By on July 23, 2007

x08bu_en082.jpgEngineers will tell you, “Quick, cheap, good: pick any two.” For its first whack at a three-row crossover, GM opted for quick and cheap, and gave us the Buick Rendezvous. Admittedly, the model sold in decent volume– but not because it was quick or good. For 2008, we have Take Two. The Buick Enclave’s styling has already generated far more buzz than the Rendezvous elicited during its entire six-year run. But does the rest of the vehicle measure up to the sensuous sheetmetal?

For once GM has created two (but not quite three) entirely different looks off a common platform. While the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook are Suburban square, the Buick Enclave is all curves. Bends often render a design feminine, but the Enclave’s massive streamlined prow and flared fenders add enough aggression to extend its appeal to both genders– provided it’s fitted with the CXL’s optional seven-spoke 19” wheels. GM has shod the base-trim CX with 18’s, whose size and styling complement the Enclave’s boldly arched fenders about as well as Keds complete an Armani. 

x08bu_en037.jpgThe Enclave’s interior also employs organic curves in place of its siblings' angles. Scads of wood and chrome suggest elegance, even opulence. Unfortunately, it is just a suggestion; the materials deployed are so obviously fake that they make a mockery of the Enclave’s luxurious aspirations. Although the quality is about the same as in the Acadia and Outlook (i.e. good), the Buick’s fancy interior styling promises a much more luxurious vehicle. In this case, “good” is not nearly good enough.

The Enclave's class-exceeding exterior dimensions translate into an unusually commodious interior; all those curves do not reduce interior space by a significant amount. The driving position is very good for those of at least average height. The windshield isn't raked too far back, and you don't sit so high above the IP that you feel like you're driving a minivan.

x08bu_en031.jpgThe Enclave’s front seats aren’t especially supportive or comfortable. GM offers better ones in its large SUVs. As in past GM people-haulers, the second row seats are positioned too low to provide anything resembling thigh support. Their main claim to fame: they collapse to provide an extremely wide walk-through to the third row.

The third row, while also low to the floor (aren’t they all?), is actually more comfortable than the second row. Small side bolsters that extend when the seat is deployed effectively avoid the "park bench" feel of most third-row seats. How odd that the Enclave’s best lateral support can be found in the third row.

x08bu_en057.jpgA top priority for GM: providing class-leading cargo room behind the third row. In this, they succeeded. The cargo volume is substantially greater than that of any competitor. Both the second and third rows fold flat without removing any headrests to further extend the cargo area.

The Enclave only became feasible for GM this year; the 275-horsepower 3.6-liter DOHC V6 requires stump-pulling gear ratios to adequately accelerate 4,800 pounds of crossover (a full five large with AWD). Last year, every automatic transaxle in GM’s cupboard possessed only four ratios, the first of which would have been hopelessly tall. This year’s new six-speed, while occasionally indecisive and generally slow to react, at least provides suitable ratios.

In short, the Enclave is not slow. Some will argue that “not slow” is not quick enough. But does Mercedes’ R63 AMG make any sense whatsoever? In general, people-haulers need to haul people, not light-up tires.

x08bu_en081.jpgThe Enclave’s handling feels confident and intuitive in high-speed sweepers. Body motions are well-controlled, understeer and body lean are moderate, and transitions are fluid. Tackle some tighter twisties and the picture changes. The Enclave suddenly feels cumbersome and out of its element. The CX’s SUV-spec tires are a mixed bag: they scream early, but not loudly. Enclave drivers are well advised to keep their speed down in the bendy bits.

Better yet, hit the Interstate, where the Enclave shines. Ride quality isn’t quite luxury sedan smooth, but it’s closer than you’ll find in most tall vehicles, with little bobbing about or minor impact harshness. Best of all, even at 80mph the Enclave’s interior remains hushed. The Acadia and Outlook are hardly noisy inside, but the Enclave sets a new standard for quietness. Your eyes may attest that the Enclave is no American Lexus, but your ears will want to argue the point.

x08bu_en021.jpgSo much of the Buick Enclave is so right— the sensuous exterior, the roomy versatile interior, the smooth silent ride— it’s a shame the interior lacks genuine class. Similarly equipped, the Enclave sells for nearly the same price as the GMC Acadia, with which it shares showrooms. If GM had put another grand into the Enclave’s interior, they could have kicked-up the MSRP and brought some major glory to the Buick brand.

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58 Comments on “Buick Enclave Review [Take Two]...”

  • avatar

    An ‘Achen Head‘?! What the h…

  • avatar

    to my mind, enclave is the best product from buick ever. at last there is fit and finish( lucerne is really good too), and expensive look materials. the design is well proportioned with expensive chrome nuances. gm already has improved fit and finish dramatically in such cars as impala, or upcoming cts. remember it is a luxury suv, and doesn`t need to show mind blowing g-numbers while cornering or excessive lateral seat supports. and as it is differentiated from acadia /outlook siblings sheetmetalwise, I cangratulate buick. giving expensive options would help rise the image. the same like germans do, they offeramg, or m versions but for image only, because a regular customers don`t need it and can`t afford it. how about a 80k enclave ss supercharged? lead taillights, beam projectors front with automatic angling , nightvision, auto-parking etc. to lure customers……even if they buy a basic version of a second hand Skylark.

  • avatar

    sorry for the OT post, but why is understeer a key word for a hyundai sonata advert? Some sort of truth in advertising law?

  • avatar

    I didn’t realize chrome nuances were expensive. Usually I find them cheaply offending. Expensive look materials? The faux wood GM / Buick used in this product is ridiculous, didn’t we just have this discussion here on TTAC about fake wood? Buick isn’t even lacquering the stuff, how can they been accomplishing luxury this way when it is sub par to a base model Toyota’s take of fake wood? From 10 years ago? And I’m sorry but you can supercharge this or any Buick all you want but they will never be $80k worthy even if it autodrove you down the road. Nice review regardless. But the vehicle is far from luxury, although at least they have the ride quality down for once.  

  • avatar

    Just goes to show how GM doing everything on the cheap rutned what could have been a great car.

  • avatar

    chrome is expensive. because it takes metalic parts that have to be specially processed in chroming tanks. and chrome also gives an expensive and durable looks. if the plastic and rubber insulation around door windows has a chrome lining it doesn`t become faded and doesn`t lose shape after years of sunlight.and usa has continental and humid climate in lots of places with high intensity light( more lumens than in Europe), that pales all materials fast. at least buick gives a new level of attitude. and there is real wood on steering wheel and dashboard in enclave. or am I wrong?

  • avatar

    The wood on the steering wheel is real, and doesn’t remotely resemble the plastic stuff on the other surfaces. It’s mahogany, while the rest aspires to be an entirely different variety of tree. Bird’s-eye maple, perhaps?

    Upgrading all of the “wood” trim would be a cheap fix as vehicle fixes go and could vastly improve the interior.

  • avatar

    So, did they hit a mark somewhere between the Honda Pilot and the MDX? It looks like they’ve got a vehicle the size of a Honda Odyssey, with less interior room…

    And who exactly is Buick’s intended demographic?

  • avatar

    The Enclave is indeed a beatiful vehicle. It’s just the sort of inspired design GM used to be famous for (about 40 years ago).

    I’ve not driven one, but after sitting in the GMC version, I’d agree that the interior is about 90% there. As I said here at the time, the inrerior bits feel as though they’re engineered to last as long as the payments. Hyundai quality vs. Toyota quality.

    Man, they are soooo close with the Enclave; they really need to fix the interior quality ASAP, before they turn off another generation of buyers.

  • avatar

    If I had to choose any GM (non-Corvette) vehicle, this would be the one.

    Unfortunately, I have to live with my choices for many years, so the Pilot’s in my driveway.

    That’s a damn fine looking trucky-thing.

  • avatar

    As far as CUVs go, this is a gorgeous vehicle. Buick just needs to ditch the front fender vents and spend that money on the interior for a true winner.

  • avatar

    I don’t care for this thing personally, but I can certainly recognize its appeal as a people-mover. Don’t look now, but the General has produced a few competitive vehicles in the past year or two…. It’s not enough to save the company, but it’s a start.

  • avatar

    “they really need to fix the interior quality ASAP, before they turn off another generation of buyers.”

    Too little, way too late, IMO.

    Also, lose those fugly, tacky, metal-tape-looking junk around the taillights.

  • avatar

    Also, lose those fugly, tacky, metal-tape-looking junk around the taillights.

    To quote Krusty the Clown, ‘What the hell is that?!!

    I also saw this on a new SAAB the other day. Is this the body cladding of the 00’s? For God’s sake…

  • avatar

    4 stars eh? Its still a Buick and thats baggage!

    It wouldn’t be on my list since I’m not in my dotage, don’t live in Florida or play golf.

  • avatar

    This thing is ugly inside and out especially that disgusting grill which also ruins the Lucerne and Allure. The Acadia is a much nicer looking vehicle. This thing is little better than the the vehicle it replaces (looks-wise).

  • avatar

    It looks like they’ve got a vehicle the size of a Honda Odyssey, with less interior room…

    And more expensive, too. You can get the $25k small business tax deduction on the Lambda, while it still lasts.

    Minivan fans see very few advantages with crossovers, but there aren’t that many of us.

  • avatar

    factor in incentives and this might be a decent value for people looking at this sort of car

  • avatar

    “they really need to fix the interior quality ASAP, before they turn off another generation of buyers.”

    Don’t confuse material selection, build quality and interior design into one generic catch phrase.

    While not perfect(is any car?), the Enclave is at least on par with their competition (and when was the last time you could say that about a Buick).

  • avatar

    I think the exterior styling is ugly, but that’s just my opinion. I reminds me of Volvo’s bovine faced styling. Buick’s horse-faced carriage.

  • avatar

    I seem to recall that when one of the pre-production concept versions of the Enclave made the auto show circuit it was teasingly stated that a V-8 engine would be an option. I suppose that CAFE standards have killed that. I wonder which V-8 they had in mind. Chevy’s 5.3 Liter as used in the LaCrosse Super or the Cadillac Northstar? Only six portholes on the side, I guess.

    With its very Buick styling, the Enclave really appears to be the spiritual successor to the 1950s Roadmaster Estate Wagon.

  • avatar


    I appreciate the second chance review for the Enclave. I had issues with Megan’s take since much was a matter of perception. Not that you are more right, just nice to get another point of view. Would you say the Enclave shoulda had a V8?

  • avatar

    There will be a V8, perhaps for the 2009 model year. If not 2009, then 2010.

    Bad fake wood won’t turn buyers off the same way poor reliability would.

    I agree on the tail light trim. The Ford Fusion suffers from a similar malady. Something a bit more refined, please.

    TrueDelta will have reliability information on the Lambdas in August. We have responses from over 70 owners of the 2007s, so this upcoming result should be quite accurate.

  • avatar


    Just what the world needs, another tall wagon.

  • avatar

    Completely agree with the “dont confuse interior quality and material choice” comment – and much lively discussion has been had here regarding what “quality” means.

    That said I do believe a lot of customers use material choice as a proxy for reliability.

  • avatar

    Acadia “Square” ?

  • avatar

    Very well done review Mr Karesh.

    Like the Lucerne, I think this is a very original offering with some sense of style that is lacking in alot of the marketplace. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it is different. In buick’s case, different HAS to be better.

    The same issues let down the shopper here as with the Lucerne, however. It all looks good, is smooth and quiet, but fails to deliver in terms of overall appeal due to questionable trim and a mediocre drivetrain, especially for the money. Dumping a V8 in the engine bay would help…alot.

    HOLY COW did I read correctly? 5000#s! My old F350 diesel crew cab wasnt too far off from this beast!

  • avatar

    Kudos to you Mr. Karesh for writing a fair, reasonable and accurate review. It’s also refreshing to see a review not so focused on performance, sportiness, or handling.

    I really like this part:

    In short, the Enclave is not slow. Some will argue that “not slow” is not quick enough. But does Mercedes’ R63 AMG make any sense whatsoever? In general, people-haulers need to haul people, not light-up tires.

    How true it is. It’s great when reviews focus on what the vehicle was *meant to do*, and also keeping the target market in mind.

    I find it silly to see all of these constant reviews and remarks about how “boring” the Camry is to drive, or how it’s handling and skidpad numbers aren’t that great. Arguing about skipdad numbers and handling limits is trying to answer a question nobody asked, because that is NOT what the car was meant to do.

    Likewise, the Enclave is designed to be smooth and comfortable. Even if it doesn’t excel in those areas, that’s what all Enclave reviews should focus on; not how fast it does the quarter mile, or how much g loads in can produce on a skidpad.

  • avatar

    And if I can continue from what Johnson wrote:

    That’s what I appreciate most about this site – unlike the magazines that focus on this minute’s flash in the pan (it’s amazing how fast the 2009 Camaro fell off of the radar) and comparing minivans on the skidpad or the strange BMW worship (did you see the latest long-term wrap-up in C&D of their 330? It sounds like it spent more time in the shop with MAJOR problems…but hey…they loved it) while the reviewers and posters on this site have “real” world opinions and ideas.

    If only GM, Ford, and Chrysl..errr…whatever their name is now management and engineers read this site…

    Ahh, the R63. 500+hp to make sure the kids in the back puke on the fine leather and carpets. Yeah. Sign me up.

  • avatar

    To all the folks clamoring for a V8 – isn’t not-awful mileage with decent hauling and towing capacity part of the point of this vehicle? I just looked it up, and the FWD Saturnversion is good for 26 mpg on the highway. That’s really not bad at all for something this size. What’s a Suburban achieve? Half that?

  • avatar

    Now if Buick will put a sedan body on this, then I could have my Roadmaster again.

    I agree with those that say adequate power and smooth ride is what is needed in a people mover. I am sick of riding with wannebe sports racing drivers and feel like I just finished an e-ticket ride at Disneyland.

  • avatar

    Wahoo, wahoo, I’m with Johnson and similarly-minded commenters. Thank you for writing an article about this vehicle from a real-use perspective. So much more insightful and interesting than hearing complaints of body roll and slow 0-60 times in an Aveo or such nonsense. I’m glad to see that GM is producing some moderately competitive vehicles, but their soft-n-swoopy designs and advertising of late has led me to think of them as lady cars…

    It looks like a really nice lady car, though.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I don’t think that it’d take even a grand to improve upon this interior. I think that GM has done amazing things with the tactile elements of their interiors. However if GM put an extra $100 into the materials into the interior, it’d probably equate to $1000 worth of value to the end-buyer. While I think the interior design is nice in the Enclave , the execution (i.e. fake materials) is poor and a throwback to the bad-old-days of GM interiors. This isn’t the 70s or 80s anymore GM. If it aint wood, don’t try to make it look like wood. You can get wood real veneer in a Jetta.

  • avatar

    I’d like to join in praising the review for realism. Judging a people hauler by people hauler standards – very refreshing.

  • avatar

    I’ve been meaning to ask, did Maserati copy Buick’s portholes, or vice versa?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Buick has the basis for good car assuming it is reasonably reliable. If GM were to adopt the Japanese continuous improvement philosophy the Enclave could be a great car. Unfortunately Big-3 practice is to incessantly cheapen product until reliability, saleability and resale value hit bottom.

  • avatar

    Maybe some of the buzz about the car is coming from those very convincing ads sandwiched into car magazines that look like reviews. The only reason I noticed it was an ad was because I knew C&D, MT, and Automobile wouldn’t gush about the shape and materials so much.

  • avatar

    Poor Buick this CUV could have been a winner if it weren’t for the Hyundai Veracruz being the same thing for less $

  • avatar

    Please dont throw the word ‘CUV’ around this mammoth here. CUV stands for Compact Utility Vehicle with the stress on compact.

    I am willing to bet that most of these vehicles are sold to people who dont need that much space or seating capacity. Come to think of it, I have yet to see any of these beasts on the road with more than couple people inside.

  • avatar

    Hey Seth,

    CUV= Crossover Utility Vehicle not Compact!

  • avatar

    AS noted here- , they changed enough of the looks to make it look far less stunning than it used to. Still looks very awkward in certain colours. But it’s a huge step up from the Vous, so who cares.

  • avatar

    Not a bad vehicle at all. Had a chance to look over one yesterday while a friend was picking up parts. The interior needs a little work, but it is not the joke that some previous Buicks have been. I feel a V8 is needed for this truck. A people mover does not need to scream off the line. But a Buick should deliver controlled steady power; think of the old Roadmaster sedans and wagons.
    Nice to see Buick turn out something worth buying.

  • avatar

    Agree about the V8. Drove two Lucernes last week, both the V8 and the V6. V8 really had nice smooth pull (NO torque steer), good handling and ride, and of course very quiet. Perfect retirement/trip car next year. Yeah, I am getting old, but that’s OK. Still looking at the ground from this side.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    I’m glad to read here of so many plaudits for the Lucerne. A friend of mine, in his early thirties from Detroit, a consumate car guy, drove a V8-powered Lucerne on a trip (as a rental car) and raved about it, after that.

    The problem Buick has, as I (literally) see it, is no one seems to drive them who doesn’t have white hair – no just grey, but white. When a 1985 or ’86 Buick Grand National comes up on the docket at auctions, it seems that about half the people there can’t believe Buick ever built anything that fast and appealing to the eye.

    The early Rivieras are just finding their groove, as so many people grew up with the tepid, front wheel drive car of the Eighties. And boat-tails are more intriguing to low riders than collector car aficianados.

    Buick has got to expand its customers base below the age of 50 at least – below 40 would be ideal – or I don’t see how the marque can survive another five to 10 years. Of course, maybe the parent company itself will go away, in that time.

    Personally, I hope not and I know a lot of other enthusiasts who feel the same way.

  • avatar

    What an awful, absolutely hideous rear end.

  • avatar

    And what TERRIBLE interior materials!!

  • avatar

    not bad for a crossover, a step in the right direction for Buick. If i was in my 40’s with kids i would consider one

    “enclave is the best product from buick ever”

    slow down there i think your forgetting about the Grand National

    “how about an 80K Enclave SS”

    I like where your going with a sporty model but 80K for a Buick is just silly. You compare it to BMW but i think your missing the point. People who have the money will happily pay 80K for a high end sport model BMW suv or car. They will not hand over the same for a sporty Buick

  • avatar

    “Bad fake wood won’t turn buyers off the same way poor reliability would”

    This should be tattooed on every car reviewer’s and engineer’s head. The only people who care about interior materials are the OCD crowd who talk about cars on the internet.
    Most people would prefer a car made out of unfinished plywood if it ran every day with no issues.
    As far as the world needing another tall wagon. It’s what the people want.

  • avatar

    davey49: I’m not sure that’s true, either. Many people care about interior materials. Fake wood simply isn’t going to upset people as much as a slew of repairs would.

    Someone mentioned the Veracruz. Sorry, but the Hyundai, while a fairly nice vehicle, is considerably smaller and does not ride or handle as well as the Enclave. The Mazda CX-9, which falls between the two in terms of interior room and has an excellent chassis for a large crossover, probably poses more of a competitive threat.

  • avatar

    Yeesh, what exactly is this abomination accomplishing that the Rainier, Rendezvous, and Terraza did not?

    As if the cheap looking Jag-esque LaCrosse and the new standard for GM bland the Lucerne weren’t pathetic enough, let’s just keep’em coming!

    I guess GM didn’t learn from the name change game with Olds, so they’re hellbent to repeat history with Buick.

    I’ll just keep enjoying my LT1 Roadmaster….

  • avatar

    Wow, lots of rips about the faux interior. That doesn’t bother me as much because it has better than average looks. Must admit I’m now driving my wife’s Acadia becuase she didn’t like the Enclave looks as much.

    22 mph highway at 75mph (1000 mile vacation) & 17+mpg around town with an average speed 24mph, info thanks tp the trip computer.

    It’s very quiet all the time & excellent on the highway. Only complaint is the chrome on the dash can splash high-mid-day sunlight back into my eyes.

  • avatar

    Well I have had the pleasure of renting an Enclave( I am currently still in it)I must say overall I am impressed. My biggest issue is when I hit the gas it thinks a little to long for me. However, when it realizes that I am ready to move it gets up there. My husband is a fan for the most part with little discrepancies a long the way. But we have 4 kids at home and new grandkids. WE need the room but we don’t want a station wagon feel. The Enclave gives us the feel that we can still play with our friends and our kids. Not bad Buick. I am looking for your new and improved version. My hope is that this can only get better. By the way she is a real head turner. People are stopping us just to take a look.

  • avatar

    Thanks Michael, your review is a lot more helpful to buyers in this market than that other one on this site … your criticisms are right on and the accolades as well … bottom line … there is nothing that comes close in price to this vehicle other than it gmc and saturn sisters … the laminate windows really made a difference in the quietness in the enclave as well as the chrysler aspen don’t understand why other manufacturers aren’t using it.

  • avatar

    I dont understand why people constantly complain about American cars ?, J.D has given almost all the recent american cars a very high reliability rating better than most of the Japanese brands.

    Just because it is made in the US does not mean it is not competitive, i believe this attitude has to change, if you really want the cars to change talk to GM/Ford about what you want changed, and ofcourse Big companies cannot satisfy everyones apetite.

    I personally feel the buick enclave is one of the best comebacks, it has everything one would want, a quiet ride, lots of room to haul people around, decent mpg, i certainly think it is leaps and bounds better than honda/toyota.

    Ok before you start shouting at me, i am not even american, i am an east indian, but i just love american cars :)

  • avatar

    We have almost 5000 on our new Enclave and have taken a couple of trips with it already. It is head and shoulders above our other car a Toyota Highlander. Much more room in the front seating area, quieter, and a much bettr ride. MPG is lower by 2-3 mpg on trips but the comfort and ease of drive is worth it. the interior styling is adequate and we love the exterior look. I suffer from back problems but long rides have not been a problem with the movable lumbar support. We looked at several models including the Lexus, Toyota, Arcadia, MX-9, and Acura before deiding the Buick was the best overall value for the performance, ride, and appearance in the group. While not mind-blowing the accelration is adequate.

  • avatar
    Red Dragon Fly

    I have been anti GM since i owned 3 in the 70’s. When i rent a GM, which i do a lot and Hertz has been offering more and more GM’s over the last several years, i always groan on the way to the car. HOWEVER i believe the Enclave is a WINNER and GM finally gets it. We rented one for a week on a southern california spring break. I am a big guy and our family of 4 carry a lot of baggage. I thought the ENCLAVE was really great and would suggest everyone interested in a mid sized SUV take a look. GM finally gets fit and finish, the ergonomcis are good and it drives well. WE WERE ALL VERY PLEASED WITH THE ENCLAVE AND HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. (If they offer it, a back up camera would be nice, as i felt a little obstructed in the backing up department).

  • avatar

    this buick is a very good car regardless of what any one writes.. i own one and im telling you it is good.. great mileage… 30 mpg.. great ride ,great handling, lots of room, just an outstanding car… nevermind the naysayers.

  • avatar

    Hey….go sit in an ’09 Honda Pilot and them complain to me about the interior of the Enclave! I had not looked at a Honda for a long time and when I got into this car, I thought I was sitting in a Pontiac! I think Japanese cars i a lot of cases, get a free pass on some of this stuff.

    That being said…the Enclave always turned my head, and I am about to go out and give one a good test drive. If it measures up…it may pop onto my radar.


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