Saturday, June 2, 2007
Buick Enclave: Top-of-the Line Crossover with High-Tech DNA
The new Enclave takes Buick back to the brand's roots with a quiet ride, striking style and smooth performance. The Enclave shares a platform with both the Saturn Outlook and the GMC Acadia, but because it's a Buick, this eight-passenger crossover is more about pampering. Power comes from the same 3.6-liter, 271-hp V6 as the GMC and Saturn models and comes paired to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is on the options list—as is a choice of 18-inch or 19-inch wheels. If you want some serious bling, there’s a 20-inch wheel available as a dealer-installed option. Fuel economy is rated as 16/24 (city/highway) for the front drive Enclave, and two less in each category for the all-wheel drive model.
But Enclave is more about style and ride than simple raw numbers. Of the three GM crossovers built on this chassis, Enclave offers the most appealing—“sensual,” the company calls them—bodylines and quietest ride. Showing off Buick’s luxury outside are curved fender creases in the front and rear, plus a waterfall grille. Refined “ventaports” on the hood recall Buicks of past.
Inside the cabin, the theme remains high style, with wood grain trim highlighted by bright metal borders—not to mention a real wood and leather steering wheel. Oh, and don’t overlook the wood-chrome-leather shift lever that completes a luxury message.
Enclave’s seats accommodate eight passengers in a two-three-three arrangement from front to back. Second- and third-row seats are 60/40 bench types that fold down for added stowage space. Or, order captain’s seats for the second row, and you get a walk-through passage to accommodate rear-seat passengers.
Buick’s reputation for a quiet ride is enhanced in this latest model. One example is the laminated glass in the front-door windows. Another is the acoustical windshield glass that uses a filler of sound-absorbing material. Foam fillers in structure voids offer more sound filtering in addition to strength. Special engine mounts are designed to all but eliminate engine vibration during idle and high-speed operation.
An extended morning drive on two-lane pavement through the Missouri Ozarks delivered the proof we needed that Buick does indeed deliver a quite interior. Engineers say the Buick is three or more decibels quieter than those sister vehicles from Saturn and GMC. That proved easy to believe: Transmission shifts in fairly steep and busy hills were smooth, with little engine roar and no hesitation in double downshifts.
However, a short comparison with the front-drive version revealed more than subtle differences. The front drive took curves much less nimbly, offering front tire scrub in moderate turns where the all-wheel drive held the line. For all its size and nearly 5000-pound curb weight, the vehicle drives “small,” and offers an outstanding turning tightness, given its comfort-based, 119-in. wheelbase and front-wheel-drive design.
Two models make up the Enclave line, the CX and CXL. Both are identical in power train offerings and all major measurements. Prices start at $32,790 for the front-drive CX and $34,990 for the CXL