Think of Buick’s Enclave as the Roadmaster station wagon of the new millennium, the veritable mother ship of crossovers, a vehicle that can transport your whole crew to malls, hockey rinks, cottages, ski slopes, a whole galaxy of places you’d like to arrive at en masse and in style.
The 2012 Enclave can carry up to eight, or almost a minivan’s worth of cargo, and do it in true Buick fashion. Which is to say it’s got presence and lots of chrome. It’s big, heavy, roomy, comfortable and loaded with features. And handles like a houseboat, albeit one powered by a V-6 that revs to almost 7,000 rpm and feels and sounds like it should be under the hood of a sports sedan.
The Enclave arrived in 2007 as a 2008 model and is based on a platform shared by the GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. It has proven popular, with more than 55,000 sold in North America last year. There are no major changes for the 2012 model year.
The Enclave is available in three versions with front-wheel-drive, a base CX at $43,750, and in upgraded CXL1 trim for $48,720 and loaded CXL2 form at $52,775. But all can be upgraded to all-wheel-drive as was our test CXL1, which has an MSRP of $51,720 and a final sticker price after options and destination charges are added in of $60,370.
The CX, as you’d expect for that money, comes with plenty of standard equipment that includes nice touches such as 19-inch machined alloy wheels, heated exterior mirrors with signal repeaters, power lift-gate, remote entry, tri-zone auto climate control, driver info centre and a high-quality audio system.
The CXL1 adds memory to the mirrors, chrome to the wheels, a rear-view camera and ultrasonic park assist, remote (and not too environmentally friendly) vehicle start, heated front seats with additional power adjustment and leather trim. Our Enclave also came with upgraded audio and entertainment system with rear DVD, a Dual Skyscape sunroof and trailer package.
The Enclave’s configuration is typically crossover, with four car-like doors and a rear hatch. The test unit looked smart and sophisticated in Crystal Claret paint highlighted by that big Buick chrome grille and sparkly bright roof rails. And it is imposing with 5,126 mm between the bumpers and a height with roof racks of 1,842 mm, which is almost 17 old fashioned feet long and more than six feet tall. And weighty too, at 2,259 kg or almost 2-1/2 old-style tonnes.
Enclaves are normally set up to seat seven in four individual seats with a three-person bench behind – that will actually handle two adults in some degree of comfort. But you can order a three-seat centre bench that ups passenger capacity to eight.
There’s 657 litres of space behind the third-row seat, and with the centre and rear seatbacks folded, creating a long flat load floor, there’s 3,265 litres of cargo space available, which is closing in on minivan territory and more than the Lexus 350 and Mazda CX-9. Adding to its utility is a towing capacity of 2,041 kg.
The interior has been elegantly and tastefully done, with a traditional luxury look that encompasses wood-style trim and leather and a holistic approach to sound management – which encompasses everything from the tire tread pattern to triple door seals – that results in it being more than quiet enough at highway speeds. Seat cushions are wide but a little short. Nicely done in other words, with a clattery power locking system the only thing that provided a jarring note.
The motor, which does make a really delightful sound when run up to its redline, is a 3.6-litre V-6 that makes 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, which is delivered to the optional AWD system through a six-speed automatic. A low-ish first gear jumps it off the line enthusiastically enough and up to 100 km/h in a bit over nine seconds, and a tall top gear lets it highway cruise in economy mode. Fuel economy ratings with AWD are 13.1 litres/100 km city and 8.8 highway.
In typical crossover fashion, it was designed for the street with not even minimal concessions made to any form of off-roading, although it will, if driven carefully, likely deal well enough with rough cottage roads with its 213 mm of ground clearance.
The optional AWD is an all-the-time system designed to keep you on the road rather than entice you off it. It normally sends most of the drive to the front wheels, but can apportion torque to the wheels that will make the most use of it based on the traction available.
Rather than cause for concern or complaint, the Enclave’s handling brings to mind the phrase, “It is what it is.” Handling and ride are actually more than acceptable for a vehicle in this category. Weight is the main issue when it comes to its understandably lack of agility, but steering, while light in effort, is linear and the vehicle goes where it’s pointed, eventually, with some not-too-pronounced lean evident in corners.
The Enclave brings just about the right amount of everything to the game and as a result is one of those vehicles it’s easy to like and see yourself owning – but likely only if you actually needed one.
2012 Buick Enclave AWD CXL1
Type: Luxury crossover
Base Price: $51,720; as tested, $60,370
Engine: 3.6-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 288 hp/ 270 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.4 city/9.0 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Acura MDX, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX35, Lexus RX350, Lincoln MKT, Mazda CX9