Test Drive: 2012 Buick Enclave car test drives reviews buick
2012 Buick Enclave CXL. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Buick Enclave

The Buick Enclave may not be the first large luxury crossover you think of when you’re looking for a well-equipped seven- or eight-passenger vehicle with available all-wheel drive, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. First introduced in 2008, the Enclave is the most luxurious version of a trio of large, mid-sized crossover vehicles that include the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia (and formerly, the Saturn Outlook). Though advertised as a mid-size crossover, the Enclave is almost as big as a full-size SUV. It’s roomy, attractively finished, powerful, comfortable, and even handles well. And in the time-honoured tradition of end-of-the-year model clear-outs, the 2012 Enclave is currently offering a big honking discount: cash buyers can get up to $5,100 off the 2012 MSRP, depending on the region, dealer incentives and their ability to haggle. The Enclave’s base MSRP drops from $43,315 to $38,215 plus a $1,495 Freight charge and appropriate taxes.

So should you wait for the 2013 model or go with the cheaper 2012 model? Changes to the 2013 Enclave are significant but not major, including more athletic styling, standard xenon headlights, revised instrument panel with touchscreen and voice-activated audio controls, new rear-view camera, new centre airbag, revised automatic transmission, and a smoother riding suspension. If none of those things really turn your crank, you may want to save a few bucks and go with a 2012.

Test Drive: 2012 Buick Enclave car test drives reviews buick
Test Drive: 2012 Buick Enclave car test drives reviews buick
Test Drive: 2012 Buick Enclave car test drives reviews buick
Test Drive: 2012 Buick Enclave car test drives reviews buick
2012 Buick Enclave CXL. Click image to enlarge

Current 2012 Enclaves are offered in three trim levels with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive: CX FWD ($43,315) and CX AWD ($46,315), CXL 1 FWD ($48,880) and CXL 1 AWD ($51,880), and CXL 2 FWD ($52,935) and CXL 2 AWD ($55,935). We tested a CXL 1 AWD model with an MSRP of $51,880 and $7,055 worth of options, including a Bose premium sound system with 10 speakers and rear DVD player with wireless headphones ($3,310), dual sunroof ($1,685), 19-inch touring tires and chrome-clad alloy wheels ($995), heavy duty hitch platform, receiver, 7-pin harness, and transmission cooler ($550), and premium paint ($515). As tested, our Enclave CXL 1 AWD model came to $58,935 plus $1,495 Freight charge and $100 a/c tax. The end-of-the-year discount mentioned above can be subtracted from this price.

The Enclave is powered by one of GM’s better engines, a 3.6-litre V6 with direct injection, variable valve timing and dual overhead camshafts. Its horsepower rating of 288 at 6,300 rpm doesn’t seem like a lot for a 5,000 lb crossover, but thanks to its 270 lb-ft of torque at just 3,400 rpm, the Enclave has plenty of pep as I discovered while ferrying five passengers around the city during the holidays. In the AWD model, fuel economy on the highway is advertised as 8.8 L/100 km, in part because the standard six-speed automatic transmission has a tall highway gear, which keeps the engine revs down to 1,700 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. Fuel consumption in the city is rated at 13.1 L/100 km, but my average fuel consumption display was showing 15.1 L/100 km in mostly urban driving—there’s no getting around the fact that this is a big, heavy vehicle. Fortunately, it uses Regular grade gasoline.

GM says the Enclave can tow up to 2,041 kg (4,500 lbs) when properly equipped and can be flat-towed in both FWD and AWD configurations. Hmm, who would tow a 5,000-lb crossover?

The Enclave’s optional full-time all-wheel drive system automatically varies torque front to rear based on a computer’s analysis of individual wheel slip, throttle position, and vehicle speed, and is integrated with the traction control and stability control system. For the driver and passengers, it all goes unnoticed until road conditions become too slippery. A standard ground clearance of 213 mm (8.4 in.) should keep the Enclave’s bottom from scraping unplowed roads in winter.

Though it’s over 16 feet long (5120 mm/201.8 in) and over 6 feet tall (1842 mm/72.5 in.), the Enclave drives like a smaller vehicle and doesn’t feel cumbersome or overweight. Chalk that up to its unit body design, wide track and fully independent suspension. But while its highway ride is very comfortable, it feels uncomfortably stiff over pavement breaks and potholes—surprising for a Buick! My test vehicle had the optional Michelin Latitude 255/60R-19-inch touring tires with a sidewall aspect ratio that seemed well-matched to this kind of vehicle. Even bigger 20-inch tires are available on the CXL 2 model.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).