2008 Buick Enclave Long Term Road Test

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2008 Buick Enclave CX: Fuel Economy Update

June 30, 2008

2008 Buick Enclave - photo by Warren Clarke

It's been over eight months since the Buick Enclave first pulled into our garage. Since then, it's racked up over 20,000 miles on its odometer and at least a couple of glowing blog posts; we can safely say that the SUV has won itself a few fans on our staff. Here's a snapshot of its most current fuel economy numbers:

Current mileage: 20,582

Best over life of test: 29.66 mpg*

Worst over life of test: 11.33 mpg

Overall average (combined city and highway): 17.52 mpg

Official EPA estimate: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

*Note that the Enclave's best mileage was earned during a fuel economy test that involved lots of highway miles and some pretty judicious driving.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 20,582 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave: Roof Rack Redux

February 13, 2008

Our 2008 Buick Enclave was part of a recent three-car fuel economy investigation. I'm helping Phil Reed update the We Test the Tips fuel economy article that appears on the Edmunds.com website.

Anyone who's ever put their hand out the window of a moving car can surmise that putting stuff on the roof of a car hurts fuel economy. But how much? I don't want to give the farm away, but our test of driving with luggage on the roof produced a much more significant fuel economy penalty, in pure MPG terms, than we'd expected.

In order to back-up those results, I just finished repeating the comparison using our VBOX GPS data logger and a different method:a "coast-down" test. A coast-down is similar to a stopping-distance test, but instead of using the brakes you throw the transmission in neutral and coast. Aerodynamic drag provides the braking force. Oh, and you don't actually come to a stop.

That's OK because we're interested in the aerodynamic effects caused byroof-bound luggage while cruising on the highway. My coast-down test began at 75 mph and ended at something like 50 mph. I was most interested in the 75to 65 mphslice of the data. I averaged twoopposite-direction runs to cancel out wind and slope effects.Here are the results:

Bare roof: 75-65 coast distance= 1,235 feet; coast time = 12.0 seconds. Loaded roof (see photo): 75-65 coast distance = 1,024 feet; coast time = 10.0 seconds.

Coast performance was 21%better without luggage. The only variable here was aerodynamics,sothe dragdifference was the culprit. Drag is proportional to the mathematical product of frontal area and drag coefficient, and the presence ofluggage on a car's roof worsens both factors.

How did all of this impact MPG in our fuel economy test? I'll spill a few beans:we used exactly 21% less fuel with the luggage removed. Inmiles-per-gallon terms, the difference was significant: almost 6mpg.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11771 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave: Oregon Trip Wrap-up

January 04, 2008

Wouldn't you just know it? After a 2,000 mile there-and-back-again trip to Oregon in our 2008 Buick Enclave, I get sick just as I'm getting home. Nice. I'd wanted to wrap-up this a few days ago, but better late than never. Here goes:

The Buick seems optimized for those who are not in a hurry and prefer a somewhat relaxed pace. This doesn't mean the Enclave is a clumsy yacht or a rolling couch, because it isn't. The Enclave is coordinated and balanced up to a certain point. If you push harder, it doesn't "lose it", it simply fails to reward the enthusiast driver - not a serious flaw for a family truckster such as this.

Ride: The Buick rides smooth and quiet, just like you'd expect, and it feels well-balanced with one or two aboard and no cargo. But itgoes a bit soft and underdamped in the rear when four plus presents and luggage are present. This seems about right for the comfort-minded, but it leaves me wondering if my personal preference would havebeen better served by the GMC Acadia or Saturn Outlook. I smell a follow-up.

Steering and handling: The Buick has good coordination and feels more agile than any truck-based SUV, but it doesn't respondin kindwhen pushed - it simply starts toshow its weight. Steering accuracy is there, but feedback is not. I didn't like the slick, cold and spindly feel of the wooden segments of the steering wheel, either. Full-leather wrap for me, please.

Cargo and seating: This is a true 3-row vehicle. When we get to my folkshouse, the six of usmake the 25-mile run into town forpizza in whatever I bring. Unlike the Commander I brought two summers ago, everyone had plenty of space. Last year, the Tahoe couldn't make the pizza run at all because I'd had to leave its suitcase-style third seats in my California garage in order to carry as much as the Enclave can withits bigger third seats merely folded into the floor. Still, my folks' 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan holds a lot more in any seating configuration you care to compare.

Engine and transmission: I never lacked for power or torque, but I found the economy-minded transmission reluctant to kick-down. Sure, I could have used the +/- buttons (and I did), but I would have had to do thatoften on the rolling terrain of US 101. C'mon, this is an automatic - a six-speed automatic - and I want to leave it in "D". The manual overridemodeshould serve those who want to use it. One shouldn't have to use itfor miles and miles at a time. Coming home, however, I drovea slower paceand ran afoul of the transmission calibration less often. And I got significantly better...

Fuel Economy: On the trip up, I drove semi-aggressively, swore at the reluctant kickdown, used manual shifting from time to timeand overrode the cruise control often. I achieved an even 20.0 mpg average over 2 tanks and 821 miles. On the way back I used the cruise control religiously, set it at the posted limit, drove my wife nuts ("I want to get HOME"), watched the traffic sail past, felt more at ease with the transmission and achieved 24.3 mpg, a 20% improvement.Over the same two-tank distance I used 7.0 fewer gallons and spent $26.17 less. And yes, that 25.6 mpg best tank turned out to be legit. I actually beat our 2WD Enclave's 16 city / 24 highway EPA ratings.

Enjoying the Buick, then, is all about getting in synch with its personality. Considering the driving habits of the traditional Buick(or Camry/Highlander)buyer, I'd say they'll have many satisfied customers. I don't think I quite fit the mold this CUV came out of, however, and I see room for improvement.If they ever made a Cadillac version of this, for example,with some of the feel of the SRX webrought to Oregon last summer, I'd be right there.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,880 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave: Oregon Holiday Trip, Home Again

January 01, 2008

We're done. The 2008 Buick Enclave is home and sitting unloaded in our driveway. Itwould be an understatement to say thatwe're glad to be home.

Since the final leg from the San Francisco Bay area to where I live in Orange County is mostly straight and flat, I decided to see just how many MPG I could squeeze out of the Enclave...

The rules were simple: judicious use of cruise control and a set-point equal to the posted speed limit (mostly 65, with some stretches of 55 and 70).

It wasn't easy. Even though we were running thelegal limit, we were at least 10 mph below the prevailingflow of traffic much of the time. Trucks and folks pulling trailers can only go 55 in Cali, so we weren't the slowest. Still, it felt like we were crawling. "Are you really gonna do this all the way home?" asked my wife, "We are a rolling chicane!"

Yeah, I stuck with it.Our average speed for the day was 58.2 mph. Upon arrival at my home gas station, we'd run 427.2 miles. The Enclave's onboard meter said it had used 17.6 gallons for 24.2mpg- the best fuel economy of the trip so far. Butthe gas pump shut off at just 16.69 gallons. That calculates to 25.6 mpg. Wow!

I'm not sure I believe it.I'll refill once morenear the office on Wednesday to see if a missing gallon shows up.

Driving the same leg on the trip up,we ran with the pack, averaged 68.5 mph and burned fuel at a rate of 21.2 mpg - using 4 gallons and $13.37 more than we did on today's leg.

Happy New Year!

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,811 miles

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2008 Buick Enclave: Oregon Holiday Trip, Day 7

December 30, 2007

After 7 days and some 1,500 miles in the saddle of our 2008 Buick Enclave, I've developed a few gripes.

1) I'm not a fan of fake wood in any car interior. The Buick annoys me in two ways: the "wood" on the dash is particularly shiny and plastic-looking; the "wood" on the steering wheel rim looks more authentic, but is too hard and slick. And they aren't even the same species of simu-wood! On the steering, we've got Fauxhogany, while the dash is trimmed with Bird's Eye Fakle. Don't get me started about the eyeball clock with its tiny face and its humungous blingy surround.

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2008 Buick Enclave: Blue Light Special

December 05, 2007

HID Xenon headlamps are standard on the base Enclave CX

I flipped on the lights of our 2008 Buick Enclave CX just before I began an evening trip back to Los Angeles from Pahrump, Nevada.

"The Enclave has HID headlamps?" shouted a colleague who was standing just in front.

Yep. Even the entry-level CX comes standard with HID Xenon headlamps...

And they've got these blue plastic rings around the projector beam bulbs that throw offtoothpaste-blue halos.

They got a real workout on the 100-odd miles from Pahrump, Nevadato Shoshone to Baker, California, a narrow desert two-lane with no paved shoulderon which I saw less than a dozen other cars. It was dark. I was driving... fast enough. I had no problem seeing a long ways off and to the sides.

An added bonus was the fuel economy I achieved. At a pace that was far from economical, the Enclave went 400.1 miles on 19. 2 gallons of unleaded. That's 21 mpg andthat tankincluded a bit of notorious Las Vegas city traffic. At a more relaxed cruising pace, the 24 mpg highway rating for our FWD Enclave seems attainable. And the resultant 450 mile range will be more than a match for the bladders of my Oregon co-conspirators.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,328 miles

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