2008 Buick Enclave: New Times for an Old Brand

Written by Kimatni D. Rawlins

As one of the oldest car brands in the business, Buick has done everything in its power to withstand the times of a 100 year-old company. They have survived three world wars, depressions, and much more. Yet, its reputation has not been so great in recent times. With an onslaught of import competition and a cadre of not so respected vehicles, GM’s senior citizen brand had to totally revamp its product line-up. Welcome the 2008 Buick Enclave CUV.

The Enclave, along with the Lucerne luxury sedan, adds two stellar vehicles to Buick’s collection. Both offer loads of luxury and premium features at competitive prices. However, Buick is still far off from the old days when the flamboyant ‘49 Roadmaster took the market by storm. My favorite Buick is the ‘71 Riviera with its boattail rear end. Buick had lost its appeal because there were no distinctive design characteristics and drive performance from other GM stablemates. Today there is change in the direction of Buick’s design themes. Under African-American design chief Ed Welburn’s guidance, many GM brands have flourished. He took the Caddy Escalade to the top of the mountain and on is on his way to doing the same with Buick’s properties. Another African American, Michael Burton, handled the grace and elegance of the Enclave’s interior. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard him in the Enclave print ads and commercials. “Drive Beautiful” is Buick’s new theme. And that’s exactly what the Enclave does! Starting at $32,790 for a FWD CX, Buick is going after younger women with the Enclave. This is great being that the current buyer pool is ready to collect Social Security. The AWD CXL starts at $36,990.

When I first saw the Enclave at the Detroit Auto Show I was pretty amazed. If you had taken off the Buick logo then I would have labeled it something from Acura or Lexus. It’s a perfect representation of balance and artfully crafted lines. When newcomers enter a segment class late, there is always similarity with the veterans. Not with the Enclave; it’s physically unique. From the oval waterfall grille to the 7-spoke chrome 19s to its precise taste of chrome trimming, the design has no flaws. It’s a great scenario since GM plans to sell 60,000 Enclaves yearly.

Behind the wheel the feel of the Enclave is resolute and fresh. The suspension’s handling is confident and the power is decent but can be improved. As GM’s highest output, naturally aspirated V6, the 3.6-liter offers up 275-horsepower at 6600 rpm and 251 pounds-feet of torque at 3,200 pm. A new six-speed automatic transmission is mated to the V6. The combination allows the FWD model to get 24 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg for the AWD model. Both achieve 16 mpg in the city. However, the V6 deserves more juice. The Acura MDX V6 makes over 300-horsepower and is tuned better than many V8s I’ve driven. Plus, our vehicle wasn’t weighed down as you would find in real life situations including kids, shopping, etc. So I could only imagine how deprived the Enclave would feel with seven passengers and luggage.

The Enclave also has good headroom, acoustic absorbing materials (dubbed QuietTuning) to prevent external sound intrusion, a third row which fits full size adults, and second row retractable seats (Smart Slide) that allow easy entry to the third row as well as fold flat. You also get six standard airbags, XM Satellite Radio, OnStar with “Turn-by-Turn” voice-guided navigation, power liftgate and the optional ultrasonic rear parking assist with a rear backup camera.

With so much to offer in its first round, the Enclave is definitely in my starting five for midsize CUVs. Let’s just hope Buick continues to evolve and remake its image.

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