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C&D 2008 Enclave CXL AWD short take

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2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD

The Highs: Serene driving environment, creamy ride, sexy sheetmetal, gorgeous interior.

The Lows: Tepid power-to-weight ratio, modest towing capacity, so-so braking.

The family champ in ride quality is also a real looker.


A New York Times columnist recently observed that the key to restoring Big Three fortunes lay in creating vehicles with compelling eye appeal—vehicles that people would actually want to buy. This dazzling insight came long after Buick had unveiled its Enclave crossover at the ’06 Detroit show, but the Enclave does seem to vindicate the thesis. It’s the first Buick in recent memory to report advance orders—some 8000 prior to its official April on-sale date.

The product justifies the advance orders. Buick’s big new wagon delivers excellent all-around utility—comfortably and quietly—and looks good while doing so, inside and out. This last is no mean feat, because utility wagons tend to look like building blocks. The Enclave’s exterior, in contrast, is devoid of straight lines, a sweet confluence of curves that disguise its substantial dimensions (barely smaller than those of the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon). In fact, the Enclave can actually be called stylish.

To review, you will recall that the Enclave, as well as the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, use GM’s Lambda architecture, a large (and exceptionally rigid) front-drive unibody platform that represents a major departure from the General’s conventional body-on-frame utes, such as the Yukon, et al. To be fair to the traditionals, there is a downside to the unibody approach. Towing capacity for the Enclave and its kin tops out at 4500 pounds. The Tahoe and the other GMT900 SUVs can handle much bigger loads and also offer V-8 engine options.

But if heavy towing isn’t paramount, the Lambda trio holds a lot of trumps: lower curb weights, better fuel economy, roomier interiors, excellent road manners, and better ride quality. When it comes to the latter, the Enclave is the family champ. Its responses aren’t quite as crisp as those of the Acadia we tested last March, but the Enclave sops up pavement warts with an aplomb that is not only best in trio but arguably best in class.

Best in class also applies to the Enclave’s interior noise levels, particularly cruising at 70 mph. At 66 dBA, the big Buick is not only quieter than the Acadia but also 2 dBA more serene than the Lexus RX400h we tested in March 2005. Cathedral quiet abets comfort, and so does the Enclave’s handsomely appointed interior. Our top-of-the-line CXL was configured for seven (two-two-three seating), although an eight-passenger edition is available. Space was ample in the rear rows, thanks to fore-and-aft adjustability of the middle row, and our Enclave arrived with all the infotainment features, including a DVD player that keeps sibling rivalries from becoming homicidal during long trips. In a parallel vein, the Enclave has such standard safety features as six airbags and stability control.

Demerits are few. The 3.6-liter DOHC VVT V-6 generates respectable power—275 horsepower, 251 pound-feet of torque—and the six-speed automatic is smooth, but the combo is limited by the Enclave’s 5107-pound mass: 0 to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, the quarter-mile in 17.0 seconds at 82 mph. Similarly, braking from 70 to standstill in 180 feet is just so-so. Fuel economy—14 mpg in our hands—was also a little disappointing.

The Enclave is a luxury CUV, something reflected in the cost of our loaded test vehicle. But that pricing—from $32,790 for a front-wheel-drive CX, $36,990 for the four-wheel-drive CXL—undercuts the pricing of key competitors: Acura MDX, Lexus RX350, Volvo XC90. And the Buick measures up well against any of them.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door wagon

PRICE AS TESTED: $43,950 (base price: $36,990)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection

Displacement: 217 cu in, 3564cc

Power (SAE net): 275 bhp @ 6600 rpm

Torque (SAE net): 251 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting


Wheelbase: 119.0 in

Length: 201.5 in

Width: 79.0 in

Height: 72.5 in

Curb weight: 5107 lb


Zero to 60 mph: 9.0 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 26.3 sec

Street start, 5–60 mph: 9.5 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph

Top speed (governor limited): 109 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 180 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.76 g


EPA city driving: 16 mpg

C/D observed: 14 mpg


A mid-life update with a 3.6 DI and reduction in curb weight would probably help address these issues. Optional magnetic ride control and better materials (different leather, special wood, or "cut-n-sew", maybe?) will help fend off any new competition.

Edited by empowah

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Good Start for a buick revolution. Now bring me a rwd Park avenue and a rwd Riviera coupe. The lucerne is great but I say shrink it just a tad to make room for the park avenue and add a Regal based of the Sigma program and that may help out the brand a lot

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