2008 Buick Enclave CXL

Automobile Staff
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A big, comfy, quiet cruiser, the Enclave pretty much nails the idea of a modern-day Buick. Unlike the SUVs that preceded them, crossovers like this Enclave don't have the rugged, outdoorsy image that sold lots of SUVs to single buyers, but to the families that need this type of people- and cargo-carrying capacity, the Enclave delivers.

Both the front and the middle-row bucket seats are soft, comfortable, and plenty roomy for adults. Grown-ups can even squeeze into the way-back seat, provided the second-row occupants move forward a bit. Climbing into the back isn't too difficult, but it's not quite as easy as in the new Ford Flex, which offers a lower step-in height and a more user-friendly one-button flip-and-tumble second-row seats, whereas in the Buick pushing a lever slides the middle seat forward in tracks but it sometimes needs a shove.

Converting the Enclave into a cargo hauler is easy, though, as the releases to flop the seats down are reachable when standing under the open hatch. The Buick's behind-the-third-seat cargo space (a critical measure for traveling families) is pretty good at 18.9 cubic feet, but again doesn't quite equal the Ford's, as the Flex gains space with a minivan-style well that extends partway under the seats.

At long last, Buick is here offering an interior whose design and materials give away nothing to its import-brand competition. The Enclave is also exceedingly quiet, and its 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission are smooth. The engine's 275 horses, though, have their work cut out for them, pulling this crossover's 4780 pounds (or 4985 pounds, in all-wheel-drive trim). Wasn't weight savings supposed to be a benefit of switching from body-on-frame SUVs to unit-body crossovers? Nonetheless, the Enclave doesn't feel terribly sluggish, but it may just be the type of car that doesn't invite drag racing to begin with. The advertised towing capacity is a reasonably hefty 4500 pounds.

Our front-wheel-drive test car showed no signs of torque steer, and according to the EPA it beats the all-wheel-drive version in highway fuel economy, 24 mpg to 22 mpg. (Both are rated at 16 mpg, city.) I saw an indicated 15.5 mpg over 260 miles, most of them on short trips over steep hills close to home, but also with one two-hour highway run out to the airport. On the way home, I chauffeured two adults and two children, in a roll that the Enclave was born to play.

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