2008 Buick Enclave AWD Review
Luxury Just Got Better
To hear Jack Folden talk about designing the Buick Enclave, it’s easy to tell he’s a proud guy. As the leader of Enclave’s exterior design team, he knew they had a great opportunity to do something different than what GMC did for their Acadia or Saturn’s vision of the Outlook; siblings of General Motors’ cross-over trio. Acadia went with an “it’s-an-SUV-but-not-really” design theme to meld with their trucks while Saturn’s design is more utilitarian, and nicely adopts front end styling traits shared with the Aura and Sky. Folden says, “We wanted to build on the heritage of great Buicks with a heritage of design,” noting GM’s design heyday. “We wanted to design a piece of art, not just a car.” Folden’s group created one of the best looking vehicles to come out of a GM studio in a long time—and a Buick family hauler at that.
Stylishly flared fender lines and a trimmed waist create a defining shape. The blunt nose with sweptback high-intensity discharge headlamps (standard equipment with optional articulating feature on the test car) creates an in-your-face appearance while a falling roofline helps visually reduce its overall size. Standard equipment 18-inch wheels pushed out to the corners help interior packaging, handling and stance. “Stance is critical,” says Folden.
Enclave’s interior is equally inviting with leather seating (cloth is standard), brushed metal and fake wood trim that fools you into thinking it came from a sacrificial tree. The steering wheel is trimmed in actual mahogany and leather. Fully adjustable seats and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel are electrically powered, but where are the adjustable pedals? The overall layout of controls is logical and well done, but the switches on the audio system could be larger.
Laminated glass and triple door seals help the Enclave remain as quiet as a tomb. The CXL-trimmed test vehicle came with 19-inch wheels and tires that further enhance the quiet, thanks to Michelin’s exclusive design for Enclave. The newest Buick crossover is comfortable over the road, but softly cushioned seats can cause posterior pains after about two and a half hours of driving. Otherwise, interior appointments and available options create a comfortable environment for up to eight people with easy access to all seats. Both rows of seats quickly fold flat to the floor for voluminous cargo space, but a fold-flat front passenger seatback would be handy for extra long items.
The driving experience delivers impressive handling no matter what type of road you’re on, never wallowing and simply drives better than a vehicle that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds should. Steering is light but responsive and provides good feedback to what the big tires are doing below. A long wheelbase (119 inches) contributes to excellent ride comfort and works with a tuned suspension that minimizes body movement. Ride comfort over badly broken and patched pavement is every bit as good as a recently driven Mercedes-Benz sedan. The brakes deliver confident performance, but would benefit from more feel and less travel.
powertrain acts as both saint and sinner, delivering better
than expected fuel economy, but at the expense of
torque for acceleration. A 3.6 liter, 275 horsepower, V6
engine mated to a six speed automatic transmission is the
sole drivetrain for Enclave and provided 24 mpg on the
highway and 21 mpg overall. While driving in the 45-60
mph range, more response was expected with light to moderate
throttle applications, and the acceleration delay was experienced
on both flat and hilly terrain. A definite lag exists when
you ask for a downshift with full throttle application, and
the resulting oomph is less than expected. Our experience
was with a mostly empty vehicle, but add a few passengers
and the performance is likely to be even less. The transmission
allows for manual shifting, but the target market will be
prone to simply put the lever in D and go. A reworking of
the electronics is in order, or the engine should be tuned
for more torque.
Read a review of the 2009 Buick Enclave CX
Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance.
Text: Chuck Arehart