News Column

Buick Enclave

September 20, 2007

Ralph Gray

Buick Enclave

If you designed a large, passenger-coddling vehicle of creamy smoothness what would you call it? "Buick" would spring to many lips.

And if you couldn't call it "Buick Roadmaster" or "Buick Electra 225" what then? A "Buick Enclave" would be the correct answer.

Enclave is Buick's first luxury crossover sports utility vehicle. "It represents the new face of the brand," says a spokesman.

Not quite a new face but certainly an older face that has had work done. Still recognizable is the Buick waterfall grille with the tri-shield emblem. There's even three portholes on each side of the vehicle. All hark back to Buick's historic look.

The rest of the Enclave's exterior is thoroughly contemporary. There are few straight lines with curved front fenders and a sweeping roofline. That tends to disguise the fact that the Enclave is a good-sized vehicle 201.5 inches on a 119-inch wheelbase.

Those wheels are pushed out to the corners for a wide stance. Standard wheels are big 19 inchers with 20-inch wheels available. The all-wheel-drive option takes 18-inch wheels. The result is a streamlined four door that eschews the macho truck stance of some SUVs. It's not "Built Buick Tough," it's more like "When better cars are built, Buick will build them."

There are plenty of curves on the inside with the instrument panel, which is recessed for a roomier feeling. Gauges are illuminated with a soft blue light. There's a mahogany and leather steering wheel and lots of camphor burl wood trim. A sunroof is available, as is remote starting and heated washer fluid. Headlights can be articulating to follow curves.

Buick Enclave interior Buick Enclave

•Engines: 3.6L V-6

•Dimensions: 119" wheelbase; 201.5" length

•Base price: $32,055; As tested $36,260

•Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg

Front passenger room is generous. A second-row seat console (there are three rows) unfolds into a flat load floor. Add a power-operated tailgate and rear-park assist with a backup camera.

Outside mirrors not only automatically angle downward when Enclave is reversed but the mirrors can be programmed so that one, both or none do this. There are four 12-volt power outlets.

Mechanical advances include four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability control, a six-speed automatic transmission and six airbags. The engine is a new GM 3.6L V-6 of 276 horsepower. The all-wheel drive system provides increased traction as needed without the driver's intervention.

That translates into a 0-60 mph time of a respectable 8.2 seconds. The six-speed transmission is silky smooth and the ride is limousine-like and decently controlled on turns.

Make that a very quiet limo. Additional sound proofing inside includes an acoustic-laminated windshield, triple door seals and outside mirrors and tires designed to minimize noise an old-time Buick trademark.

What the Enclave does best is letting Buick be Buick.

Source: (c) 2007. All rights reserved.

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