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When the Buick Enclave concept hit the Detroit Auto Show in 2006, the roomy CUV was very well received, but past experiences left both the media and public skeptical. Many felt that the stunning looks and luxury amenities of the Enclave would never make it to the dealer lot, and in the end there would be a lot of compromises made to keep costs down. As it turns out, the General pulled a fast one, and the exterior and much of the interior of the classy concept hit production intact. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz kept saying that Buick could compete with Lexus in terms of quality and refinement, and the Enclave shows that blogger Bob isn't just blowing smoke. We've been eagerly awaiting a crack at the Enclave in the Autoblog garage, and now we've finally got our chance. Read on for our impressions from our week-long test.

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On the road, the Enclave has a commanding presence. Buick's CUV is Tahoe-like in both width and length, and the Enclave's monstrous chrome grille looms large in many a rear-view mirror. While the Enclave shares its underpinnings with both the Saturn Outlook and the GMC Acadia, the Buick gets by far the most distinctive sheetmetal. Elegant, flowing lines are accented with tasteful chrome trim on the bodywork and around the headlights and taillights. The aforementioned grille and optional 19" wheels get an extra helping of the stuff, and give the Escalade a run for its money in the bling department. The size of the tires on the Enclave are massive, even when compared with other CUVs and even some larger pickups.

Few large vehicles we've driven have garnered more positive comments than the Enclave, and one passer-by actually asked if he could sit in the back seat to test out the captain's chairs. Once inside, the appreciation of the large CUV grows. The driver's seat is so roomy, it took us a couple days to get used to our newfound freedom. Comfortable and supportive, the front seats provided ample cushioning for a long trip up north. Thanks to its lower ride height, getting in and out of the Enclave is a bit easier than in most truck-based SUVs. The steering wheel on our CXL (the L stands for leather) mixed thick leather with wood, and large, easy-to-use redundant controls were well-placed and easily accessible. The only problem we had with the controls was that we hit the tuner button on three separate occasions when making large turns, which changed the channel on the radio.

The gauge cluster was bright and legible, and contained a readout for everything we could ever need. The backlighting looked very classy at night, with the analog clock, radio read-out, steering controls, and gauge cluster all sharing the same crisp blue hue. The center armrest has a small storage area for receipts, pens, or change, and a much larger compartment below can store anything from a small purse to bottled waters or snacks.

The center stack is an important part of every vehicle, as it adds character to the cabin while providing the driver and passenger with necessary functions and information. The Enclave scored extremely high in this regard, with a similar layout to what you'd find in a Tahoe or up-level Suburban, and truly easy to use HVAC controls. There's a digital time display on the Bose stereo, which some would call redundant due to the analog clock situated directly above it. I had the same thought until my daughter, while in the 3rd row seat, read the time aloud for her younger sisters. She couldn't read the analog clock, but the digital display on the radio was clearly legible.

While the Enclave's exterior design will grab your attention, the second and third rows are where this crossover shines the most. The Enclave is positively huge inside, and with the captain's chairs in the second row, seven full-grown adults can travel in comfort, six if they're tall or big-boned. The hot summer weather was kept at bay by a very strong air conditioning unit, as all three rows get their own individual vents, and the big cabin cools down quicker than some compacts. The Enclave provides the flexibility of a fold-flat third row, giving you the ability to load plenty of groceries or shopping goods. One item we'd like to have is a deep well behind row three, as some items rolled around on the flat surface. There is a removable compartment with a shallow well that works OK, but removing the top could mean losing it forever, as many a family can attest.

When on the road, the Enclave doesn't feel as big as a Tahoe and it's more nimble than a smaller Explorer or 4-Runner. The steering has a nice weighted feel, although we'd never call the 4,800lb CUV sporty. Body roll was minimal when hitting turns at 15-20mph, and I didn't get the tire-squeal I tend to hear in my 2006 Freestyle. The 275hp, 3.6L V6 provides steady acceleration both from a stop and at highway speeds, but we get the feeling the Enclave's powertrain was tuned more towards fuel economy than performance. The proof was in the pudding, too, as we achieved an absolutely astounding 21.5mpg in very mixed driving. The Enclave's 6-speed transmission was very smooth, and even has grade shift logic, which automatically downshifts when going downhill with a boat or camper in tow. We didn't tow anything during our time with the Enclave, but GM says you can pull up to 4,500lbs with the optional heavy tow package.

Safety features include Stabilitrak, extremely bright and aesthetically-pleasing Xenon headlamps, heated side mirrors, a backup sensor, and heated washer fluid. OnStar is standard, and the available turn-by-turn navigation is outstanding. All you need to do is hit the On-Star button located on the rear-view mirror, give the operator the name or address of the place you'd like to go, and you'll be given audible, computer-generated directions all the way to your destination point. On-Star will even look up phone numbers for you, which can save $1.50 or more per call vs. using your cell phone to call information. Our tester also had XM Radio and the optional Bose audio system. The sound quality is superb, especially when you're listening to talk radio. We didn't listen to much music during our time in the Enclave, however, as we got our first taste of the many comedy channels that XM has to offer. This feature alone made my 45 minute commute to work pass by very quickly.

The Buick Enclave starts at $32,790 for the CX, and $34,990 for the CXL. Our tester was $37,780, and it included the upgraded sound system and 19' wheels. Overall, the Enclave is an excellent CUV that combines many luxury appointments with the roominess and flexibility found in thirstier SUVs. The 21.5mpg we achieved during our tenure with the Enclave blew us away, especially when considering the amount of city driving we did with a car full of people. GM has done some of its best work with the Enclave, and judging by the reactions others had to our test vehicle, the General will be rewarded with increased sales volume as time rolls by. $37,780

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      GM's biggest weakness is in 4 cylinder vehicles. The fact that the Aura is only offered with 6 (or as a hybrid with a 4) hurts the sales of this otherwise attractive vehicle. I believe the majority of accords, camrys and altimas are sold with 4 cylinder engines. While I applaud their latest products, they are missing the boat in this area.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I hope their future cars have the same amount of effort put into them.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "Of the tripletes I like the Buick the best. But is it really necessary to have 3 nearly identical vehicles in the GM portfolio? Remnants of ols school GM still linger I suppose..."

        Dude U could sit each one of these vehicles side by side and only people who have read the presses countless allusions to the relation would kno the difference.

        A client of mine has one and even after she heard me tell her 3 times that a GMC Acadia in the parking lot not 7 cars away was the same vehicle...did she believe thatthey were related.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Of the tripletes I like the Buick the best. But is it really necessary to have 3 nearly identical vehicles in the GM portfolio? Remnants of ols school GM still linger I suppose...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes Gm must compete or die,looks like they choose
        to live the new Enclave is a real winner its part of the new GM.On a blog Bob Lutz said we will improve our interiors
        . Audi interiors is the level of quality we want.
        More proof that GM is serious : New Caddy CTS,
        Saturn Aura, Chevy Corvette, GMC YUKON So take a look at these gems....The future is looking good! Go head to head
        with the imports.I figure Toyota cant rule forever go after them and we have a great chance to get back on top!
        recently.. Buick tied with Lexus for owner satisfaction and reliabilty!
        The big 3 must win the customers back! Compete or die!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's a gorgeous vehicle! There is nothing in the Lexus lineup which looks this good.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Sorry, still a grand dad mobile. Your dreaming if you think young people would buy that.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Did someone really say beautiful to describe the Enclave?Give me a break. That thing is gross.
      GM should have dropped Buick not Oldsmobile. The Olds line was the best looking of the badge engineering masters.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My eyes!!!! make it stop!
      • 7 Years Ago
      i still think the majority of buick consumers are 45+ even with this CUV and i don't really have a special place in my heart for the brand. having said that, regardless of who you are targeting, it looks to be a well executed model. if GM continues to stay on this path and bring out chevy, saturn, and pontiac models that are of this standard and perform well over the next 4-5 years some customers may come back.
      • 7 Years Ago
      First of all GM- Take it easy on those chrome rims that you are slapping on all of your models- they are tacky and reminiscent of an old set of Cragers.

      Secondly- The retro add-on features- like the
      'port-holes' on the hood only create a funky cheap aesthetic that can be compared to the gold crown air freshener in the back window of your brothers Caprice. Out with the old in with the new... if the car wasn't intended to be a stand-out retro remake then just drop the desire for splashes of 'what was' and pull yourselves together with fresh ideas. The front grill is evidence of this 'need' for some connection to past models- well guess what! It's ugly! Maybe ask a couple people!!!

      Thirdly- The rear of the Enclave seems to be nicely detailed, even if it is a complete Touareg rip-off from the taillamps to the dual exhausts- IMO. The interior seems quite OK, although the seat backs of the front seats have a strange 'shoulder-shrugging-midget' look/ shape about
      them.Well- having said all that and being a young male, I can honestly say that I wouldn't consider buying one.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The amount of detail put into this vehicle is staggering. It's hard to believe something this nice and stylish came from the same people that produced the Cavalier.

      It's a gorgeous vehicle and cleverly engineered vehicle, it makes the Lincoln MKX from Ford look like the cheap waste that it is.

      If all of Buick's vehicles were like this I don't think we'd be talking about it as a dead brand. Hopefully future Buicks have this much verve.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's a Chevrolet with way too much chrome on it.

      I doubt anyone will buy this over a Lexus or Mercedes.


      American auto commercials are starting to crack me up... the Buick "finest suv in the world" RRRRIIIGGGHT look up look back look down blah blah blah.....lexus has been selling backup cameras for at least 3 years now... its supposed to be cool that GM is just now offering them. HA
        • 7 Years Ago

        Considering that Chevy has no car like this I find your comments extremly biased.

        People like you are probably the reason the US is having issues in schools, I mean how can you be that stupid and still remember to breathe.
        • 7 Years Ago
        There's a house I pass by regularly with a Lexus RX300 in the driveway. A few days ago I drove by to see it replaced by a white Enclave. You lose, good day sir.
      • 7 Years Ago
      i walked by one of these a few days ago, it stopped me in my tracks. pictures do not do it justice, fantastic looking car. just gorgeous.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "GM may have been putting out "ok" cars for regular people, but they haven't been putting out competitive ones until the Aura, which is (depending on your point of view) still not as good as the Fusion or Sonata, let alone the Accord."

      WHAT?!?! The Aura BEAT OUT the Accord AND Camry as North American Car of the Year! Have you even driven one???
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