What's New for 2009
The 2009 Buick Enclave is equipped with a more powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine that offers 288 horsepower and direct-injection technology. New features this year include Bluetooth, real-time traffic for the optional navigation system and a 110-volt household-style plug.
Like Rob Schneider movies, Buick's product line has been universally disappointing in recent years. Thankfully for Buick, there's an exception that rises above the status of "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" -- the 2009 Buick Enclave. This large crossover SUV, introduced just last year, distinguishes itself as a top choice in its category.
Under its sleek and attractive bodywork, the Enclave shares a platform with its corporate siblings in the GM stable -- the GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse and the Saturn Outlook. However, among this group, it offers the most opulent appointments. The Enclave is aimed at an upscale demographic, and this is reflected both in its feature content and overall aesthetic.
One of the Enclave's most compelling attributes is its cabin. Design throughout is thoughtful and cohesive, with luxe seats and a gracefully curvaceous dash lit by soft, eggshell-blue illumination. The downside to this classy look is the abundance of chrome trim (even surrounding the gauges) that frequently flashes the driver's eyes from multiple places. It can be like driving with paparazzi in the car.
Parents who get stuck with Little League chauffeuring duties will love the Enclave's generous passenger capacity. Seven- and eight-passenger seating configurations are available; second-row twin captains' chairs are standard, but a bench seat is available for those who need to accommodate the maximum amount of players. There's a roomy third row (a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat is standard) that manages to seat adults in comfort. And there's lots of room for all that team gear, since at 116 cubic feet, this Buick's maximum cargo capacity exceeds that of many old-school truck-based SUVs. In keeping with its mandate of luxury, the Enclave feels smooth and plush on the road, serenely managing uneven surfaces without ever feeling too disconnected from the pavement and cruising down the road with the heavyweight assuredness of a freight train.
In many respects, this Buick measures up favorably with the crossovers made by established luxury automakers such as Acura, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Due to the presence of a few questionable plastics, especially faux wood trim and gaudy design choices, its cabin lacks the consistency seen in these premium haulers, but for some, this deficiency may be offset by the fact that the Enclave is several thousand dollars less expensive -- and bigger. Shoppers in this category will also want to consider the roomy and stylish Ford Flex, along with the Hyundai Veracruz and Mazda CX-9, both of which are fun to drive and universally competent, though less spacious and lavish than the Enclave. Overall, if you need lots of room and luxury at a reasonable price, the 2009 Buick Enclave is a great choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A large crossover SUV, the 2009 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 tailgate, heated outside mirrors, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, a tilt-telescoping leather/wood steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and OnStar telematics (including the Turn-by-Turn navigation feature). A six-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio is also standard.
The high-line Enclave CXL adds 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery 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 with real-time traffic and a back-up camera, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with an in-dash CD changer, and a rear-seat entertainment system. There's also the Driver Confidence Package, which adds remote engine 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 and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Heated and cooled front seats are also offered on the CXL trim as a stand-alone option. Other Enclave options on both trim levels include a rearview camera (built into the rearview mirror and separate from the navigation system's camera), the Dual SkyScape Sunroof (a sliding front sunroof 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 288 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Front-wheel-drive Enclaves are estimated to get 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined. All-wheel drive lowers those numbers to 16/22/18. Properly equipped, Buick's crossover SUV can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
Stability control (with anti-rollover logic), traction control, front-seat side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags are standard on all 2009 Buick Enclaves. In government crash tests, the Enclave scored a perfect five stars in both frontal and side-impact evaluations. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Enclave earned the best score of "Good" in frontal offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Luxury is the order of the day within the Enclave's cabin thanks to the curvy dash, pliant double-stitched leather and warm wood-grain inlays. Still, the vista is occasionally marred by a few cheap-feeling plastics that have little place in a premium SUV, and shiny chrome trim that flashes the driver's eyes. Some of the controls are also quite small, with complicated labeling. However, if you've got a big family, you may be inclined to overlook these flaws once you see how roomy the Enclave is. There's easy third-row access since the second-row seats tilt and slide out of the way at the pull of a lever. A full 19 cubic feet of usable space rests behind the third-row seat, and when you fold its 60/40 sections into the floor, nearly 68 cubic feet become available. Fold the second-row seats and the Buick Enclave offers cargo volume that's among the highest available in the SUV realm -- 116 cubic feet.
At close to 5,000 pounds for the all-wheel-drive version, the 2009 Buick Enclave is no lightweight, but its V6 is powerful enough it keep it adequately motivated throughout a wide range of driving situations. One frequent annoyance concerns the shifts from the six-speed transmission; the system is programmed to optimize fuel economy, and as a result, downshifts are sometimes slow in coming. Other than that, the Enclave is about as stress-free as crossovers come. The ride on the highway is quiet and smooth, and when driven around town, the Enclave often seems smaller than it really is. Handling is competent, but take the Enclave on a curvy road and you'll quickly realize this Buick holds no aspirations for sporty behavior.