Had he not been on TV competing on a rain-soaked Doral golf course in Miami, folks might have thought Tiger Woods was in Dallas on Easter having dinner at Trader Vic’s. Parked right up front was a pair of shiny new Buick Enclave luxury crossover utility vehicles, the vehicle Tiger helped launch at its auto show debut last year.
Instead it was just our all-wheel-drive test vehicle of the week parked next to my brother-in-law’s front-wheel-drive model.
Enclave is the third CUV from GM built on this platform (following the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia) with the Chevrolet version (dubbed Traverse) set to arrive a little later this year. The crossover segment has seen quite the boom in recent years, with just about every automaker bringing one – big and small – to the market.
Crossovers are replacing the dwindling SUV sales numbers that dealers had come to depend on in the ’90s and many have passed their less fuel-efficient siblings in deliveries already this year.
The explosion of popularity is due largely to the smaller powertrains required to propel these new people and gear haulers. Few have anything larger than a V-6 under the hood and some only need four cylinders to get the job done. Match these to greatly improved transmissions, a ride experience comparable to many sedans of not too long ago and the offering of all the creature comforts families have come to depend on in a minivan package and we have something very close to the perfect all-around vehicle taking the best of each automotive segment – hence the name crossover.
And apparently this new Buick Enclave has consumers standing in the aisles to get their hands on one. My brother-in-law’s came from a dealer up north somewhere that sold more AWD models than FWD units.
By the numbers, Enclave seats up to eight in three rows and is offered in CX and CXL trim levels. Our recent tester came fully loaded with ALL the bells and whistles (including the all-wheel-drive powertrain). Each Enclave is powered by a 275hp V-6 engine mated to Buick’s new six-speed automatic transmission and operates primarily as a front-driver. Those equipped to send power to the rear pair of running gear only do so when extra grip is detected by a host of sensors and high-tech gadgets.
The crossover has a sort of “retro-forward” design theme about it, taking cues straight from the pages of Buick history books while giving a glimpse of the Buick to come. And you don’t have to go to Pep Boys on your way home to get those popular grilleports of late – Enclave includes them standard from the factory.
Opinions on final design vary – while mom thought it looked awfully “hearse-ish,” most folks thought it the best-looking vehicle Buick has delivered in years. Despite the luxurious appointments found in the new Enclave, flexibility and functionality still lead the way in day-to-day usage. Rear seats fold flat, second-row seats slide fore and aft, airbags surround all occupants in a cocoon of safety, Stabilitrak stability control and traction control are standard along with ABS brakes and tire pressure monitoring system and 19-inch wheels and tires are standard.
Add to this a host of state-of-the-art goodies and gadgets that include touch screen navigation, Bose surround sound with satellite radio, power liftgate, rearview backup camera, DVD rear seat entertainment with roof- and headrest-mounted monitors, power sunroof with second row skylight, ultra-sonic park assist and steerable headlights and you have on heck of a capable and comfortable ride.
One area of concern is that when searching for info on any transmission-related problems (that my brother-in-law seemed to be experiencing) I did find quite a few Technical Service Bulletins already delivered for this large CUV platform from GM. No recalls yet but quite a few listings for the tranny and some electrical items.
Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for our AWD tester (improving to 24 mpg highway on FWD models). Base pricing begins at $36,255 for the CXL trim level Enclaves with our loaded tester coming in at $43,950 and the only crash safety rating less than five stars from the government is four stars in rollover testing.
We enjoyed the new Buick Enclave and did not experience any of the difficulties listed in any of the TSBs listed on the NHTSA website.