Test Drive: 2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD car test drives buick
2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2009 Buick Enclave

Oshawa, Ontario – If any vehicle has to mark the turning point for Buick, it’s the Enclave. Introduced for 2008, it carved out a new spot for itself in the lineup, straddling the now-discontinued Terraza minivan and Rendezvous SUV. It wasn’t just its configuration, but an entirely new attitude over attention to detail: good performance, handsome styling and, most importantly, an interior that could stand up in looks and quality to its competition.

My 2009 tester doesn’t look much different from the inaugural 2008 model year, but it’s what’s under the hood that counts. It’s still a 3.6-litre V6 as before, but direct injection technology raises it from 275 horsepower to 288 while torque lifts from 251 lb-ft to 270 lb-ft. Despite the Enclave’s size, it makes for brisk acceleration and good performance, with each gear handled by a six-speed automatic that generally keeps it right in the sweet spot, with only a little cog hunting on the odd hill. There is a manual shift mode, but it seems more of an afterthought, consisting of a button on the side of the shift lever that you toggle to up- or downshift. Even so, this really isn’t a segment – or a brand – that’s normally given to sporty driving, and I don’t think any lack of shift paddles or a gate on the lever is really an issue.

Test Drive: 2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD car test drives buick
Test Drive: 2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD car test drives buick
Test Drive: 2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD car test drives buick
2009 Buick Enclave CX FWD. Click image to enlarge

The Enclave is one of three vehicles that share all but trim: siblings are the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, as well as the Saturn Outlook, now discontinued with that brand’s demise. The Enclave looks the most upscale of the three, and at a base price of $42,805 for the front-wheel drive CX trim line, it’s considerably more than the base $35,620 Traverse and $37,800 Acadia. Oddly, though, at the top end of the scale, it’s the Chevrolet that becomes the most expensive: $53,560 for the all-wheel drive Traverse LTZ, versus $53,145 for the all-wheel Enclave CXL. The reason is in the option package: standard on the top-line Traverse are heated and cooled seats, larger wheels and a DVD-based navigation system, which are optional on Enclave models.

As with its siblings, the Enclave comes strictly with three rows of seats. The default is seven-passenger seating, with two captain’s chairs in the second row; eight-passenger is optional, which swaps out the second-row chairs for a flat-folding bench that slides fore and aft. The top-line CXL uses leather upholstery, while my CX’s seats were wrapped in a plush velour fabric, which I’ve always preferred to cowhide. As you’d expect from a Buick, the seats are extremely comfortable in the first and second rows. The cushions in the far rear row are very firm, but legroom is better than with many three-row competitors, and headroom remains impressive all the way to the back.

The equipment list is well-stocked, even at the CX level: automatic xenon headlamps, power liftgate, roof rails, tri-zone automatic climate control with separate switches for the second- and third-row passengers, 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. Moving up to the CXL adds rear parking assist, remote starter, power-folding mirrors, 19-inch wheels, 110-volt outlet, leather upholstery, power tilt and telescopic steering column and premium audio. You can option most of that onto the CX, though, and both models can be topped out with such features as a trailer towing package (the Enclave will handle a maximum of 2041 kg/4500 lbs), cargo convenience package of net and cargo cover, sunroof, rear-seat DVD, navigation, and a “Hit the Road” package of assist steps, cross rail roof package and a cargo floor mat.