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2008 Buick Enclave Review


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2008 Buick Enclave
THE AUTO PAGE
by
JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model:  2008 Buick Enclave
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 275 hp @ 6600 rpm/251 lb.-ft. @ 3200 rpm 
Transmission: 6-speed automatic/manual
Wheelbase: 119.0 in.
Length x Width x Height: 201.5 x 79.0 x 72.5 in.
Tires: 255/65R18
Cargo volume: 18.9/115.1 cu. ft. (behind third row/maximum)
Economy: 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19.6 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 22.0 gal.
Price: $34,340 (includes $735 destination charge and $1,550 in options)

The Bottom Line – The all-new Enclave fits nicely into the Premium Midsize SUV segment, offering outstanding ride quality and near-silent road manners. However, even though Buick calls it a crossover, it rides like a much larger vehicle – more like a Suburban than a Tahoe or Acadia, upon which it is based.

My definition of a crossover vehicle is an all-wheel drive station- wagon type, based on a sedan platform, yet offering the convenience of a sport utility, if in a smaller package. Buick calls its new Enclave a crossover, but the vehicle feels, drives and handles more like a large sport utility. While ride quality and power are excellent, the disconcerting “largeness” of the Enclave makes it seem far out of its class.

Part of this “oversize” problem, as I see it, may simply be caused by the design of the instrument panel. It is slanted away from the driver, so that it’s always far away, making the interior seem even larger than it is.

On the plus side, the interior is huge for a vehicle with a 119-inch wheelbase and 201.5-inch overall length. Our tester was the CX trim version, with three rows of seats for a maximum of eight passengers. The good news is that eight passengers – all adults – can ride in the Enclave. I wouldn’t put a basketball player in the third row seat for a long trip, but it isn’t uncomfortable. Second-row passengers enjoy outstanding legroom, even in the center position. The right seat in the second row folds and slides forward to provide convenient access to the third row. I won’t say “easy” access, because it still involves some contortions, but access is far easier than in many other three-row vehicles. Third-row legroom is tight, but not bad.

There are three LATCH connectors behind the second-row seats and only one behind the third row. While the third row might be nice for children (with an adult in row two), the lack of multiple LATCH hooks does reduce that possibility.

Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 that’s rated at a healthy 275 horsepower. This was more than enough for the Enclave. Power reaches the wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. However, The technique for manual shifting involved pushing a button on the center console-mounted shifter. If you’re going to shift manually, it’s best to keep both hands on the wheel as long as possible, and first finding the button and then hitting “+” or “–“ correctly involves too much precision for a one-week test. Owner-drivers might find shifting this way convenient.

The Enclave is excellent on hills, particularly going up. When you’re descending, however, you must pay close attention to your speed, as the Enclave will tend to run away from you.

Being a Buick, the Enclave is loaded with luxury items, even in the “bottom-of-the-scale” CX version. For example, we had an extremely convenient power rear hatch that could be operated from the key fob, from the lift button on the hatch itself, or from the dash. It also powered down.

Cargo capacity was equally pleasurable. Buick claims 18.9 cubic feet behind the third seat, which is larger than even the largest sedan’s trunk. With the third and second row seats folded, cargo capacity balloons to 115.1 cubic feet. That’s the utility side of this vehicle, even if the sport side is a little lame. If you need to haul cargo and don’t want to make a mess or don’t’ want your cargo to get wet in inclement weather, the Enclave is a winner. There’s also a hidden cargo area under the floor behind the third row.

We had a smart steering wheel with cruise and audio controls. The wipers were part of the turn signal stalk, and for the first few times I drove the Enclave I kept turning on the windshield washers every time I hit the turn signal. I realized it was my heavy-handedness that pushed the washer button on the end of the stalk and eventually learned to stop.

Seats were cloth-covered and comfortable, even if they didn’t have a lot of side support. Storage areas included a pop-up cubby at the top of the dash, cupholders galore, two cubbies under the center arm rest/console and bottle holders in the doors.

There’s a clothing hook located in the area of the third row seats, but it’s inconvenient to reach if the second row backs are up. It would have been better for the hooks to be moved forward.

In general, the Buick Enclave is a true luxury SUV. But it isn’t a crossover as Buick would have you believe.

© 2007 The Auto Page