Buick doesn't get its own version of the Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon family, but it does get the Enclave crossover--which almost fits the bill, if you're looking for something a little more family-friendly than a fifth wheel and any leg of the Triple Crown.
The fact is, unless you tow very often, the Tahoe and Yukon aren't nearly as nimble nor as flexible as the Enclave, which has the upsides of a more usable passenger package, still-strong towing capability, and an evocative look that's done much to focus Buick on the future and suck it out of the past.
I've been driving a 2010 Enclave this week, a front-wheel-drive CXL with some of the nicest options. And while I'm more convinced than ever that we've named the Ford Flex the best in this class, the Enclave has plenty of goodness to earn itself a editor's rating of 8.4 out of 10.
2010 Buick EnclaveEnlarge Photo
To begin, look down the Enclave's bodysides for the anti-Flex curves and concavities. The Enclave simply looks great--even better if you get it in black, which blocks out the body-color C-pillar that otherwise disrupts the flowing side glass. Inside, the fake wood's a little too artificial and Morris the Cat orange for my tastes, but there's a lovely Deco-styled semicircle atop the dash that's your cue: this thing's the polar opposite of the angular Flex.
The 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is strong enough for almost any duty you can imagine. With more exhaust boom than I've noticed in other big crossovers, the Enclave still twists out enough torque to move a carload without much drama. The transmission's actually shared to some extent with the Flex; sometimes it hesitates on choosing a gear, a phenomenon we haven't encountered with the Flex as much, but it's common to the similar GMC Acadia and the Chevrolet Traverse crossovers our editors have sampled. It could be trying to choose which of its wide ratios is the best for fuel economy, which still is an EPA-rated 17/24 mpg--the same, coincidentally, as the non-turbo Flex.
The Enclave suffers just the slightest bit for its optional 20-inch wheels and tires, with some more harsh ride patter than the Flex, but still far and above the less finely tuned rides of the Acadia and Traverse, and other seven-seat crossovers. The long wheelbase works well over bumps, but will give you pause even in a Home Depot parking lot; the turning circle can't cut in as closely as you might expect.
But when it comes to pleasing passengers, the Enclave's still about the best you can find. The second-row chairs sit a bit higher than in the Flex; you'll find them more comfy than those in a Honda Pilot, and the third-row seat is the largest in this crossover class, so even adults won't have as much reason to balk about riding in the wayback.
Storage is also plentiful, with over 23 cubic feet of space behind the third row when the cargo management system is removed, and if you fold down the second and third rows, you’ll free up over 115 cubic feet of cargo space.
And if you need to drag a couple of SeaDoos or a single-axle trailer, no fear: the Enclave can tow up to 4,500 pounds—an impressive figure for this type of vehicle.
My Enclave CXL came with plenty of luxury features, like a navigation package ($3,185), a large sunroof ($1,400), a trailering package ($455), and a second-row console ($300), for a total of $48,110 including destination. A few hundred dollars more, and I think I could have bought the Wheel of Fortune's ceramic Dalmatian, too.
Our editors still think the Flex is the best seven-seat crossover you can buy. But after this refresher course in Buick's big crossover, we can see why it's an obvious alternative--after all, it's the only other seven-seat utility vehicle to match the Flex's high styling score of 9.
Want more photos, specs, pricing information and related news? You'll find it over on our 2010 Buick Enclave page.