Buick Enclave Review [Take Two]

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh
buick enclave review take two

Engineers 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.

The 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.

The 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.

A 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.

The 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.

So 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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  • Jak Jak on May 19, 2008

    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.

  • RIDE RIDE on Jun 08, 2008

    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. RIDE

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.