance between luxury and mainstream vehicle. It is even ranked as No.1 by Consumer Reports in its class of nine large luxury SUVs.
The SUVs are ranked by Consumer Reports based on predicted owner satisfaction, road-test performance, NHTSA and IIHS crash test results, predicted reliability and availability of frontal crash prevention systems.
Predicted reliability is computed by averaging a model’s overall reliability verdict score for the latest three years, given that the car didn’t change or get redesigned over that period.
The overall reliability verdict score measures whether the Buick Enclave had more or fewer issues than the average model of that specific year. Consumer Reports computed the score from the total number of issues in all trouble spots reported by owners. More weight was given to major issues.
Lexus LX surpassed the 2020 Buick Enclave in terms of reliability. But the Enclave remains more reliable than the average model in its class. The Buick has been slipping a bit in reliability. Despite performing well in most reliability categories, it can still do better.
Nonetheless, Buick Enclave is definitely a good option if you want a large luxury SUV at a more affordable price. It comes with a robust engine, roomy cabin and provides a smooth ride. To find out more about Buick Enclave’s reliability, click here.
What makes Buick a luxury brand is how it’s able to provide luxury features which are not found in mainstream vehicles. It may not be on the same level as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the likes, but it definitely belongs to the same level of luxury that a Lincoln or an Acura offers. A debate is still on-going on whether or not a premium brand like Buick is the same as a luxury brand. We know for sure that Cadillac is GM’s luxury flagship. But Buick is marketed as making luxury vehicles, too. When it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter much if your car is luxury or not, what matters is you get the most value for the price you paid for your vehicle.