Don't let last year's historic bankruptcy preclude a peak. General Motors has a bevy of quality-built vehicles in the pipeline and at dealer lots. Case in point; the 2010 Buick Enclave
A subtle, quite ride and large girth make this ideal for families seeking three rows of seating with upscale ambiance. Enclave arrived in 2008, a year after the slow-selling Terraza minivan and five-seat Rendezvous exited Buick's lineup. General Motors no longer offers traditional minivans in its four remaining post-bankruptcy divisions or a five-seat Buick Rendezvous which bore handsomer looks than its much maligned Pontiac Aztek twin. Also exiting in 2007 was the rear-drive, mid-size Rainer SUV. The body-on-frame, truck-based Rainer arrived in 2004 when GM finalized the dismantling of Oldsmobile, basically rebadging the Olds Bravada SUV into the Buick Fold. It was the first Buick truck in ages and somewhat out of character in showrooms. Tiger Woods exited as Buick spokesperson in 2009 prior to confession gate.
The five-door Enclave does a much better job of combining elegance and ride quality than Rainer, Rendezvous or Terraza. Enclave has a lower ground clearance than Rainer and is intended for on-road, not off-road adventures. Buick engineers dubbed it "library quiet" thanks in part to laminated front glass, extra under-hood insulation and thick rear window glass. One reason Buick survives as a GM division is strong sales abroad. In China where it carries little of the grand-fatherly image found in the states, Buick is an aspirational choice. Two million Buicks have been sold in China since 1998.
Trim levels include entry CX and up level CXL, with two content choices (CXL-1 and CXL-2). All come with the choice of front-wheel or snow-friendly all-wheel drive. The sole powertrain is GM's competent 3.6-lier V-6 now cranking out 288 horsepower. All are mated to a smooth shifting, relatively new six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel estimates are 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for front-drive models and 16/22 in all-wheel drive; average at best when compared to rivals.
Although marketed in some circles as a mid-size, at 201.5-inches in length, Enclave has all the earmarks of a full-size. Unlike Rainer, Enclave is a body-on-frame crossover (car) platform. Like Terraza, it has three rows of seats. This GM Lambda platform is also shared with GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse crossovers. Consumers pay a Buick Premium for Enclave, but the investment may be worth the return, especially during trade-in time. Triple seal door windows and unique lift gate design help Enclave stand apart.
While many five-seat luxury crossovers dot the landscape, seven-passenger luxury crossovers are scarcer. Enclave changes little from 2009 save for optional 20-inch chrome-clad wheels on CXL trims and upgraded USB ports sold with premium sound systems.
Starting price is $35,515 for a front-drive CX. Our tester, a front-drive CXL-2, checked in at $41,695. With options including long, two-row sun roof ($1,400), in-dash navigation, second row DVD entertainment package ($3,185) and 20-inch chrome wheels ($300) the bottom line fell to a pricy $47,335 including $775 destination charge.
Overall, Buick and GM interiors have taken a quantum quality leap in just the past five years. The attractive instrument panel includes five (two large, three small), deep-set circular analog gauges. At night blue-green and white backlighting adds a comforting glow. The arched soft-touch dash above the instrument panel is in visual line with the steering wheel. The center dash is also sports its own arch with an analog clock inside the arch apex. The multi-toned interior includes faux wood trim and brushed aluminum nuances. Oval air vents flank each end of the dash. A power telescoping and tilting steering wheel comes standard in CLX2 models.
A power lift gate with wiper is standard across trim levels as is XM Satellite radio with free trial period after which a monthly subscription is necessary. Bluetooth connectivity allowing cell phone and personal electronics to work through the vehicle's audio system comes standard. Cloth upholstery is a CX standard while leather seating surfaces adorn CXL. A toggle switch operating the rear wiper is found on the dash, separate from front wiper operation found on the turn signal stalk. The parking brake is foot operated, opening up the area between front buckets for two inline cup holders and plenty of storage thanks a deep covered storage bin hinged at the back.
Headroom is generous thanks to the vehicle's six-foot height. Four side and rear hatch doors contribute to good driver visibility. Drivers and front passengers conveniently sit down, rather than step up into the front bucket seats. Logically-placed controls help the user-friendly appeal. Rear view mirrors automatically tilt down when in reverse for extra blind spot protection. If desired, mirrors can easily be programmed to remain stationary.
A split bench seat comes standard in row two allowing for up to eight passengers. Row two captain's chairs are optional in all trims. Row three is slightly elevated above row two. Row three 60/40 seatbacks manually fold onto seat cushions (no power-folding option). Handy back straps help pull these back into place when standing outside the cargo bay. Three pre-teens can squeeze into row three or two average-sized adults.
Enclave visually stands out from its other Lambda brethren with three iconic Buick portholes adoring the slightly angled and elevated hood crease above both front wheel well arches. The rather conservatively-styling includes large cat's eye headlight housing flank Buick's waterfall grille and centered tri-shield circular logo. Articulating, swiveling headlamps which move in the direction of front wheels as they turn come standard in CXL-2 trims. Roof-mounted luggage side rails and dual exhausts both sport chrome. Both come standard. Side mirrors include built-in blinkers so those around have a better idea of a driver's next move. When opened, the hatchback, hinged at the top, has generous head clearance. A push button for power closings and manual grab bar are well placed.
The Lambda platform's independent rear suspension adds to the car-like maneuvering. Expect a more subtle rather than sporty ride as Enclave glides over road imperfections. The non-luxury Mazda CX-9 incorporates a sportier suspension and ride. The brake pedal is very responsive; just a touch starts slowing down this 4,985-pound vehicle.
Enclave and the GMC Acadia are assembled at GM's new $800 million assembly plant near Lansing, Mich. while Spring Hill Tenn. (a former Saturn assembly base) is home to Chevy Traverse.
The V-6 powertrain is covered by a five-year/100,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty while most other mechanical moving parts receive four-year/50,000-mile coverage.
As with just about every GM vehicle, OnStar, the in-vehicle satellite-linked communication system connecting occupants with a manned center, comes standard (the first year of subscription free). To parrot a Cannon Camera slogan from a bygone era..."it's so advanced, it's simple." Press a blue icon on the rear-view mirror frame to talk with a live person, no robotic tutorial. Get directions or emergency assistance. OnStar can also alert first responders when air bags deploy. In addition, all Enclaves include anti-lock brakes, traction control, stabilitrak, curtain side airbags for all three rows and front seat side impact air bags; a very nice combination of safety nuances.