2007 Buick Enclave Review

Megan Benoit
by Megan Benoit

When better cars are built, Buick will build them. Meanwhile, they’re building CUV’s. Huh? An automotive brand whose lack of identity has kept it on life support for well over a decade wants a piece of a vehicular genre that’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and nothing in particular. GM’s willingness– make that “eagerness”– to throw Buick a CUV-shaped, badge-engineered bone demonstrates the corporate mothership’s abject and ongoing inability to devise a coherent plan to resuscitate its “damaged” (i.e. terminal) Buick brand. What is it with these guys?

Anyway, calling a vehicle of the Enclave’s epic dimensions a crossover forces us to expand the genre’s definition from “cute ute” to “the bastard child of a minivan and a full-sized SUV.” That said, Buick's CUV on steroids is a surprisingly graceful design. Well-judged chrome accents abound, from the door trim to the blinged-out wheels. The premium paint job is worth the extra cash; a pearl-coated Enclave’s spizzarkle will make Cadillac owners scowl into their prune juice.

The purpose of these porky proportions lies within. Much like Danielewski’s house of blue, the Enclave is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Sliding second row seats can provide as much or as little rear space as needed, depending on the degree of family bonding desired. Optional middle-row bench seats up the capacity to eight, for maximum character building. And accoutrements abound, giving backseat drivers their choices of entertainment and environmental controls.

Though I applaud GM’s brave decision to hire the blind to color-match the Enclave’s interior, the model’s beige leather, floor and ceiling clash with the ashy brown door trim; which is irritatingly beset with medium-shaded wood accents. The plastics are alternately hard and soft– softer where contact is inevitable and harder where only masochists dare to tread (especially after initial, revulsion-inducing contact).

Brushed metal trim on the door handles add (ADD?) to the boggle factor. The dash provides a similar lack of coherence; chrome strips and an analog clock top off the WTF factor. Wood also makes a guest appearance on the steering wheel, playing the role of the suave but untrustworthy stranger. Note to Buick: wood or metal, pick a side.

The number of dashboard controls never reaches the sheer distraction level of an MDX, but it’s not for lack of trying. After a brief tussle with the Enclave’s electronic seating controls, during which the memory function attempted to crush my kneecaps, we were on the road.

After driving a selection of super-sized SUVs, I squared off for battle with yon steering wheel, only to find it surprisingly light and responsive. The closet enthusiast may be disgusted by the lack of road feel and steering feedback, but then, they’re not likely to purchase something of these epic proportions. The average luxobarge driver will appreciate the Enclave's easy, quick steering and wonderfully cushy suspension.

In fact, you can easily forget you’re piloting a 2.5 ton vehicle– until you attempt brisk acceleration. With its V6 kicking-out 275hp and 251 ft.-lbs. of torque, the Enclave literally lags behind its natural rivals. Zero to sixty takes 8.4 seconds; the Acura MDX gets the job done in 7.2 and the Mazda CX-9 arrives in 7.5.

The Enclave’s six-speed automatic transmission is a step ahead of standard GM fare, but the gearbox serves-up early upshifts and late downshifts, with a heavy side of throttle lag. You can take matters into your own hands with shift lever-mounted buttons, but chances are you won’t.

The Enclave comes complete with airbags for all and the usual alphabet stew of safety equipment: ABS, TPMS, ESC and Anti-Rollover Logic (if your common sense fails). Nav-equipped vehicles offer a rear view camera, a handy option in a car with this much bounteous booty.

The $33k-ish (and up) front wheel-drive Enclave offers a considerable amount of value for driver who can appreciate the subtle luxuries within. Actually, “near luxury” pretty much nails it. For significantly less money than its foreign luxury competitors, you can buy a Buick Enclave and pretend you’re driving a mid- to large-sized luxury SUV– without the handling, performance or reputation.

Alternatively, for a few thousand dollars less, you can buy either one of the Enclave’s non-identical twins: the Saturn Outlook or GMC Acadia. Or wait for the Chevy version. Or just wonder why GM builds better Buicks in China, and then sells four versions of the same CUV in America, reserving the best looking one for their doomed division, without giving it a proper V8 to distinguish it from its automotive homonyms.

Megan Benoit
Megan Benoit

I'm a computer security geek raised in Nebraska and recently transplanted to Atlanta. I like me some cars, got into car geekery a few years ago and haven't looked back since. I also volunteer at a local ferret shelter and participate in various charity and fund-raising events related to that.

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  • BlissDDS BlissDDS on Jun 29, 2007

    Dear Megan, While I applaud you for your entertaining, creative review I must let you know that I was confused after reading your comments and then test driving the Enclave. I am an early 30's guy that is deciding between the Q7, the Enclave, and the Lexus GX470. After reading your review I pictured the Enclave to be about the size of the MDX or the CX9 because your comment about these cars being natural rivals to the Enclave. After visiting a Buick dealership I was amazed at how much larger the Enclave was, in fact the only car that I have test driven to this date with similar dimensions and interior space is the Audi Q7, we are leaning away from the Lexus because of the 3rd row of seats being too small. The MDX and the CX9 are both too small for my purposes (family and cargo) but the Enclave being so much larger fits those needs nicely. I was also impressed with the options and the luxury of the vehicle even after driving the Q7 (especially since the Enclave is $15K less with comparable options and accessories.) It was so nice that I am really having a difficult time justifying the extra money for the Audi especially when reliability is factored in. I hope that other readers of this sight do not get the wrong impression about the Buick because it has this possible 30 year old Audi buyer leaning towards an American CUV...and a Buick to boot!

  • Delmartian Delmartian on Nov 26, 2007

    If acceleration were the weighted criteria this review may have helped ... to me it was roominess, comfort, hangling and quietness ... this car kicks butt over the competition in the above criteria ... competition is really the suburban or yukon xl in roominess and lexus 350 in ride and quietness ... this writer doesn't understand the market as well as GM this car and its sisters hit the mark ... CX-9 too cramped, noisier, rough ride and not as roomy ... same goes for MDX and its thousands more ... someone needs to help these reviewers understand were not all looking for a sports car some of us want an alternative for a minivan and the enclave wins.

  • Alan Like all testing and analysis work you need a good set of requirements. If you don't you'll find or end up with gaps.
  • Alan In aviation there is more vigourous testing, well, until Boeing changed things.
  • Alan This outcome was certain.The US, Australia and Canada need to approach this differently. A policy towards plug in hybrids should of been a first step. As in CAFE gradually tighten FE from there.There's no reason why you can't have a 2 litre F-150 with electric motors putting out 400-500hp. A 2 litre turbo is good for 200hp more than enough to move a pickup.Also increase fuel tax/excise every year to fill the void in loss of revenue.
  • Doug brockman hardly. Their goals remain to punish us by mandating unsafe unreliable unaffordable battery powered cars
  • Lorenzo It looks like the curves are out and the boxy look is back. There's an upright windscreen, a decided lack of view obstructing swoop in the rear side panels, and you can even see out of the back window. Is Lexus borrowing from the G-Class Mercedes, or the Range Rover?