The oh-so-beautiful 2009 Buick Enclave has inspired me to create a new television series, "Extreme Makeover: Car Edition." I'd love for some hunky host to relay my automotive sob-story to the masses, followed by the ultimate pulverization of my eight-year-old, 150,000-mile "piece." At the end of the show, the bright, shiny Enclave would sit in my garage! Unlike my test car, it'd have all-wheel drive.
The Enclave exuded class, inside and out. It was adorned with lots of chrome jewelry to put that extra twinkle in the eyes of all the pedestrians as you drove by. On the inside, there were heated seats for the driver and front passenger, and zoned heating and cooling for all three rows.
Its ride felt good. While I was test-driving the Enclave, Michigan was smacked with a few inches of fresh snow on top of the already-compacted snow, which made driving conditions less than desirable. While I really wish I'd had an all-wheel-drive model, the FWD responded well in the snow, and the electronic stability system with traction control kicked in on just about every trip to and from my son's school. This extra hand made me feel confident that, even without AWD, the car was doing a great job of keeping us safe.
The Enclave was downright powerful despite its ample size and could quickly pick up speed from a dead stop. Its braking was equally impressive, especially considering the snowy roads. We never skidded into a stop. Inside the roomy cabin, the ride was quiet, which is something Buicks have become known for. I always appreciate a higher vantage point, and the Enclave's highly maneuverable driver's seat allowed me to gain a few inches in height that God chose to leave out.
The only negative I discovered about the Enclave was its less-than-fabulous gas mileage. The Enclave gets an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway. I averaged 16.7 mpg combined on my country roads. Perhaps there could be a hybrid in the Enclave's future?
Buick designers added several exterior features to keep this ride from becoming homogenized. Sporty headlights set off its glorious chrome grille, which is embellished with a sandwich-sized Buick emblem.
Sassy hood vents are nestled atop the front end, giving the Enclave a touch of speedster sex appeal. Nineteen-inch chromed aluminum wheels were added to the model I drove, which is like adding some serious jewelry to your car. It gave the Enclave miles and miles o' shine. Gotta love the shine!
The second- and third-row windows are tinted for extra privacy. Fully integrated rocker panels protect passengers big and small from the dirt that comes with climbing in and out of SUVs or large crossovers. Optional exterior steps are available and would certainly be added to my customized Enclave wish list.
In the rear, the chrome-encircled taillights really pop. The Enclave also has my favorite exterior feature - a push-button power liftgate! I cannot tell you how much I love this. Simply push the button on the key fob and the gate opens. To close it, push another button on the door itself. There's no grunting, reaching or "umph!"-ing to get the gate closed. Yay!
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Enclave's interior is luxurious, pretty-looking and within reach. I say within reach because the Enclave is a really big crossover. Normally when I get into a big crossover I can't reach all the controls, but in the Enclave I was able to both reach items on the center stack and hand gum to my kids in the backseat (while stopped at a red light, naturally). I still don't know how the latter was possible, because the second-row captain's chairs seemed so far away from me that I often thought the kids weren't even in the car at all. Can you imagine the peace?
From the driver's standpoint, all instrumentation was simple and easy to read. Even the electronic systems that told you how much gas you were using and when your next oil change should be were easy to use with the push of a button. I appreciated the little things, like the adorable clock placed in the center of the dash, the armrest that could move fore and aft to accommodate people of different sizes, and the super-sized lumbar support that helped me feel comfortable at all times.
In the second row, captain's chairs kept the kids from knocking each other around and provided enough room to easily access the third row. The boys' booster seats fit nicely into the seats, and my oldest was able to buckle in easily - lemme hear an hallelujah! Seatback pockets gave the kids plenty of storage, and cupholders in the doors kept drinks well within reach. One option I'd liked to have tried was the center console for the second row. My test car wasn't equipped with it. In photos, it appears to house cupholders, some storage space and more of the shiny faux-wood accents the front-row passengers enjoy.
The third row was roomier than most I've seen, and it also offered cupholders for the outboard passengers. I loved that the seat belt for the third-row center seat was retractable and easily housed in the ceiling when not in use. It showed that Buick's design team was really thinking when it worked on this crossover, not just throwing in features to suit a corporate checklist.
I tested the Enclave's cargo space with a trip to the grocery store. With the quick tug of a belt, the third row folded down easily and really opened up the cargo area. It was so huge I could have easily stretched out back there. After emptying all the groceries out of the back, a quick pull on the strap had the row upright again. All that was left for me to do was press the button to close the hatch. Gotta love features that really do make your life easier!
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Like many of the homes created on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the Buick Enclave has all the important features. It scored a Good, the highest score, in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It also nabbed a 2009 Top Safety Pick award from IIHS. To earn this honor, a car must score Good in its crash tests and have electronic stability control.
The Enclave's safety features also include antilock brakes; traction control; front and side-impact airbags; side curtain airbags for the first, second and third rows; a Latch system; and a year's subscription to OnStar with Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Add the optional AWD to this list, and you'll be all set, even if you live in Michigan!
In Diapers: The Enclave is great for toting babies and all their gear.
In School: Children in booster seats will love the captain's chairs.
Teens: Once they get in, they're sure to enjoy all the amenities