2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD
2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery: 2008 Buick Enclave

Ottawa, Ontario – This was my second experience with GM’s new crossover platform, my first having been behind the wheel of a GMC Acadia. Needless to say, after that experience, my expectations were high for the Enclave, which is positioned as the cushiest of the three (the third being the Saturn Outlook).

But initial impressions weren’t all positive. The glove-box, when opened, rubbed against the right-side front door: something was out of whack, as the gaps between the dash and the right-side door was noticeably smaller than that on the other side; the six-speed transmission was uncharacteristically indecisive, shifting awkwardly and often hunting for the right gear; and the button to close the power liftgate stopped working after my second day with the Enclave.

It was after this that I spotted the note at the top of the spec sheet that came with my tester: “Pre-Production Vehicle.” Well, that explains a lot.

2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD
2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD
2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Luckily, the rest of the good stuff I remembered from the Acadia was here, key among them being the comfortable seats and a smooth, quiet ride. The ride seemed a little quieter, even, than in the Acadia, which seems in line with Buick’s use of its enigmatic Quiet Tuning technology. Like the Acadia though, the Enclave’s 3.6-litre V6 strains to move the vehicle’s hefty curb weight with any authority, despite a healthy 275 horsepower rating.

Interior quality – aside from the issues in my pre-production tester – was just as good as it was in the Acadia. But despite the Enclave’s unique interior look, the materials seemed a little low-rent considering my tester carried a starting price only a few grand cheaper than the as-tested price of the Acadia I drove.

My tester was a CXL all-wheel drive model, but mine was a stripper, with none of the nifty options that Andrew McCredie’s had. That meant an as-tested price of $52,715 including freight and A/C tax; base price for the CXL all-wheel drive is $51,295.

2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD
2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD. Click image to enlarge

I used the Enclave to help a friend move a couple of six-foot tall bookcases to a new apartment; both pieces fit no problem, and there was even a little room left over for a few boxes. There’s lots of room for people, too. Headroom is great in the first two rows but shrinks to being only okay in the third row; there was more headroom here than in the Acadia, thanks to the lack of a sunroof in the Buick.

The Enclave’s looks drew mostly positive comments, notably from my moving friend, a 30-year-old female, who loved its lines. Personally, I think it looks better from the back than the front, where the gaping maw of a grille and large headlights make it look a bit like a surprised sea creature. It’s certainly recognizable as a Buick, though, and appearance-wise is a good fit in the brand’s line-up.

Demand for these new crossovers has apparently been brisk: in July, GM added a shift at the Lansing, Michigan plant where the Enclave, Outlook and Acadia are built. And while the Enclave will no doubt be a strong seller for Buick – high-end SUVs and crossovers are in demand right now – I have to wonder why GM didn’t give this one to Saab instead.

2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD
2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD. Click image to enlarge

The Lambda platform that underpins these triplets has a quasi-European feel to it; I think a sleek, Saab-badged Lambda model might have been a good competitor for big Euro crossovers like the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Audi Q7 – particularly with the V8 that the Lambda crossovers are rumoured to be getting in the future.

If it were my money, I’d buy the Saturn or GMC version and save myself a little money; I prefer those models’ blockier styling anyway. But I’m not the one writing the cheque. The Q7 starts at about $56,000 and Mercedes’ cheapest SUV/crossover is a $60,000 M-Class; buyers who choose the Enclave are still getting a pretty good deal on a luxury crossover, even if Euro-snobs turn up their noses at the Buick badge it wears.

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