I haven’t been so deceived by a car in recent years as I was by the Buick Enclave. My week test-driving the Enclave exposed an endless string of secrets, misconceptions and outright falsehoods.
First of all, they want you to believe this is a Buick, but the Enclave has a very fresh, modern exterior. It’s curvy and lean, with sharp rear taillights that contribute to the streamlined feel. Buicks don’t look like that! Buicks are either big square boats or weird, bubbly updates of big square boats. They’re definitely not sinewy and sensuous.
Secondly, this “Buick” claims to be a crossover, but it’s long, like a full-size SUV (the Enclave is only about 6 inches shorter than a Lincoln Navigator). In its defense, it does drive much more like the crossover it claims to be. It’s brilliantly easy to park, stable around corners and has relatively small blind spots for such a big vehicle. There’s a backup camera and sensors with lights and beeps to let you know when you’re getting a little too close to something behind you. OK, fine. I’ll buy the crossover claim.
I would, however, like to add that the third row is a liar, too. An adult can fit back there comfortably, and there’s a panoramic glass skylight that keeps things bright. Clearly, Buick’s claim that it’s a third row is inaccurate. Third rows don’t work like the Enclave’s. To be a third row, a seat must be cramped and dark. Buick needs to come up with another name for this part of the vehicle if it’s to be truly honest.
The trickery and deception doesn’t stop there, my friends. They say the Enclave starts at $33,000 with things like a power liftgate, automatic dual-zone air conditioning and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The version I tested came with everything, including navigation, DVD, leather, heated seats, a sunroof, the aforementioned panoramic rear skylight, power seats in front and captain’s chairs in the second row, and they claim it only costs $44,055. In addition to all those perks, the Enclave’s Quiet Tuning makes it an exceptionally quiet retreat – once the kids have been dropped off. Driving this car, I was surprised every time I remembered the price tag. I just expect all this to cost more, especially looking around me at its lovely, modern interior design and sensible ergonomics. There’s just enough wood to suggest luxury, just enough polished metal to suggest modernism, and not too much of either one. This is one posh vehicle. I kept thinking, “This is a Buick? Really?”
I do want to take a moment in this exposé to make special mention of the seat belt tethers on the outboard positions of the second and third rows. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were for, as I’ve never seen them before. Turns out, these little clips attached to the side of the car are there so you can feed the seat belt through them to make it fit correctly against your child in a booster seat. Kudos to Buick on that one; I love attention to detail in the safety department. The Latch connectors are easily accessible, and there’s quite a bit of room between the third row and the tailgate. My kids got in and out of the Enclave without incident and managed to fasten their own seat belts just fine. There’s also a tether anchor in the third row. Since when is a Buick meant for families with small children? Heresy!
In fact, the only thing in this car that indicates the Enclave belongs to an aging brand is the turn signal, which sounds exactly like the one in my grandfather’s Park Avenue. I knew it, Buick, you ARE for old people! You almost had me, you dirty liar!
*For more information on the Buick Enclave and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to email@example.com.
LET’S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2 (plus 3 tether anchors)
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 7
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Groove On
2008 Buick Enclave CXL
Base price: $37,040
Price as tested: $44,055
Engine: 275-hp, 3.6-liter V-6
Fuel: 16/22 mpg
Ground Clearance: 8.4″
Turning Radius: 20.2′
Cargo space: 18.9-67.5 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver’s side: 5 Stars
Passenger’s side: 5 Stars
Front occupant: 5 Stars
Rear occupant: 5 Stars
Rollover resistance: 4 Stars