The 2009 Buick Enclave is a luxury crossover sport utility vehicle that seats seven or eight, offers big cargo space, and gets good fuel economy and performance from a modern V6 engine. As a large midsize crossover, it offers the space of a truck-based SUV yet it is built using car-like unibody construction.
Buick Enclave shares its basic platform with the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, and Chevy Traverse, but it's as different from each of them as chalk is from cheese. Enclave is aimed at the upper end of the crossover segment, with competitors like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz R 350. Enclave's styling is completely different from its siblings.
But what really sets the Enclave apart is its modern cabin, with stylish illumination, crisp graphics, genuine wood trim and nice leather. The seats are comfortable, and it can be ordered with a second-row bench seat or luxurious captain's chairs, depending on whether seven- or eight-passenger capacity is needed. There's lots of convenient cubby storage and the Enclave offers 115 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats folded down.
Equipped with GM's high-feature 3.6-liter V6, the Enclave offers good acceleration performance while earning an EPA-estimated 16/22 City/Highway mpg (with all-wheel drive) under the more stringent new test procedures. Enclave is rated to tow up to 4500 pounds. Smooth and practical, we think it may be the best vehicle Buick has ever built, though there are some fine vintage models we certainly wouldn't mind having.
The Enclave was introduced for the 2008 model year. For 2009, Enclave gets a more powerful engine and various equipment upgrades. The 3.6-liter V6 engine adds direct-injection, upping horsepower from 275 to 288 and torque from 251 to 270 pound-feet. New features for 2009 include a standard Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, real-time traffic information for the available navigation system, available heated and cooled front seats, and a 110-volt power outlet that comes with all entertainment packages. A rear-view camera that projects its image on the rearview mirror is also new.
The exterior design of the Buick Enclave is more elegant and refined than that of the GMC Acadia, which is deliberately truck-like, and the Saturn Outlook, which carries the new Saturn front end and grille design and is well downmarket from the Enclave.
The Enclave carries the latest Buick design language. The protruding vertical bar grille and vestigial portholes on the hood make sure you know it's a Buick. The evolving design of that grille and the sculpted sides are reflected in the upcoming 2010 Buick LaCrosse.
The long body shell is anything but boxy, with curvy, swoopy, and sexy shapes from every angle. All of the front lighting elements use clear lenses, with lots of different elements to please the eye and light the road. Everything under the bumper is kept simple and clean to draw the eye to that massive grille. The standard tires are big, fat 18-inchers on seven-spoke alloy wheels, with 19-inchers optional and 20-inchers available from your dealer, and they certainly add to the visual punch of the Enclave. The roof and the side windows are done in a gracefully decreasing sweep from front to rear, accented by bright-metal roof bars that follow the roof's curvature perfectly front to back.
Out back, the top-hinged tailgate with standard power opening and closing is a work of art, with the rear glass extending beyond the sheetmetal into the rear opening. The rear glass is quite large, and is convex-shaped, coming to a point just above the Buick tri-shield logo and above the wide-screen taillamps. Under the rear bumper is a diffuser panel and dual exhausts with bright tips, making for one of the tastiest rear-end treatments in the crossover segment.
The cabin is what sets the Buick Enclave from other seven- and eight-passenger crossovers. Starting with the double-wave dashboard and instrument panel and going all the way back to the rear cargo floor, it's as modern as tomorrow and as functional as a Swiss Army knife.
The chrome-ringed white-on-black instruments and analog clock are highly styled, with a soft blue-green illumination (which is repeated around the perimeter of the headlamp), and halo lighting at night. The graphics are large and clear, and the wood is real. On the CXL version, the steering wheel is leather and mahogany, with 10 switches and controls mounted on it for easy use. The layout is familiar GM, with a large, bright navigation screen low enough to be shaded, high enough to be seen without distraction. The dead pedal on the far left of the floor is the first one we know of to be specially designed for use by women wearing high-heeled shoes.
New for 2009 is a rearview camera that projects on the rearview mirror when buyers opt for the camera without a navigation system. In a messy Chicago winter, the camera lens became speckled with dirt and salt, making the image hard to see in the rearview mirror. A larger image on the navigation screen would have been easier to see and more helpful. Our recommendation is to spring for the navigation system with the full-size display.
Seven- and eight-passenger seating is available: The standard seven-passenger, 2-2-3 seating scheme uses second-row captain's chairs with a feature called Smart Slide that allows easy entry into the third row by flopping the seats forward and sliding them fore and aft; this can also be ordered with a second floor console for storage and 12-volt power. Or, there's a second-row bench seat that makes for a 2-3-3 seating scheme for a total of eight passengers.
Either way, the driver and front-seat passenger get power bucket seats. The third row is usable for more than just kids. The third row has enough head-room for adults, and leg room is good for kids and fair for adults. Three kids will fit across, but three adults will find it tight. Only small kids will find the third row comfortable for long trips, though, because the seat bottoms sit too low to provide thigh support.
The Enclave gets high marks for storage space and flexibility. There's 23.2 cubic feet of cargo room just inside the power tailgate behind the third row, 67.5 cubic feet with the third row seats down, and 115.3 cubic feet with both rows folded. Another 4 cubic feet of storage space is found under the rear cargo floor. And if you need to, you can flop the passenger seat over as well for extra-long cargo. Up front, the Enclave has storage on top of the dash for sunglasses, iPods, and cell phones. Buick says the Enclave has 24 storage areas, counting door pockets, under-seat areas, and built-in storage. The Buick Enclave has more cargo volume than the Acura MDX, the Lexus RX, Volvo XC90, and Audi Q7 do.
The Buick Enclave offers brisk acceleration performance. Buick claims a 0?60 time in the low eight-second-range, not bad for 5000 pounds. Its 3.6-liter V6 engine features a special intake system for increased power, and for 2009, it gets direct-injection, which adds 13 horsepower and 19 pound-feet of torque. The added power makes the Enclave slightly more responsive. Because the Enclave is lighter than a truck-based SUV, you don't really miss having a V8 engine.
The Enclave's six-speed automatic transmission benefits from special gearing that gives a 14.2 overall ratio in first gear for rapid acceleration and a 2.33:1 ratio in sixth gear overdrive that lets the engine run at very relaxed rpm at Interstate cruising speeds. So you get quick acceleration performance for jumping on the freeway, but long-legged relaxed cruising at high speeds.
The Enclave also offers frugal fuel economy for its size. It scores an EPA-estimated 17/24 City/Highway mpg with front-wheel drive and 16/22 with AWD. By comparison, the AWD Cadillac Escalade is rated 12/18 mpg. The Enclave is 800 pounds lighter than the Escalade and its V6 is more fuel-efficient than the Escalade's V8.
For some years now, Buicks have been all about living your driving life in splendid isolation, and that's true is spades with this big empty box called Enclave, the toughest kind of vehicle to quiet down. The Buick folks have taken dozens of time-consuming and expensive steps to quiet down the engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and tires, isolate the front and rear suspension and steering from the cabin, and wrap the entire package in sound-deadening materials in the floor, pillars and doors, all under the rubric of Quiet Ride. In lab tests, the Buick Enclave is quieter than the Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Acura competition, and in our road-driving experience in Missouri, it was extremely quiet. Conversations between first-row and third-row occupants at 70-plus mph were heard and understood in normal speaking voices, and the XM satellite music played through loud and clear at reasonable volumes.
The suspension on the Enclave is far more sophisticated, far sharper in handling and far more compliant and comfortable than what we'd come to expect from this class of vehicles. The rear suspension is especially complex and expensive, designed to work well with or without the rear-drive portion of the all-wheel-drive system, and using elaborate aluminum H-arms to put the wheels out as far as possible to the corners and allow for a wide, flat load floor up above.
Flying around on Ozark Mountain two-lane roads or humming down I-44 and I-64 in and around St. Louis, the Enclave showed off ride and handling. It provided a quiet, compliant ride, and very, very quiet road behavior. It's far more carlike than any of GM's big truck-based SUVs, with much less lean in turns. Drivers will find that it feels much smaller than its considerable size. The steering is accurate, although a bit numb.
The all-wheel-drive system operates full-time all the time, automatically adjusting to road speed, throttle position and the relative speeds of each of the four tires, wet or dry. We think the all-wheel drive is well worth the extra money. Normally, it is biased 90/10 front/rear torque split, normally operates between 40/60 and 60/40 in most driving, but it can divert 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels if necessary. No buttons, no ranges, no fuss, just traction.
With all due respect and reverence for classic Buicks like the 1956 Century, the '63 and '66 Rivieras, and the pavement-ripping GS 455 Stage II of the muscle-car era, we'll go out on a short, sturdy limb and call the Enclave the best Buick ever built, and the most complete Buick we've ever driven. If you're in the market for a luxurious family hauler, give this one a long, serious look. It makes much more sense than a heavier, more wasteful truck-based SUV for anyone who doesn't need to tow a heavy load.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the Enclave in the Ozarks. Correspondent Kirk Bell reported from Chicago.
Build and price your dream Buick Enclave in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2013 Buick Enclave$31,390 | 39,104 mi
2013 Buick Enclave$37,500 | 20,761 mi
2013 Buick Enclave$42,900 | 13,142 mi
2013 Buick Enclave$42,900 | 13,602 mi
2012 Buick Enclave$29,399 | 26,877 mi
2012 Buick Enclave$30,950 | 17,725 mi
2012 Buick Enclave$31,000 | 58,940 mi
2012 Buick Enclave$32,996 | 35,147 mi
2012 Buick Enclave$34,690 | 15,578 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$22,774 | 83,965 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$23,968 | 59,566 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$23,995 | 53,575 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$25,385 | 64,097 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$25,879 | 67,719 mi
2011 Buick Enclave$27,995 | 59,649 mi
2010 Buick Enclave$18,999 | 70,798 mi
2010 Buick Enclave$21,555 | 81,830 mi
2010 Buick Enclave$22,000 | 63,834 mi
2010 Buick Enclave$26,990 | 65,354 mi
2009 Buick Enclave$17,683 | 64,552 mi
2009 Buick Enclave$19,400 | 74,484 mi
2009 Buick Enclave$19,475 | 89,909 mi
2008 Buick Enclave$14,720 | 106,057 mi
2008 BUICK ENCLAVE$15,995 | 126,450 mi
2008 Buick Enclave$17,981 | 87,595 mi
2008 BUICK ENCLAVE$18,995 | 108,129 mi
2008 Buick Enclave$21,890 | 64,722 mi
2008 Buick Enclave$21,997 | 41,894 mi