MSRP
$33,220 - $37,455

Expert Review:Autoblog


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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

Superb luxury crossover SUV.

Introduction

The 2008 Buick Enclave is an all-new luxury sport utility that seats seven or eight, offers big cargo space, and gets good fuel economy and performance from a modern V6 engine. It's a crossover, offering the space of truck-based SUV yet built using car-like unibody construction. 

For 2008, Buick has retired the Rendezvous utility vehicle, and the Rainier sport utility, and the Terraza minivan from the showroom lineup, and in their place, there's a single vehicle that will try to be all things to all traveling families, the new, 2008 Buick Enclave. 

Buick Enclave shares its basic platform with the Saturn Outlook and the GMC Acadia, but it's as different from each of them as chalk is from cheese. Enclave is aimed at the upper end of the crossover segment, with competitors like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz R 350. Enclave's styling is completely different from that of the Acadia and Outlook. 

But what really sets the Enclave apart is its modern cabin, with stylish illumination, crisp graphics, genuine wood trim and nice leather. The seats are comfortable, and it can be ordered with a second-row bench seat or luxurious captain's chairs, depending on whether seven- or eight-passenger capacity is needed. There's lots of convenient cubby storage and the Enclave offers 115 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats folded down. 

Equipped with GM's new high-feature 3.6-liter V6, the Enclave offers good acceleration performance while earning an EPA-estimated 16/22 City/Highway mpg under the more stringent new test procedures. Enclave is rated to tow up to 4500 pounds. 

Lineup

At introduction, there will be two models, the Buick Enclave CX and the CXL. Both come with the high-feature 3.6-liter 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing. The standard CX comes with front-wheel drive ($32,790), while the CX AWD ($34,790) features all-wheel drive. The CXL also comes with a choice of front-drive ($34,990) or AWD ($36,990). At this stage, no hybrid or diesel version is on the horizon. 

Options are many, including a range of three entertainment packages: Package 1 ($980) includes a 6CD changer, MP3 player, rear seat audio, and Bose speakers; Package 3 ($3025) adds a DVD touch-screen navigation and backup camera in addition to the other elements. The Luxury package ($925) includes heated outside power folding mirrors with turn-signal repeaters, steerable headlamps, tilt and telescope steering, and a 110-volt power outlet; the Driver Confidence package ($520) includes remote engine start, ultrasonic rear parking assist, and heated washer fluid. Freestanding options include chromed aluminum 19-inch wheels ($1495), metallic clearcoat paint ($170), a power sunroof with a second-row skylight ($1300). Other options include the Panasonic DVD rear-entertainment system, trailer towing ($350), power sunroof ($800), fog lamps ($115), cargo cover ($50), cargo divider, chrome trim package, and a 6CD upgrade ($295). 

Safety features that come standard include OnStar emergency communications (with turn-by-turn navigation), anti-lock brakes, traction control, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. Enclave is rated as a five-star front-crash, five-star side-crash and four-star rollover safety vehicle by the federal government. 

Walkaround

The exterior design of the new Buick Enclave is of a completely different flavor than the GMC Acadia, which is deliberately truck-like, and the Saturn Outlook, which carries the new Saturn front-end and grille design and is well downmarket from the Enclave. 

The Enclave looks like it belongs in the same showroom with Buick's latest-generation of sedans, the LaCrosse and the Lucerne. The Enclave's protruding vertical bar grille and vestigial portholes on the hood make sure you know it's a Buick. 

The long body shell is anything but boxy, with curvy, swoopy, and sexy shapes from every angle. All of the front lighting elements use clear lenses, with lots of different elements to please the eye and light the road. Everything under the bumper is kept simple and clean to draw the eye to that massive grille. The standard tires are big, fat 18-inchers on seven-spoke alloy wheels, with 19-inchers optional and 20-inchers from your dealer, and they certainly add to the visual punch of the Enclave. The roof and the side windows are done in a gracefully decreasing sweep from front to rear, accented by bright-metal roof bars that follow the roof's curvature perfectly front to back. 

Out back, the top-hinged tailgate with standard power opening and closing is a work of art, with the rear glass extending beyond the sheetmetal into the rear opening. The rear glass is quite large, and is convex-shaped, coming to a point just above the Buick tri-shield logo and above the wide-screen taillamps. Under the rear bumper is a diffuser panel and dual exhausts with bright tips, making for one of the tastiest rear-end treatments in the crossover segment. 

Interior

The cabin is what sets the Buick Enclave from other seven- and eight-passenger crossovers. Starting with the double-wave dashboard and instrument panel and going all the way back to the rear cargo floor, it's as modern as tomorrow and as functional as a Swiss Army knife. 

The chrome-ringed white-on-black instruments and analog clock are highly styled, with a soft blue-green illumination (which is repeated around the perimeter of the headlamp), and halo lighting at night. The graphics are large and clear, and the wood is real. On the CXL version, the steering wheel is leather and mahogany, with 10 switches and controls mounted on it for easy use. Layout is typically GM, with a large, bright navigation screen low enough to be shaded, high enough to be seen without distraction. The dead pedal on the far left of the floor is the first one we know of to be specially designed for use by women wearing high-heeled shoes. 

Because it's rigged for seven or eight passengers, buyers have a couple of options: The standard seven-passenger, 2-2-3 seating scheme uses second-row captain's chairs with a feature called Smart Slide that allows easy entry into the third row by flopping the seats forward and sliding them fore and aft; this can also be ordered with a second floor console for storage and 12-volt power. Or, there's a second-row bench seat that makes for a 2-3-3 seating scheme for a total of eight passengers. 

Either way, the driver gets an eight-way power bucket seat and the front passenger gets a four-way power bucket seat. All the seats we sat in were comfortable and supportive. 

Storage space and flexibility gets high marks. There's 19 cubic feet of cargo room just inside the power tailgate behind the third row, 66 cubic feet with the third row seats down, and 115 cubic feet with both rows folded. And if you need to, you can flop the passenger seat over as well for extra-long cargoes. There's storage on top of the dash for sunglasses, iPods, and cellphones. There's another 4 cubic feet of storage space under the rear cargo floor. Buick says the Enclave has 24 storage areas, counting door pockets, under-seat areas, and built-in storage. The Buick Enclave has more cargo volume than the Acura MDX, the Lexus RX, Volvo XC90, and Audi Q7. 

Driving Impression

The Buick Enclave offers brisk acceleration performance. Buick claims a 0–60 time of 8.2 seconds, not bad for 5000 pounds. Its 3.6-liter V6 engine features a special intake system for increased power. Its six-speed automatic transmission benefits from special gearing that gives a 14.2 overall ratio in first gear for rapid acceleration and a 2.33:1 ratio in sixth gear overdrive that lets the engine run at very relaxed rpm at Interstate cruising speeds. So you get quick acceleration performance for jumping on the freeway, but long-legged relaxed cruising at high speeds. 

Equipped with GM's new high-feature 3.6-liter V6, the Enclave offers good acceleration performance while scoring an EPA-estimated 16/22 City/Highway mpg. By comparison, the Cadillac Escalade is rated 13/20 mpg. The Enclave is 800 pounds lighter than the Escalade and its V6 is more fuel-efficient than the Escalade's V8. 

For some years now, Buicks have been all about living your driving life in splendid isolation, and that's true is spades with this big empty box called Enclave, the toughest kind of vehicle to quiet down. The Buick folks have taken dozens of time-consuming and expensive steps to quiet down the engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and tires, isolate the front and rear suspension and steering from the cabin, and wrap the entire package in sound-deadening materials in the floor, pillars and doors, all under the rubric of Quiet Ride. In lab tests, the Buick Enclave is quieter than the Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Acura competition, and in our road-driving experience in Missouri, was extremely quiet. Conversations between first-row and third-row occupants at 70-plus mph were heard and understood in normal speaking voices, and the XM satellite music played through loud and clear at reasonable volumes. 

The suspension underneath the Lambda platform, at least on the Buick version, is far more sophisticated, far sharper in handling and far more compliant and comfortable than what we've come to expect from this class of vehicles. The rear suspension is especially complex and expensive, designed to work well with or without the rear-drive portion of the all-wheel-drive system, and using elaborate aluminum H-arms to put the wheels out as far as possible to the corners and allow for a wide, flat load floor up above. 

Flying around on Ozark Mountain two-lane roads or humming down the Interstate 44 and 64 network in and around St. Louis, the Enclave showed us accurate steering, although a bit numb. It provided a quiet, compliant ride, and very, very quiet road behavior. 

The all-wheel-drive system operates automatically, full-time all the time, adjusting to road speed, throttle position and the relative speeds of each of the four tires, wet or dry. We think the all-wheel drive is well worth the extra money. Normally, it is biased 90/10 front/rear torque split, normally operates between 40/60 and 60/40 in most driving, and can divert 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels if necessary. No buttons, no ranges, no fuss, just traction. 

Summary

With all due respect and reverence for classic Buicks like the '56 Century, the '63 and '66 Rivieras, the pavement-ripping GS 455 Stage III of the muscle-car era, the giant old Estate Wagons, and the refined current crop of Lucernes and LaCrosses, we'll go out on a short, sturdy limb and call the Enclave by far the best Buick ever built, and the most complete Buick we've ever driven. If you're in the market for a luxurious family hauler, give this one a long, serious look. 

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the Enclave in the Ozarks. 

Model Lineup

Buick Enclave CX ($32,790); CX AWD ($34,790); CXL ($34,990); CXL AWD ($36,990). 

Assembled In

Lansing, Michigan. 

Options As Tested

Model Tested

Buick Enclave CXL AWD ($36,990). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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