Luxury and Affordable
by Keith Burton
You can't go to a car dealership these days without noticing the almost bewildering number of SUVs or even the new CUVs all over the lot. General Motors has its share too, but there is truly a standout over at your local Buick store.
"Buick,?" you say. Yep. It seems the stylists and engineers at GM noted that there was room for a new large Crossover Utility Vehicle with more luxury and style than almost all others and created the new 2008 Buick Enclave.
The New Enclave shares no part with any of the former Buick SUVs of the past and it deserves your attention. Here's a large vehicle that can haul your whole family, tow a trailer up to 5,000 pounds, and is packed with amenities and luxury usually found on vehicles that cost a lot more.
But first, take a look at the styling. Buick's designers sought a much more refined and elegant appearance both outside and in the new Enclave. While the platform is shared by the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia, the Enclave has an entirely different appearance that capture a very refined and elegant style that Buick says is where the division is headed.
Instead of straight lines and a truck-like appearance normally found on SUVs and CUVs, the Enclave has sweeping front fenders, a graceful flank and a grill that looks like it could have been taken from a show car.
Inside, there is a look that is both modern, yet satisfyingly familiar to the high-style vehicles of the past. There is a convincing wood dash, with a neat arched look to the center stack, and a choice of materials that you would have never seen on a GM vehicle just a few years ago.
Starting at less than $33,000 MSRP, the Enclave is priced to challenge many of its luxury competitors. It also offers better fuel economy and is quieter and roomier inside. It is also loaded with standard equipment and all for what many people would pay for a small luxury sedan.
Enclave is available in what Buick calls their CX and CX trim levels and unlike their vehicles in the recent past that offered only every color as long as it was gray, you can order your Enclave with eight exterior and three interior colors.
You also have a choice of whether to choose front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, but all Enclaves get a 275-horsepower V-6 featuring variable valve timing. The sole transmission is a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic that is a first for Buicks, but it is shared with its GMC and Saturn stablemates.
Driving the Enclave is also a pleasant experience, especially if you like a quiet, serene ride. Here's a CUV that doesn't at all feel trucklike on the road. Buick spent extra time adding insulation and tuning the ride for the typical silence that you find in a premium luxury sedan. After spending some time on a variety of road surfaces, I have to say that Buick has done a fine job with the issues of noise and ride harshness. The Enclave rivals some of the best vehicles in the world for a quiet, compliant ride.
Handling is predictable with a smooth, linear feel to the steering wheel and strong brakes that help add a lot of confidence to driving the Enclave. The instrument panel is a joy to look at and is easy to read. Auxiliary controls are logically arranged and I didn't need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how everything worked, though you may need some time in the owner's manual for the navigation system.
The seats for front and middle passengers are firm, but not too firm, and should be a good place to spend a lot of time on those long distance travels. There is also decent room in the third row seats for adults, which makes you wonder why you should spend more money on a bigger SUV. The Enclave is truly a CUV as it is not based upon a truck chassis, but it has the room, or even more room inside that some large, truck-based SUVs.
The benefit is that you get a large vehicle with the handling and ride dynamics of a sedan, as well as good fuel mileage. The Enclave earns EPA fuel economy ratings of 16 city and 24 highway for FWD models and 16 city and 22 highway for AWD models. These figures make the Enclave among the most fuel efficient eight-passenger SUVs on the road.
Much of the Enclave’s standard equipment is focused around customer convenience and comfort. For example, the front-row center console armrest slides back and forth for personalized comfort and access to the lower console storage area. The storage area is equipped with a pull-out tray that reveals a deep space of more than 60 cubic inches (1 liter) for storing items such as bottled water or a small purse. Enclave’s elevated footrest, or “dead pedal,” adds comfort for drivers with high-heel shoes while the power liftgate activates conveniently with a touch of one button.
Other key standard features include:
A comprehensive safety system protects occupants in all three rows. Enclave is equipped with six standard air bags: two dual-stage frontal air bags, two seat-mounted side-impact air bags in the first row and two rollover-capable head curtain side air bags that cover all three seating rows. Complementing the air bags is GM’s rollover sensing system, which activates the roof rail air bags if sensors determine an impending rollover.
Safety is enhanced with the optional Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist and rear back-up camera, which work together to provide visual and audible references of objects directly behind the vehicle. Displayed on the navigation system screen, icons and audible chimes provide an easy-to-understand reference to items behind the vehicle.
Enclave also is equipped with adjustable outside mirrors that can be programmed on CXL to automatically angle downward when the vehicle is in reverse, providing a view of the curb or parking lines. The mirrors on the CXL can be programmed so that one, both or neither of the mirrors provide this view.
For added security and flexibility, Enclave has more than two dozen storage areas, including an optional second-row center console with a deep storage compartment and 12-volt power outlet, two cupholders and pull-out tray. It is also capable of folding flat into the load floor.
Overall the 2008 Buick Enclave is an impressive vehicle. Plenty of room, smooth and quiet performance and attractive styling that sets it apart from other similar vehicles make the Enclave a must see if you are shopping for a large 8-passenger vehicle. It also is richly appointed and a bunch of standard features all at a price that compares favorably to its competitors.
Any dislikes? Just a few quibbles. While the Enclave is not a slug on the road, it could use a bit more power. Fortunately, the excellent six-speed automatic makes up for that with smooth shifts as it will be hunting a bit for the right gear more often. Still, this is a vehicle that is hard to fault.
*SAE certified. A new voluntary power and torque certification procedure developed by the SAE Engine Test Code committee was approved March 31, 2005. This procedure (J2723) ensures fair, accurate ratings for horsepower and torque by allowing manufacturers to certify their engines through third-party witness testing. GM was the first auto manufacturer to begin using the procedure and expects to use it for all newly rated engines in the future.
Note: Information shown is current at time of publication.