Quiet ride, Complaint suspension, Well-designed dashboard, Roomy cabin
Electronics not kid friendly, Poor rearward visibility
Gentleman, we have a winner
It seems like everyone wants a crossover these days. In a year where automobile sales are down 2.8 percent, sales of car-based sport-utility vehicles, or crossovers, are up a whopping 23.5 percent. Buyers are flocking to these new, not-quite-car, not-quite truck vehicles.
But what is a crossover vehicle? Simply put, it's the modern-day station wagon. It looks like a sport-utility vehicle, seats five to eight passengers, has a large cargo area, and offers all-wheel drive for buyers who need it.
Previously, Buick tried to cover this segment with two vehicles, the Rendezvous and Rainier. Neither was extremely successful. For 2008, Buick replaces both vehicles with Enclave. It shares chassis and engines with the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia and has room for up to eight passengers on three rows of seats. Though late to the crossover game, Buick hopes that a combination of trend-setting styling, quiet tuning, and understated elegance will win over buyers.
Enclave has a 119-inch wheelbase and is 201.5-inches long overall. That makes it larger than Acura MDX, BMW X5, and Lexus RX and smaller than traditional full-size sport-utility vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Seven-passenger seating is standard on front- and second-row bucket seats and a three-place third-row bench. Optional is a three-place second-row bench seat.
2008 Buick Enclave CX
Base Price: $32,055
As-Tested Price: $36,260
Built in USA.
Entertainment Package #2
White Diamond Tricoat
Driver Confidence Package
18-inch Alloy Wheels
Engine: DOHC 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: front-wheel drive
Two models are offered, CX and CXL. Both come in front- or all-wheel-drive versions and are powered by a 275-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic that features a separate shift gate for manual operation. The all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use.
Antilock brakes, stability and traction control, tire-pressure warning system, and front, front-side, and curtain side airbags are standard. The curtain airbags protect all three seating rows and have a rollover sensor. Rear park assist and a back-up monitor are optional.
Both models include HID headlamps, leather-wrapped and wood-accented steering wheel with tilt-telescope feature, tri-zone climate control, power liftgate, XM satellite radio, and OnStar. The main difference between CX and CXL is features. CXL comes standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and 19-inch tires.
Key options include Bose AM/FM/ radio with 6-disc CD changer, navigation system with voice control, rear-seat entertainment system, and twin-panel sunroof. Prices start at $32,055 for the front-drive CX and rise to $36,255 for the all-wheel-drive CXL. All models have a destination charge of $735 and are built in General Motor's Lansing assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan.
Get up and Go
The 275-horsepower V6 provides adequate power when pulling away from a stoplight or when passing on the highway. Front-drive models are marginally quicker thanks to a 200-pound savings in curb weight. Either way, Enclave feels slower than sporty competition like the Acura MDX or BMW X5.
The engine itself is one of the smoothest in the class. It happily lugs around all day at fewer than 2000 rpm and builds revs evenly and quickly when more power is necessary.
When properly equipped, Enclave can tow up to 4500 pounds. That's less than traditional truck based sport-utility vehicles, but about 1000 pounds more than most crossover-utility vehicles.
The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly in normal driving and downshifts promptly when more passing power is needed. Occasionally it will get caught in too high a gear when rounding a corner or will clunk when accelerating slowly.
EPA estimates for the front-drive Enclave are 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Those numbers are slightly better that you would expect from an eight-passenger sport-utility vehicle. In typical urban driving expect to average about 18 mpg. If your commute includes a large amount of highway driving, you might be able to average 21 mpg. Buick says that Enclave will run fine on regular-grade gasoline.
On the Road
One key ingredient to any crossover-utility vehicle is a composed and car-like ride. Enclave offers that and more. The long wheelbase and absorbent suspension combine to smother large bumps and even out rough roads. There's little "head toss," a common trait in large wagons, and oscillating motions caused by scalloped roads are almost nonexistent.
Despite its soft suspension, Enclave holds the road well for a large vehicle. Thanks to larger wheels and tires, CXL models have the most composure, but even the base CX holds its own on twisty roads. Steering is somewhat light but accurate. Brakes are strong and the pedal is easy to modulate. There's too much body lean in sharp turns to call Enclave sporty, but it feels more alive than other smooth-riding crossovers like the Chrysler Aspen, Lexus RX, and Lincoln MKX.
If you thought your Lexus or Mercedes-Benz crossover was quiet, think again. Enclave could quite possibly be the quietest vehicle on the road. Tire and wind noise are well suppressed, and engine noise intrudes only in hard acceleration. Noise levels are so low that it is easy to for the driver to converse with third-row passengers at highway speeds.
Behind the Wheel
Enclave's interior is both functional and handsome. Materials are a cut above mainstream competition and on par with most luxury crossovers. Most surfaces are padded and fit-and-finish is excellent.
Clear and well-lit gauges face the driver from behind the handsome wood-and-leather steering wheel. Audio and navigation controls are smartly marked and placed high in the center of the dashboard. Climate controls are a trifle low and require a too-long glance away from the road to operate easily. Sadly, there is no Bluetooth functionality for cell-phone users. This is a standard feature in many rivals and Buick would be wise to add it in the future.
Enclave engineers obviously didn't have kids in mind when they designed a rear-seat entertainment system that must be operated from the remote control. This precludes parents controlling the system from the road, and, if you have ever tried to explain a remote to a three-year old . . . well you know. Also, the rear-seat climate controls don't have a lock out feature.
Front-bucket seats are soft but comfortable. Head and leg room are good; though a touch more rearward seat travel would be nice. Driving position is sport-utility-like with good visibility forward and to the sides but constricted to the rear by the thick pillars and small back window. Tilt-telescope steering wheel and sliding center armrest add to driver comfort.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2008 Buick Enclave
|Front Impact, Driver ||5 stars|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||5 stars|
|Side Impact, Driver ||5 stars|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||5 stars|
|Rollover Resistance ||4 stars|
The second-row bucket seats are quite comfortable and slide fore and aft about five inches. If they are pushed all the way forward, they provide ample leg room for third-row passengers. Pushed all the way back, they give second-row riders king-size leg room.
Third-row seats aren't the penalty box you might expect, especially after test-riding in a few competitors. The seats are nicely padded and are adult comfortable for short trips--though three adults won't want to be back there for long. It is easy to get back there because the second-row seats tumble and fold forward with the flip of one lever.
You can fit two golf bags behind the third-row seats, but that's about it. There's a nice hidden storage bin beneath the cargo floor. Folding the third row expands cargo space considerably. Dropping the second-row buckets creates a cavernous hold with a fairly flat floor. Standard power liftgate is a nice touch. It opens tall enough for large adults to stand underneath without stooping.
Dollar-for-dollar and pound-for-pound, Enclave is the best luxury crossover on the market. It offers all of the amenities you'd expect in this class, a comfortable ride, decent power, reasonable fuel economy, and an ultra-quiet ride. It's not a sport sedan, it can't tackle the Rubicon, and it won't tow 10,000 pounds. But, 95 percent of its owners won't care.
Buick's biggest challenge is marketing. Enclave is aggressively priced and a worthy luxury-crossover competitor. Yet, most luxury buyers place image--the badge on the hood--over function and price. That's too bad because the Enclave should be tops on shopper's lists.
|Specifications, 2008 Buick Enclave CX|
|Wheelbase, in. |
|Size, liters/cu. in. |
3.6 / 217
|Length, in. |
|Horsepower @ rpm |
275 @ 6600
|Width, in. |
|Torque (lb-ft) @ rpm |
251 @ 3200
|Weight, lbs. |
|EPA Estimates, mpg|
16 city / 24 highway
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft. |
|Fuel Capacity, gals. |
4 years / 50,000 miles
|Front Head Room, in. |
5 years / 100,000 miles
|Front Leg Room, in. |
6 years / 100,000 miles
|Second-Row Head Room, in. |
|Free Roadside Assistance |
4 years / 50,000 miles
|Second-Row Leg Room, in. |
|Free Scheduled Maintenance|
 Automotive News, October 8, 2007