What's New for 2012
Other than receiving some minor feature changes, the Buick Enclave carries over unchanged for 2012.
The family hauler has changed a lot over the years, with wagons making way for minivans and then truck-based SUVs. Today, crossovers have largely melded the attributes of the latter two, with a few wagon bits occasionally thrown in for good measure. One of the best of these modern family haulers is the 2012 Buick Enclave, a large crossover that boasts a refined ride and an enormous cabin that can fit up to eight adults.
The Enclave rides on the same unibody platform as the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia. To help distinguish it as the most premium model in the group, the Enclave has sleeker exterior styling and the most luxurious interior. Other traits are similarly shared but are still quite positive, including a powerful V6, a comfortable and quiet ride and massive cargo capacity.
As with its cousins, though, the Enclave does have some weaknesses, the most notable being its large size that makes maneuvering in tight quarters a challenge. Some prospective buyers may also have a hard time getting past the Buick brand's stodgy image, though the Enclave is modern enough in both design and execution to make this a non-issue for anyone willing to judge the vehicle on its own merits.
While the 2012 Buick Enclave remains a very appealing choice in a crowded segment, there are a few other crossover models we'd urge buyers to have a look at. These include luxury brand competitors like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350 and Lincoln MKT. Upper trim levels of some mainstream models like the Ford Flex and Toyota Highlander are also nice enough inside to make them worthy of consideration. And for sheer practicality, there's just no beating modern minivans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Overall, though, the Buick Enclave stands out as a solid pick for an upscale family hauler.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Buick Enclave is a large crossover SUV that's offered in four different trim levels. All 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 at no extra charge, increases capacity to eight.
Even the base model is nicely equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, foglamps, a power liftgate, heated outside mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control and cloth upholstery. Other standard features include partial power front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping leather/wood steering wheel, keyless entry, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
Stepping up to the Convenience Group trim level adds remote starting, rear parking assist and a rearview camera. The Leather Group tacks on leather upholstery, heated power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger) and driver memory settings.
The top-of-the-line Premium Group has the above equipment plus 19-inch chrome wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, heated power-folding outside mirrors with built-in turn signal repeaters, heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering column, a 115-volt household-style power outlet and a 10-speaker Bose premium audio system with USB/auxiliary audio input jacks and a pair of rear seat headphone jacks.
Major options vary by trim level and include 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, a dual-pane sunroof, the second-row bench seat and a second-row center console. Electronics upgrades include the 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, a rear-seat entertainment system and a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Buick Enclave is offered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Either way, it's powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. With the optional trailering package, the Enclave can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models, while all-wheel-drive versions rate 16/22/18.
Stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on every 2012 Buick Enclave. In brake testing, the Enclave came to a stop from 60 mph in 139 feet, a longish distance for this class of vehicle.
In government crash testing, the Enclave earned a top five-star rating for overall performance, with four out of five stars given for front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Enclave earned the best score of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the first things you're likely to notice about the Enclave's interior are its stylish design and quality materials, these superficial elements are just the beginning. The ability to comfortably transport up to eight passengers with the available second-row bench seat is something not all crossovers can claim. Even the third-row seats are suitable for adult passengers. If carrying a full load of grown-ups is something you expect to be doing a lot of, however, we should point out that there's a bit less room back here than in the Ford Flex's third row.
With or without passengers there's a good amount of cargo room here as well, including 19 cubic feet of usable space behind the 60/40-split third-row seat. For bulky items, folding down the second and third-row seats creates a nice flat load floor with 116 cubic feet of cargo room, a number that handily beats many crossovers but falls short of the massive carrying capacity of modern minivans.
Downsides here include chrome trim that can cause blinding reflections on a sunny day and audio and climate control buttons that are a bit on the small side. Outward visibility to the rear quarters is also relatively poor.
While it's hard to describe any 2-ton vehicle as light on its feet, the 2012 Buick Enclave feels decidedly less truck-ish than traditional SUVs. Other large crossovers feel more nimble, but overall the Enclave's handling inspires confidence. The suspension also earns high marks for ride comfort.
The 3.6-liter V6 provides good acceleration in a wide variety of driving conditions. This performance, combined with the Enclave's hushed cabin, makes this a fine choice for daily driving, long road trips and everything in between.