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First Drive—2008 Buick Enclave

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BASE PRICE: $32,790

DRIVETRAIN: 3.6-liter, 275-hp, 251-lb-ft V6; fwd, six-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 4780 lb

0 TO 60 MPH: n/a


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Even though the all-new 2008 Buick Enclave is on sale (with $1000 incentive) and in customers' hands, General Motors hoped the media would wait until the end of May to report on it. That's when it will have the official media drives at which point it would hand out the official media information.

Rather than wait until then to give you our take on the Enclave, we did what you could do and took a test drive courtesy of a local Buick dealer. The drive impressions you read here are based on that journey.

Chalk it up to enterprising journalism. And to getting you what you have come to expect from AutoWeek: Information first and information fast.

With all the commotion coming out of the Shanghai auto show, it would be easy to forget that U.S. citizens buy Buicks, too. While the rest of the world was out examining the Riviera concept, we checked out a new Enclave at dealerships across this country right now.

Enclave is the best looking Buick to hit the streets in years. From the delightfully tight and tidy panel gaps to available 19-inch chrome rims, the Enclave looks good—and dare we say surprisingly young. Best of all, there is no trace of wretched Rendezvous anywhere: This design is virtually unchanged from the concept that wowed show goers to its dealer-lot production trim.

Looks are nice, but Enclave shines when you get behind the wheel. From our brief test we found body roll to be well controlled with little or no dive under braking. Taut handling doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality; the ride is smooth, and this cross-over responds well to steering input through the turns. Our short drive revealed greater car-to-driver feedback than other Buicks, which bodes well for it on the consumer stage.

Of course, taut handling is a relative term with a 4,780 lb curb weight. The all-wheel drive system adds an extra 205 lb and the extra mass taxes the 3.6-liter V6, requiring the use of all 275 hp and 251 lb-ft when times comes to pass. Sluggish downshifts, likely engineered to maximize fuel economy, contribute to its somewhat lazy acceleration.

We found the best way to hustle through traffic is to manually select gears from the six-speed automatic via +/- buttons on the shifter. You still won’t get the spirited response of a Mazda CX-7 (and its 3929 lb curb weight), but you’ll have the option of bringing seven friends along, something you can’t do in the Mazda. At the concept’s introduction, Buick said it would have a V8 engine as option, but we haven’t heard much about it since.

Seating for eight doesn’t mean Enclave will need a trailer to haul luggage when all spots are filled (though you could tow a maximum of 4,500 lbs, if you were so inclined). With 18.9 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the third row, you can bring plenty of gear for the ride; folding all seats net 116.2 cubic feet of storage. Other crossovers in this segment top at around 85 cubic feet of storage, so this is a clear winner. Haul lots of people, piles of stuff, or some combination; you won’t leave much behind.

It does not take long behind the wheel to realize the (last generation) Lexus RX was the Buick engineers’ target for interior noise levels. When cars blow past at highway speeds and only a whisper transmits to the cabin, you know they’ve done their job well. With the radio on, exterior noise virtually disappears. Check the Bose 5.1-channel audio upgrade box and prepare to experience music. Laminated window glass, triple seals around the doors and plenty of sound-deadening materials are some of the so-called QuietTuning features that isolate noise and vibration at speed.

Cloth seats in the CX model are of a higher quality than those found in a Saturn Outlook that we recently sampled. Leather seats come standard in CXL models. Rear-seat entertainment systems are available in all Enclaves and include wireless headphones. A rear-view camera is included with the navigation system upgrade.

Of these handsome General Motors sport utes—Saturn Outlook/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave (a Chevy is yet to come)—to hit lots, many will choose the Enclave as the best-looking model out there. Now that’s high praise… for any automaker, but especially Buick. Throw in a quiet interior and world-class ride should give those shopping Japanese crossovers a real reason to think Buick. Oh, and comparable Enclaves will run several thousand dollars less than the competition from Lexus.

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Good review for the most part, it seems all Lambda reviews are positive.

The one thing I don't understand is why GM would want the vehicles to be on sale before reviews come out. If reviews come out a month before the vehicle can be bought, and the review is good, then it would seem to me you'd see more interest when it hit dealer lots than you would without because people wouldn't even know it's out (for the most part).

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