October 31, 2007
Ever since the Buick Enclave debuted at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show, there's been one thought on everyone's mind: When did Buick get hot? Seriously, we haven't seen this sort of style out of the famed Detroit marque since Eisenhower took office. With a sleek, upscale interior and a styling theme aimed at a younger, more hip (and less hip-replacement) market, Buick has created a new benchmark in design and packaging with this full-size crossover utility vehicle. Or is it a very large wagon? Or is it an SUV?
Who cares what it's called? The 2008 Buick Enclave manages to seat seven and sport a larger cargo volume than its full-size cousins, all the while providing a smoother ride and returning better fuel economy than a conventional sport-utility.
We knew right there on the show floor in 2006 that Buick needed the Enclave in the same way a grown-up former child star needs a reality TV show. To capture a new audience. To break new ground. To regain relevance. The Enclave serves to breathe new life into a once-great franchise and show a whole new generation what a Buick really is.
What We Bought
Taking a cost-conscious path, the process of outfitting our 2008 Buick Enclave was a game of give-and-take. We like leather upholstery. We like 19-inch rims. We like an eight-way power driver seat. We really like heated seats. These are all things that make a luxury vehicle a little nicer, but we didn't need them. Opting for the CX trim level voided all of these options, but put $2,200 back in our pocket.
Of course, that $2,200 wasn't going to last very long; the optional touchscreen navigation system with back-up camera, Bose speakers, rear-seat audio controls and satellite radio cost a cool $3,025. With the way the Enclave soaks up highway miles, we figured navigation and satellite radio were necessities.
The next item on the chopping block proved to be all-wheel drive (AWD). Crossovers are designed to be the kinder, gentler SUV and we wanted one that would tread a little more lightly. With an EPA fuel-economy rating of 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Enclave versus 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway for the AWD model, the FWD alternative sounded good to us. Besides, we live in Southern California, so we don't really need AWD.
Once we had the $2,000 savings in hand, we spent it on things you really need in Southern California. Like a sunroof! Handing Buick $1,300 gets you not only a power sunroof, but a nifty second-row skylight to entertain (i.e., cause motion sickness for) your second- and third-row passengers.
The sharp, blue-gold Crystal Metallic paint clashed with the stock wheel rims, so we shelled out $225 for a set of shiny polished 18s. Again, we only spent for what we needed. For the interior, we chose the ebony cloth upholstery, as we've had some issues with light-color seats in the past. A cargo net and a cargo cover were each $45 options that were well worth the price if they prevent one break-in or keep one gallon of milk from smashing around the spacious cargo hold.
The Enclave comes standard with second-row captain's chairs. They leave enough room for rear-seat riders to walk straight between them to the third row, and tilt forward to offer entry from the doors. Of course, if you opt for the second-row bench, you increase capacity to eight passengers and save $495 on the bottom line, a twisted reverse-pricing structure scheme that only a bureaucrat could love. We stuck with the captain's chairs to make the second row more suitable for adults.
Buick offers one engine option for the Enclave: a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing that produces 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. We picked that one.
When all was said and done, our well-optioned Buick that might otherwise have easily pushed $45 large instead rings the cash register to the tune of $37,430.
Why We Bought It
Crossovers are hot and Buick has generated an incredible amount of buzz for its new one — something that the Rendezvous never managed — or anything, for that matter, that didn't have a Nailhead V8 or turbo V6. We were excited at the Enclave's reveal in 2006, and our anticipation has been further stoked after a full test. As we said, "If luxury, safety and pleasant manners are the trifecta of road travel, the 2008 Buick Enclave is a good bet."
Stay tuned to our Long-Term Logbook for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles to see if Buick has, in fact, created the finest luxury crossover ever.
Current Odometer: 3,590
Best Fuel Economy: 19.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 16.7 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.