2008 Buick Enclave Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Attractive interior design, kid- and adult-friendly seating in all three rows, huge cargo capacity, supple ride quality.
  • A few cut-rate materials, some controls are hard to find and use, transmission can be hesitant to downshift.

Better packaged than any Buick in recent memory, the 2008 Buick Enclave offers a spacious, upscale cabin that will appeal to SUV shoppers who use all three rows of seating on a regular basis.

Vehicle overview

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.

2008 Buick Enclave models

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.

2008 Highlights

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.

Performance & mpg

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.


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 2008 Buick Enclave Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test


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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2008 Buick Enclave.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

3.63 out of 5 stars
Stay away from the 2008 Enclave,Traverse,Acadia
CXL 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 6A)
In '08 models of the GM vehicles sharing the "Lambda" platform including Enclave, Traverse and Acadia, GM built the V-6 using a defective timing chain. These chains are prone to stretching which throws a trouble code 1st or causes major engine damage. GM/Buick's solution is to re-program the on-board oil life monitor to advise owners to change oil more frequently which will not fix anything. If the vehicle is still under warranty when the chains stretch, they will be replaced with completely different part numbers. If not under warranty you are screwed for about a $4-$5K repair. GM refuses to do a recall and there should be a class action pn this issue. Cargo door latch, steering squeaks
1 out of 5 stars
never buy a 2008
CXL 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 6A)
I was so excited, thought i had found my dream car, an answer to not wanting a mini van. I love the layout of this car, but i swear it is in the shop more than my driveway Leaks water, has had multiple issues including my power steering suddenly going out on me hard to handle this big of a car with no power steering! if it wasn't constantly breaking down or flooding from the rain i would love it but i literally despise GMC for not recalling the whole car!
3.88 out of 5 stars
$ 48,000.00 Mistake
CXL 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 6A)
We purchased our 2008 Buick Enclave in late 2007. It was My wife's dream vehicle until the problems began i.e. Sunroof leaking,trans slipping,rattlle in rear drivers side,liftgate opens on it's own,service airbags light on twice, traction contol light on twice, reduced power on the highway three times,steering wheel rubbing noise,service stability light on,left front stabilizer is loose,air conditioning has been serviced twice for leaking and noise,front shocks replaced,brake rubbing noise,power steering pump leaking,front timing cover gasket leaking,right rear door weather stripping coming loose,noise while driving 50-60 mph on highway.washer heater causes fires, Don't buy this vehicle!
3.13 out of 5 stars
A bad investment I still want to love
CXL 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 6A)
The Enclave is a great car and I do not like speaking ill about it, but our vehicle has been very disappointing in terms of reliability. We thankfully purchased it under warranty at 30K and it required a new power steering pump, rack and pinion, a radio, and other minor repairs all covered under warranty. Since then, several issues have come up which were not under warranty. The moonroof was leaking and require an $800+ repair for a new seal and replacement of some of the drainage channels. The heating actuator failed to the tune of $400+ in repairs. I was quoted a cost of $200 to replace the key FOB which went bad. Overall, not what I expect from a "luxury vehicle" in terms of quality.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated

More about the 2008 Buick Enclave
More About This Model

What can be accomplished in 24 hours? Well, one could run the entire length of the annual Le Mans endurance race. One could fly from Los Angeles to London, by way of Tokyo. Or one could even finish an entire dinner in Italy — well, almost.

We have chosen instead to spend our 24 hours test-driving the 2008 Buick Enclave. We were unable to get an Enclave from Buick, since the company's official media test-drive won't happen for another couple of weeks. But the 2008 Enclave, Buick's most significant new vehicle in years, is already on sale, so we took matters into our own hands and secured a test vehicle from a Detroit-area Buick dealer. Although General Motors discontinued its 24-Hour Test-Drive Program a couple of years ago, we learned that if you ask nicely a salesman will let you have a vehicle for a day.

So let's see: 24 hours minus dinner equals 23 hours. Twenty-three hours minus giving the child a bath equals 22 hours. Subtract a little time for sleep and various other assorted bits of personal business, and we figure we'll have a solid 12 hours in the SUV that Buick says carries the brand's new face and is its most significant introduction in many years.

Hey, that's more driving time than manufacturers typically give on a first-drive opportunity.

New Blue Eyes
Though General Motors would have the world believe that the Enclave (along with its fraternal twins the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia) represents a dramatic, new concept in motor vehicles, it doesn't. People movers with carlike unibody platforms and SUV pretensions are nothing new. Some German and Japanese makers are well into their second-generation versions of such vehicles.

What is new, however, is the concept of compelling, cohesive styling from Buick. The Enclave concept vehicle that appeared at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show proved to be a surprise hit. And the production vehicle maintains all of the concept's graceful lines and voluptuous curves. Even the fake portholes and the headlights with the blue rings made it to production.

The Enclave comes in two trim levels: the base CX and feature-laden CXL. Both versions are equipped with the same 3.6-liter V6 matched with a six-speed automatic. Both come standard in front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available as an option.

The dealer loaned us a front-wheel-drive, base-level Enclave CX, and even its boring silver paint and painted 18-inch wheels couldn't completely conceal the Enclave's beauty. At an MSRP of $32,295, our test vehicle carried zero options. The window sticker noted that the company cut $495 from the price because this CX has a second-row bench seat instead of the second-row captain's chairs.

It Ain't "Mini" Anything!
Simply looking at photographs can't give you a sense of the Enclave's dimensions. Like many natives of Michigan, the Enclave is a massive, bulky thing. It's an impression backed up by the specifications. The front-drive Enclave weighs in at a whopping 4,780 pounds. Throw a couple passengers and a small piece of luggage into the back and you'll be driving a vehicle that presses the pavement with more than two-and-a-half tons of shiny mass. An Enclave with the optional all-wheel-drive system starts at two-and-a-half tons.

Because General Motors has given up on minivans, the Enclave must take the place of those not-so-mini people movers. And this requires size. At 118.9 inches, the Enclave's wheelbase is only a couple inches shorter than the extended-wheelbase version of the outgoing minivans and almost 3 inches longer than the full-size, V8-powered Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon utes.

Thanks to its unibody construction and independent rear suspension, however, the Enclave offers more maximum cargo capacity than the thirstier Tahoe, 116.2 cubic feet to 108.9. And for passengers in the standard third row, the Enclave offers almost 8 inches more legroom than does the Tahoe.

Sweet Marshmallow Fluff
And while the 275-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 has a heavy load to carry, the Enclave isn't slow. A mechanically identical Saturn Outlook that we tested ran to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, and we anticipate the Enclave will do about the same. If you've been reading only sport-sedan road tests lately, this will seem slightly slower than a large mountain. However, in our comparison test of 2006 minivans, not one of them could do the deed in less than 9 seconds. So slow is relative.

More important, the Enclave feels plenty quick enough. This is in part thanks to the engine's respectable 251 pound-feet of torque. Our one powertrain quibble is that the six-speed automatic transmission is too eager to upshift and too lax about downshifting. This is no doubt designed to optimize fuel economy. The EPA estimates a front-drive Enclave will return 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. According to the vehicle's trip computer, our very green example averaged 16 mpg in mixed driving.

Regardless of how many miles the Enclave will roll on a gallon of regular gas, each mile will likely pass by quietly. The Enclave glides around town as quiet and smooth as Buick would have you believe it is. The engine sends just a faint vibration through the steering column and pedals under acceleration. Otherwise, the Enclave driver is almost completely isolated from the outside world — in a mostly good way. The softly tuned suspension and the tall tire sidewalls smother all but the biggest bumps. The four-wheel disc brakes respond to the pedal smoothly and progressively. And wind noise is nearly nonexistent.

As you might expect, driving the Enclave quickly down a curvy road is something like ushering a very drunk friend down a hallway. There's lots of weight lunging left, then right. There's nothing spooky or unpredictable about the way the Enclave handles. It just doesn't want to be rushed. And we're not sure that handling prowess is very high on our list of things we require from an eight-passenger vehicle. We suspect we'd be much more interested in keeping our passengers comfy and quiet. This the Enclave will do.

Near (If Not Beyond) Precision
Unlike many recent Buicks, the Enclave's cabin feels upscale. Its surfaces are low-gloss and the various panels fit together nicely. Unfortunately, Buick appears to have spent its entire allotment of interior money for those in the front two rows. By the time the company got to the third row, the designers had only enough money left for a single, almost featureless piece of hard plastic as wall decoration.

Luckily, getting to the third row is easy with what Buick calls "Smart Slide" second-row seats. With one pull on a fat plastic lever, the seat bottom flips forward and the seat back slides forward, pushing the seat bottom to the back of the front seat. It's easier to do than to describe. It's a clever solution. The mechanism is occasionally balky and the lever feels cheap.

And those third-row passengers do at least get the same roof-rail-mounted airbag protection as the second-row folk. These two bags are part of the six-airbag arrangement that's standard on all Enclaves; the standard OnStar Automatic Crash Notification system will call an advisor if an airbag does blow. But standard traction control and stability control with rollover mitigation should help reduce the chances of testing those airbags.

Buick has made some odd choices for standard equipment convenience items. For example, our front-seat passenger wondered why all Enclaves come with a standard power-operated rear hatch, but she had a manual control for her seat recline. Also we'd prefer a power-folding third-row seat more than a power-operated rear hatch. But a power third row isn't even offered as an option.

Other than semi-cheesy velourlike upholstery, the CX feels nicely equipped. Standard goodies include power windows, remote keyless entry, HID headlights, automatic three-zone climate control, a sassy wood-and-leather-covered steering wheel and a decent stereo that includes an auxiliary input for your MP3 player.

The CXL brings standard leather upholstery, fully power-adjusted front seats that are also heated and 19-inch wheels for $34,990. Add the optional navigation system, the articulating headlamps, remote vehicle starter, ultrasonic parking assist, rear-seat DVD, power sunroof, rearview camera, and you'll push well past the $40,000 mark.

In the Enclave
Still, that price represents a good value in the luxury crossover market. And while the 2008 Buick Enclave might need some further refinements to bring it all the way to a Lexus RX-level of execution, that we can bring ourselves to mention the Lexus in the same sentence as the Buick illustrates what a huge improvement the Enclave is compared to previous Buick people movers.

Used 2008 Buick Enclave Overview

The Used 2008 Buick Enclave is offered in the following submodels: Enclave SUV. Available styles include CXL 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 6A), CX 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 6A), CXL 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 6A), and CX 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 6A). Pre-owned Buick Enclave models are available with a 3.6 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 275 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2008 Buick Enclave comes with front wheel drive, and all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2008 Buick Enclave comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2008 Buick Enclave?

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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Buick Enclave?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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