2008 Buick Enclave CXL Review

Good looks and performance from entry-level crossover

2008 Buick Enclave CXL Review
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During the holiday season last year, I was given the keys to an all-new 2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD. While I felt a bit like Santa Claus driving around town in this shiny red SUV, me and mine really enjoyed experiencing the affordable luxury it offered.

FAST FACTS

1.

Only offered with a 275 hp V6 engine.

2.

Impressive exterior and interior build quality and design, typical of GM’s new models.

3.

Both base CX and premium CXL models offered with optional AWD.

MODEST 275 HP V6 POWERPLANT

Motivated by a 3.6-litre DOHC V6 that transmits 275 hp and 251 ft-lbs of torque to its all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed Hydra-Matic (6T75) automatic transmission with overdrive, the Enclave is a huge bargain in the luxury crossover utility category.

TWO TRIM LEVELS OFFERED WITH OPTIONAL AWD

The Enclave comes in two basic trims – CX and CXL – with a choice between FWD or AWD, the latter of which basically adds a couple grand to the base. The CX boasts a long list of standard features, including premium cloth seating for seven, power windows, locks and heated side mirrors, keyless remote entry, cruise control with steering wheel controls, fog lights, remote trunk release and dual-zone front automatic climate controls.

The driver gets eight-way adjustable seats (six-way power) while the passenger seat includes four-way (two-way power) adjustments. You also get a six-speaker AM/FM/ satellite radio with CD and MP3 capabilities as well as OnStar which includes one year of the Safe & Sound plan. Second row captain’s chairs with a 60/40 split-folding third row bench are standard. A second row bench option allows eight to sit comfortably.

The CXL gives you everything the CX model does, plus leather upholstery on the first two rows (third row is vinyl), heated, fully electric adjustable front seats, a 10-speaker AM/FM/satellite radio with six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 capabilities, heated windshield washer fluid system, ultrasonic rear parking assist, retractable rear cargo shade and convenience net, plus a 110-volt AC power outlet. The CXL also gets larger 19-inch wheels. Safety features on both include StabiliTrak vehicle stability control with rollover protection, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, a theft deterrent system and six airbags including first, second and third row side-curtain airbags.

While I wasn’t able to fill all seven seats the Enclave offered, holiday errands and Christmas shopping runs saw me put close to 125 miles on it around town. On Christmas day, my wife and I, along with my sister and our dog, ventured out on a 340-mile road trip to visit family out in the boonies, where I managed to get 21 mpg with 85-90 percent highway driving. Impressive!

QUIET AND WELL-APPOINTED CABIN

I have very few complaints. Of course, the CXL test mule was outfitted with a few options that made it all the more enjoyable. Amongst all the gear and gifts we could throw inside, our Labrador Retriever had more than enough space in the third row, while my sister was enjoying Nacho Libre on the DVD entertainment and navigation upgrade from her own captain’s chair. The system includes a rear overhead LCD monitor with wireless headphones, component A/V jacks and a remote control to manage it all from the main AM/FM/CD/DVD/XM touchscreen vehicle interface located up on the dash. A rear passenger 110-volt outlet eliminates the need to buy a separate power inverter to plug in your electronics. With all the commotion in the rear of the vehicle, the wife and I hardly noticed as we listened to XM satellite radio the whole time.

Buick has engineered the Enclave to be amongst the quietest CUVs in the market and it really shows. Road, wind and engine noise are practically non-existent thanks to a 360-degree “QuietTuning” approach to the problem. The end result is a quiet, comfortable, feature-packed cabin bolstered by excellent workmanship and high-quality materials like leather seats and armrests, wood and metal trim and soft touch vinyl dash.

Nestled within the instrument cluster is a handy trip computer/vehicle information display that details things like your average speed, fuel economy, fuel used, range, tire pressure levels and more.

IMPRESSIVE DRIVING DYNAMICS

The front suspension is an independent coil-over setup while in the rear it’s an independent multi-link arrangement that holds the line in corners without too much body roll. Steering is accurate and power delivery smooth from bottom to top.

At 4,984 lbs and with a 119-inch wheelbase, I expected the Enclave to be a bit sluggish and imprecise. But that’s simply not the case. The Buick is a joy to drive, with ample power, light steering, confident suspension, excellent visibility and decent fuel economy. The EPA rates the latest versions offer 16/22 (city/highway) mpg.

PLUS Luxury crossover Bargain Surprisingly good driving dynamics Stand-out-in-a-crowd good looks

MINUS Significant curb weight Less than stellar acceleration Poor braking distance

THE VERDICT

The Enclave goes from zero to 60 mph in just under 10 seconds and it accelerates from 50-75 mph to pass in 8.5 seconds. Braking isn’t great either as stopping from 60 mph takes 178 feet. Overall, the Enclave performs well with respectable fuel economy figures. It’s priced very reasonably and offers a high level of perceived luxury. No matter what age bracket you’re in, if you’re looking for an entry-level luxury crossover that performs as good as it looks, it would be silly to overlook the Enclave.

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