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Buick goes stylin' with attractive new Enclave

February 10, 2007|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

A Buick that can really move is always welcome, especially if it can move plenty of passengers and a boxcar load of cargo in all sorts of weather and driving conditions.

That's the essence of the 2008 Enclave, a meaty and mighty four-door wagon that's one of a trio of new vehicles being introduced by General Motors that includes the platform-shared Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia.

The Enclave, however, stakes out the luxury-class end of the spectrum, replacing the minivan-based Buick Rendezvous and eventually the Rainier sport-ute. Expect the Enclave to arrive by summer.

Unlike a number of more compact competitors claiming full-size status, the size-large Enclave won't cram or crowd its passenger contingent. It's nearly as long as a Chevrolet Tahoe sport-ute, is equal to the Chevy in width and actually has more distance between the front and rear wheels.

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The Enclave also enjoys a distinct advantage in weight, or rather, a lack of it. At 4,780 pounds, it's nearly 500 pounds lighter than the body-on-frame Tahoe (the Enclave has a unitized body construction with no dedicated frame).

By any measure, the Enclave also holds the advantage in the looks department. The traditional stylized Buick chrome grille, neatly integrated headlights and deftly rounded nose are classy touches that set this wagon apart from the crowd, aided and abetted by the tri-porthole trim (a Buick signature item) attached to each side of the hood.

The Enclave's impressive utility becomes apparent inside where you're greeted by three rows of seats with room for up to eight, or seven, if you choose the two second-row captain's chairs instead of the three-person bench. Selecting this configuration also gets you a deep-dish floor console that folds into the load floor along with the seats to extend the cargo area.

Regardless of seat selection, the second row slides forward to provide access to the back row and serves to give rear riders more leg room.

Speaking of stowage, the Enclave also beats the Tahoe in the cargo-hold department when all seats are in use and offers plenty of cubbies, cupholders and bins to secure everyone's personal effects.

A twist of the key fires up a 3.6-liter V-6, an engine developed through the combined efforts of several General Motors engineering facilities around the globe. The engine will eventually be used by most of GM's North American brands. In the Enclave's case, the double-overhead-cam powerplant, which operates through a six-speed automatic transmission, develops 275 horsepower.

The Enclave begins as a front-wheel-driver, but the all-wheel-drive option will likely be a popular choice. With it, drivers will be able to more safely navigate slick or snow-covered thoroughfares or traverse backwoods cottage trails. It won't be adept at true off-roading, a task better left to vehicles such as the Tahoe, with its generous ground clearance and dual-range transfer case.

As befits a Buick-branded vehicle, the Enclave is all about luxury as well as practicality. Although the marketing types remain coy concerning exact content, you can expect the base CX to include climate control, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power-folding outside mirrors, remote starting system, xenon headlamps, six air bags, traction and stability control and a year's worth of OnStar, GM's satellite-based live-voice assistance center.

Moving up to the CXL adds perforated leather seats (heated in front), 19-inch wheels, a power-operated liftgate and fancier trim.

A wide assortment of available features can be ladled on, such as a rear backup camera, DVD navigation, skylight-style sunroof, Bose 10-speaker audio package and a DVD entertainment system.

The Enclave's tack-sharp styling, powerful V-6 and room aplenty for everyone and everything will be tough, if not impossible, to ignore and will no doubt lure converts from traditional big-utes into more glamorous surroundings.

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