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Buick Enclave Pictures

General Motors' Buick division is in the midst of a significant restructuring. Its U.S. product lineup shrinks to just three models for 2008, as the Rainier SUV, Rendezvous SUV, and Terraza minivan are all discontinued. That leaves the LaCrosse midsize sedan, the Lucerne large sedan, and Buick's most-promising new model in years: the 2008 Enclave premium midsize SUV. Buick Enclave is an upscale version of GM's "Lambda" midsize SUV platform, which is also the basis for the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. It's a 4-door wagon with a power liftgate that comes in base CX and upscale CXL trim. Both versions are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive without low-range gearing. Buick's goal with the Buick Enclave was to blend the size and capability of an SUV with the driving dynamics and fuel economy of a luxury sedan. Based on our experience with Buick Enclave, we'd say they've achieved a fabulous compromise between the two. Impressive cargo capacity and versatility is a strong point of GM's Lambda SUVs. Buick Enclave is larger than most premium midsize SUVs--some of its dimensions are close to large SUV territory. When all rear seats are folded, Buick Enclave boasts an impressive 115.1 cubic feet of cargo space. This is the best maximum cargo volume in the premium midsize SUV class, and also bests large SUVs such as the Ford Expedition (108.2), Chevrolet Tahoe (108.9), and Nissan Armada (97.1). Buick Enclave's interior expanse is made more useful by some clever and space-efficient engineering. The second-row seats slide fore and aft to favor second- or third-row passenger room. Enclave can accommodate seven passengers when equipped with second-row bucket seats, or eight when equipped with the optional second row bench. Other midsize SUVs offer seven-passenger seating, but their third-row seats are usually sized for children and are difficult to access. Buick Enclave's third row, while not expansive, offers realistic space for average-sized adults. Entry and exit is simple, thanks to a low step-in height and chair-height seats, while GM's unique Smart Slide second-row seats ease access to the third row. Instead of the "tumble-forward" designs used in other vehicles, the Smart Slide seat bottom tilts up from the back, and the seatback slides forward with the rest of the unit. Both the second-row captain's chairs and 60/40 split folding bench seat come with the Smart Slide feature. When it's time to haul cargo instead of passengers, the second-row seatbacks (and second-row console, if so equipped) fold down to form a flat, level load floor. There is plenty of small-items storage space as well--several useful bins, cubbies, and pockets are nestled throughout the interior. A handy under-floor compartment in the rear cargo area has a lid with a "stay-open" propped hinge for hands-free loading and unloading. Enclave benefits from Buick's extensive "QuietTuning" measures, which include acoustic laminated windshield glass, hydraulic engine mounts, and acoustic foam injected into the body structure. Buick calls the Buick Enclave "library-quiet," and it's tough to argue the claim. We noted only minor wind noise from the driver's seat at highway speeds, and comparable quietness from the second- and third-row seats. The engine emits a muffled growl under acceleration and is nearly silent while cruising. In keeping with the upscale character of the Buick brand, Enclave's interior is suitably ritzy. The dashboard is trimmed with classy chrome and wood trim, with easy-to-read illuminated gauges. CX models come standard with a power liftgate, xenon headlamps, XM satellite radio, tri-zone automatic climate controls with rear controls, and cloth upholstery. CXLs add classier leather upholstery, heated front seats with additional power adjustments, and a memory system for the driver's seat and mirrors.

A Driver Confidence Package includes a rear-obstacle-detection system, remote engine start, and heated windshield washer fluid. A 6-disc CD changer, navigation system with rear-view camera, and DVD entertainment are available in various entertainment equipment packages. A CXL-exclusive Luxury Package adds a power tilt/telescope steering wheel with memory, power folding mirrors, a 110-volt power outlet, and steering-linked adaptive headlamps. A sunroof with a separate, non-opening second-row skylight is a stand-alone option. Buick Enclave's aim is to provide SUV-size space and cargo versatility without the cumbersome road manners often associated with traditional SUVs. Though no one will mistake Buick Enclave's driving dynamics for those of a luxury sedan, its handling characteristics are a definite step above the typical SUV. The ride is smooth and composed, with only minor wallow. CX models come standard with 18-inch wheels, while CXLs have 19s. Twenty-inch wheels are a dealer-installed option. We tested models equipped with all three wheel sizes, and noticed little difference in ride quality on our pristine-pavement drive route. Handling is stable and agile for a vehicle this size, with well-balanced, direct steering. Parking lot maneuvering can be tricky, however, due to Buick Enclave's ample dimensions. The brakes have a linear pedal feel and provide smooth, drama-free stops. Standard safety features include traction control, antiskid control, and curtain side airbags with rollover deployment for all three seating rows.

The Buick Enclave's sole powertrain is GM's 3.6-liter V6 VVT (variable valve timing) engine mated to Buick's first 6-speed automatic transmission. Also known as GM's "High-Feature" V6, this refined powerplant debuted in the 2004 Cadillac CTS sedan to positive reviews. Here, it puts out 275 horsepower and provides perfectly acceptable, if not exceptional, acceleration in both city and highway driving. The transmission shifts smoothly, though downshifts for extra power are sometimes delayed. When equipped with the optional towing package, Buick says Buick Enclave's can tow up to 4500 pounds. Fuel economy was a focal point of Buick Enclave's engineers. EPA numbers are 16 city/24 highway with FWD, and 16/22 with AWD. Note that these numbers reflect the EPA's new-for-2008 testing procedures, which result in typically lower mpg ratings than the previous testing method. These are respectable numbers for a vehicle of this size and power. Note also that Buick recommends regular grade fuel for Buick Enclave, while pricier premium fuel is recommended or required for most other premium midsize SUVs. Highlights of Enclave's body design include Buick's characteristic portholes and waterfall grille, tasteful chrome accents, and smooth, curvaceous bodylines. The familiar grille and portholes connect Buick Enclave with its Lucerne and LaCrosse siblings. Buick calls it "heritage forward" design--contemporary styling that calls upon the marquee's history without being overtly nostalgic or "retro." In the past, GM has been criticized for "badge engineering." Critics complained of redundant GM vehicles with only superficial differences such as badges and styling details. Though Enclave shares a basic structure with Acadia and Outlook, its body panels and styling are completely unique, and significantly more stylish and upscale. Likewise, Buick Enclave's quietness and interior accommodations are a step up from its corporate cousins.The term "crossover" generally refers to a vehicle that combines car and SUV attributes. In this case, the term has further meaning, as Enclave "crosses over" into other vehicle classes as well. Its well-designed, commodious interior makes it an attractive alternative for shoppers considering an upscale minivan or premium large SUV. Buick Enclave's base prices are competitive in all the vehicle categories it straddles: a 2WD CX starts at $32,055, and an AWD CXL starts at $36,255. Initial reaction to Enclave has been enthusiastic, with reports of solid early order numbers and, in some cases, customer waiting lists. Buick dealers haven't had a product hot enough to require waiting lists in a very long time. Based on the positive response Enclave has garnered so far, it appears that Buick's restructuring already has a solid foundation.

Buick Enclave Pictures


Buick Enclave Pictures

Buick Enclave PicturesBuick Enclave Pictures
Buick Enclave Pictures

Buick Enclave PicturesBuick Enclave Pictures
Buick Enclave Pictures

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