What's New for 2008
The 2008 Buick Enclave is an all-new large crossover SUV capable of seating up to eight passengers. Power comes courtesy of a 275-horsepower V6.
Buick wants to be known as a premium automaker, but none of the vehicles the brand has rolled out over the last five years have fully lived up to their luxury billing. The 2008 Buick Enclave could be the one that breaks Buick's mediocrity streak.
At first glance, the Enclave is just another new crossover SUV with a standard V6, a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and seven- and eight-passenger seating configurations. But step inside and it's a different story from other Buicks. The cabin doesn't look like it was built to a price; rather, it comes across as a product of thoughtful design, with artistic curves to the dash, shapely front seats and Tiffany Blue-inspired illumination. On the whole, the '08 Enclave is a step up for Buick and a viable entry in the premium crossover SUV class.
The Enclave still shares its underpinnings with GM's latest batch of crossover SUVs, including the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. All use fully independent suspension, and all have an all-aluminum 3.6-liter V6 good for 275 hp, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Interior dimensions are massive by midsize SUV standards. Not only can the Enclave accommodate adults in all three rows, it has a maximum cargo capacity of 116 cubic feet -- more room than most full-size sport-utilities. A 60/40-split, fold-flat third-row seat is standard in every Enclave, and in keeping with the Buick's upscale mission, twin captain's chairs are fitted in the second row. For families who need even more seating capacity, a bench seat is available for no extra charge, and conveniently, this seat also folds flat. Cloth upholstery and rich-looking wood-grain trim are standard in all Buick Enclaves, and leather is included on the upscale CXL model. All the expected safety equipment, including stability control and three-row side curtain airbags, is standard across the board.
We have no doubt that the 2008 Buick Enclave crossover SUV will be a practical family vehicle for buyers who have $35,000 to $45,000 to spend and don't want a minivan. However, its success as a luxury SUV is not as certain. Although more opulent in its design and furnishings than other Buicks, there are still a few questionable interior vinyls and plastics. That could be a liability against the upscale interior treatments of competitors like the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. However, the Enclave costs less than all of these rivals, potentially offsetting this weakness.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A large crossover SUV, the 2008 Buick Enclave comes in CX and CXL trim levels. Both have a standard seven-passenger seating configuration via second-row captain's chairs and a third-row bench seat. An optional second-row bench seat, available for no extra charge, increases capacity to eight.
The base CX comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon HID headlights, a power liftgate, heated outside mirrors, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, a telescoping leather/wood steering wheel, triple-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker CD stereo with an MP3 player input jack, satellite radio and OnStar telematics (including the Turn-by-Turn navigation feature). The high-line Enclave CXL adds 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and additional power seat adjustments, including memory settings for the driver.
Most options for the Buick Enclave are grouped in packages. There are four different entertainment packages, allowing you to pick up features like a navigation system, a back-up camera, a 10-speaker Bose audio system with an in-dash CD changer, and a rear DVD entertainment system that plays in 5.1 surround sound. There's also the Driver Confidence Package, which adds remote start, rear parking sensors and heated windshield washer fluid. Exclusive to the CXL is the Luxury Package, which contains adaptive headlights, power-folding outside mirrors, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 110-volt outlet. Stand-alone options on both trim levels include the Dual SkyScape Sunroof (a sliding front moonroof with a fixed rear skylight), a second-row storage console and towing preparation.
Powertrains and Performance
Buyers have a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive on the Buick Enclave. Either way, the power source is a 3.6-liter V6 rated for 275 hp and 251 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Properly equipped, Buick's new crossover SUV can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
Every 2008 Buick Enclave comes with antilock disc brakes, a tire-pressure monitor, stability control (with anti-rollover logic), front-seat side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags. Rear parking sensors are optional, and vehicles equipped with the nav system have a rearview camera.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Enclave feels genuinely luxurious. Buick says the design was reportedly inspired by the cabins of private jets, and amidst the gentle curves of the dash, the rich-looking wood-grain inlays and the soft, double-stitched leather, that doesn't seem like much of a stretch. Interesting details include the Tiffany-style analog clock and aqua blue instrumentation. A few of the plastics and vinyls seem a bit questionable in a premium SUV, though, and some of the controls are small, with complicated labeling. Large families may overlook these faults, though, when they see how roomy the seating is. Access to the third row is excellent, as the second-row seats tilt and slide out of the way at the pull of a lever. There are a usable 19 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat, and when you fold its 60/40 sections into the floor, you get nearly 68 cubic feet. With the second-row seats folded, the Buick Enclave offers 116 cubic feet -- one of the highest cargo volumes in the SUV kingdom.
The Enclave's V6 offers adequate power in all situations along with a mildly sporty exhaust note. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but it's programmed to maximize fuel economy, sometimes resulting in delayed downshifts. There is a manual shift button on the shift lever, but we'd like to see Buick offer the convenience of buttons or paddles on the steering wheel. As you'd expect, the Enclave is quiet and smooth-riding on the highway, though some buyers may find the CXL model a bit too firm due to its 19-inch wheels. Handling on the 2008 Buick Enclave is competent and predictable but not especially sporty.
Read our Buick Enclave Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test