The all-new Buick Enclave midsize crossover utility vehicle will start at $32,790 for the base, front-drive CX version when the vehicle goes on sale this summer as a 2008 model, General Motors Corp. says.

An all-wheel-drive version of the CX will begin at $34,970, while the uplevel CXL model with front drive will list for $34,990.

The top of the line CXL with all-wheel drive will start at $36,990, the automaker said. All of these prices already include the $735 freight charge, but individual options can raise the prices beyond the starting point, of course.

But, Buick says that even the CX front-drive model will come with a “long list” of standard equipment, so the base price isn’t for a stripped-down version.

“Enclave is a segment-busting luxury crossover that best defines the new face of Buick,” Buick General Manager Steve Shannon said during an announcement of the prices recently at the Detroit auto show. “Its gorgeous design, high-tech features, functionality and roominess, coupled with a quiet and refined ride, put us in a great position to attract new customers.”

Being billed as Buick’s first luxury crossover, the Enclave concept was introduced at last year’s Detroit show.

The production version was presented to news media representatives and Buick dealers during an event held in late November in conjunction with the Los Angeles auto show.

Under the hood of all models is a new, 275-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine that features variable valve timing. It’s connected to Buick’s first six-speed automatic transmission.

Among the Enclave’s basic features are a roomy interior with seating for up to eight; GM’s Smart Slide captain’s chairs in the second row; and a third-row seat that is designed to hold up to three adults comfortably, GM said.

The patented Smart Slide system allows the middle seats to be moved forward easily so passengers can access the third row.

Professional golfer Tiger Woods, who has been a paid Buick spokesman since he helped launch the first Buick SUV (the Rendezvous) in 2000, was on hand to introduce the production model of the Enclave during the Los Angeles-area event.

During the introduction, at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Woods drove the Enclave through a 35-foot video wall with GM Chairman Rick Wagoner in the passenger seat.

“The new Buick Enclave is just beautiful to look at inside and out,” Woods said. “The interior is so comfortable and there’s plenty of room for my sticks. I’m really excited for Buick and what the all-new Enclave means for the division and GM.”

The Enclave is built on a new crossover chassis, the so-called Lambda platform, that GM developed for several new crossovers, including the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. Both of those are on their way to dealers now; the Enclave will begin arriving in early summer.

This Buick version “creates its own niche in the fast-growing crossover market by melding elegant interior and exterior design and a confident ride in a quiet, well-crafted roomy cabin capable of carrying up to eight passengers with space for gear,” GM said. While the Enclave will appear as an early 2008 model, and initially will be sold alongside the Rendezvous and Buick Rainier, both of those sport utilities will be discontinued after the 2007 model year.

The Rendezvous was one of the first of the new wave of crossover utility vehicles to hit the market. The crossovers, which are car-based as opposed to the truck-chassis roots of the traditional SUV, last year overtook the truck-based SUVs in overall sales.

The Rainier, introduced three years ago, is a true truck-style SUV, cloned from the midsize Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy sport utilities that were introduced for 2002. GM will drop that entire line of vehicles after 2009, and has no plans for a new line of truck-based midsize sport utilities. Sales of truck-based SUVs fell significantly during last year’s spike in gasoline prices, and the segment is not expected to recover fully from that drop in sales – especially with the spate of new, more fuel-efficient crossovers hitting the market.

GM will build the Enclave at its new Delta Township plant near Lansing, Mich., where it already is assembling the 2007 Outlook and Acadia.

These smoother-riding, car-based models, which some automakers are now calling “CUVs” (for crossover utility vehicle), include such pioneer nameplates as the Toyota Highlander, Lexus RX 330, Ford Escape and Nissan Murano, are the fastest-growing segment in the sport utility genre. Women, who often use sport utilities to haul kids to school and weekend activities, have so far constituted the largest market for crossovers, even before rising fuel prices began to put a crimp on sales of traditional SUVs.

Among the new models introduced so far this year, besides the Enclave, are the 2007 Ford Edge, a midsize crossover slightly smaller than the current Freestyle; the compact Mazda CX-7, a sporty five-seater with a turbocharged engine; the midsize Lincoln MKX, which replaces the truck-based Aviator; and a radically restyled Acura MDX, which made its debut at the 2006 New York auto show. Hyundai also has a redesigned midsize Santa Fe for 2007, and is adding the slightly larger and more expensive Veracruz premium crossover this month.

Styling is one of the ways that some crossovers have differentiated themselves from traditional SUVs. Moving away from the boxy looks of the truck-style SUVs, some of the crossovers are quite beautiful. Among the most unusual models are the Nissan Murano and Infiniti FX, which look more like futuristic station wagons than boxy SUVs.

The Edge and MKX are built on the same architecture and are very similar, even down to using the same engine and transmission. The Edge, though, has a mass-market price, while the MKX essentially is a luxury version of the Edge with a correspondingly higher price tag. Both are built on the same assembly line at Ford’s Oakville plant in Ontario, Canada.

The CX-7, which looks a lot like the Edge and MKX, is a completely different vehicle. While the Edge and MKX were adapted from the platform of the Mazda 6 sedan (also the basis for the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ/Zephyr sedans), the CX-7 is a mix of Mazda architecture. The rear suspension is from the Mazda 5, while the front suspension is a combination of the Mazda 6 and the Japanese version of the MPV minivan, Mazda said. The engine and all-wheel-drive system are taken from the MazdaSpeed 6.

The Mazda 5 is a compact minivan, and the MazdaSpeed 6 is a performance-oriented version of the Mazda 6 sedan, built in Japan rather than at Mazda’s Flat Rock, Mich., plant where the regular Mazda 6 sedans are assembled. Mazda is controlled by Ford, which owns about 44 percent of the Japanese automaker.

The five-passenger Edge and MKX are slightly larger than the CX-7, with an overall length of 185.7 inches vs. 184 inches for the CX-7, and a wheelbase of 111.2 inches vs. 108.3 for the CX-7. Under the hood of the Edge and MKX is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 250 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque. The transmission, a six-speed automatic, and the engine come from Ford.

The Enclave will have a 119-inch wheelbase, which, unlike the Edge, MKX and CX-7, allows for the third row of seating. It will be available with a panoramic sunroof. Fuel-economy ratings at 18 miles per gallon city/26 highway for the front-drive model and 17 city/24 highway for the all-wheel drive.