2008 Buick Enclave Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 30, 2008

If Lexus is your current definition of luxury, check out the 2008 Buick Enclave to see a new American take on the subject.

TheCarConnection.com's crossover experts read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Buick Enclave to produce this comprehensive review. The resident enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com also drove the Buick Enclave to add driving impressions and more information where it helps clarify the Enclave's talents and issues. In addition, this review compares the 2008 Buick Enclave with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice--even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Buick Enclave is a crossover vehicle--which usually means it's derived from car pieces. Only in this case, GM designed the Enclave and its sister vehicles (the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse) from the ground up, though some engine and suspension pieces are borrowed from the company's cars.

In looks, inside and out, the 2008 Buick Enclave has been enthusiastically received. It wowed attendees at the Detroit Auto Show in 2006 when it appeared as a so-called concept. Crowds loved its curvaceous fenders and glamorous detailing. The following year, it debuted as a full production model, and Buick wisely retained much of what was so well received about the concept. The exterior shape is curvaceous and handsome, though the D-pillar would look better blacked out than in body color (it's the vertical piece that separates the rear doors from the cargo area). Inside, it's subdued, luxurious, and high-quality throughout--and a revelation for Buick.

The 2008 Buick Enclave comes with a single powertrain, a healthy 275-horsepower V-6 and standard six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is good, but on the highway, the transmission sometimes hunts for the right gear, and jostles its occupants in the process. While EPA estimates give hope for 16/22 mpg (city/highway) for all-wheel-drive models, based on TheCarConnection.com's experience, those are optimistic.

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The Enclave's ride is hushed and smooth, resulting in an exceptionally quiet interior. Compared to the other full-size crossovers from GM, the Buick includes many unique pieces that reduce road and wind noise.

In addition to being quiet, what makes the 2008 Buick Enclave particularly comfortable is the plus-size accommodations. It's huge inside, with a standard third row and room for 7 to 8 people (depending on the configuration). The third row's a real third row, too, not there only for advertising purposes. There's almost 19 cubic feet of additional storage space behind the third row; plus, maximum towing capacity is 4,500 pounds. Base 2008 Buick Enclave models come with 18-inch rims, front and rear A/C, stability control, full-row curtain airbags, and GM's OnStar concierge system with "turn-by-turn" navigation assistance. Higher-end models offer or can be ordered with all the niceties, from a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo to three-zone climate control, a power rear liftgate, a head-up display (HUD), GPS, a two-panel sunroof, and backseat DVD entertainment system. A 19-inch wheel/tire package is available and looks sharp, but be sure you test drive a model so equipped before you buy, as the ride quality suffers a bit.

9

2008 Buick Enclave

Styling

The 2008 Buick Enclave is an attractive vehicle first, a handsome crossover second.

The 2008 Buick Enclave is a crossover vehicle--which usually means it's derived from car pieces. Only in this case, GM designed the Enclave and its sister vehicles (the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse) from the ground up, though some engine and suspension pieces are borrowed from the company's cars.

The Enclave, Buick’s newest vehicle, is a “crossover with flowing lines, big wheels, a wide stance, and a tapered upper body,” according to Car and Driver. In some ways, it’s similar to its siblings, MSN Autos says, “but the Buick model looks the best of the trio.”

The shape isn’t borrowed from any vehicle—it’s a new look for GM and for Buick, one filled with rounded forms and soft, subtle shapes, both inside and out. The 2008 Buick Enclave’s "voluptuous curves" and "graceful lines" are praised by the likes Edmunds, while Road & Travel calls it "slinky." Mother Proof says the Enclave is "curvy" and "lean." According to the review from Kelley Blue Book, the "waterfall" grille and portholes above the fenders recall the ripe, sensuous lines of the classic Buicks of the late 1940s and early '50s. It’s “a more soothing design,” Car and Driver thinks—and BusinessWeek agrees, saying, “the curvy contours, the chrome, and the bold grille-work perfectly reflect the Enclave's overall tone.”

Even the interior suggests the era, according to The Auto Channel: "The dash features a center arch in housing an analog clock giving the Enclave an Art Deco feel." Motor Trend notes that “its nicely designed interior is as tangible an improvement over the other two as its organic, Coke-bottle sheetmetal is compared with their creased lines.” The New York Times agrees, writing, “The cabin’s design showed that G.M. was successful in its effort to upgrade its interiors.” BusinessWeek gushes about the interior as well, calling it “gorgeous, easily as nice, or nicer, as the interiors of the Lexus RX 350, the Acura MDX, and the Volvo XC90.”

TheCarConnection.com is with the majority here. In looks, inside and out, the 2008 Buick Enclave has curvaceous fenders and glamorous detailing, though the D-pillar would look better blacked out than in body color (it's the vertical piece that separates the rear doors from the cargo area). Inside, it's subdued, luxurious, and high-quality throughout--and a revelation for Buick.

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2008 Buick Enclave

Performance

The 2008 Buick Enclave's strengths are a quiet, composed ride and body control; power and fuel economy are only average.

The 2008 Buick Enclave's performance is adequate, not exciting—but as you might expect from a big Buick, the ride is well-damped.

The 2008 Buick Enclave comes with a single powertrain, a healthy 275-hp V-6 and standard six-speed automatic transmission. The 3.6-liter V-6 engine may not be quite enough for the Buick Enclave's nearly two and a half tons, Truck Trend suggests. The Enclave uses up 8 seconds to get from 0-60 mph, according to The Auto Channel, which they consider "more than adequate in most circumstances." BusinessWeek disagrees: “The Enclave is a lot slower than the Japanese and German rivals, too…I tried a number of times and didn't come close to matching that time.” Cars.com says that the Buick Enclave's engine "won't be mistaken for the kind of V-8 engine that has historically powered large SUVs," but will do the job when called upon.

Cars.com, ConsumerGuide, and Edmunds all report that the six-speed transmission, while being "smooth shifting," is "more active than it needs to be" and has a strong tendency to upshift more than is necessary. Motor Trend complained that the heavy crossover “makes the six-speed labor hard to launch you out of tight turns, up hilly roads, or onto busy freeways.”

Consumers have a choice between front- and all-wheel-drive 2008 Buick Enclave models, and interestingly, the difference in fuel consumption is marginal. The AWD version gets slightly lower mileage on the highway, according to Cars.com, at 22 mpg, but the city figures for both models--as well as the overall average, according to Edmunds--is around 16 mpg.

On the road, the Buick Enclave rides well. According to Motor Trend, “The Enclave's ride is isolated, comfortable but with moderate roll.” The Enclave handles well “for a large, comfortable crossover utility.” However, they disliked the lack of steering feel, and “poor feedback, especially on-center.”

8

2008 Buick Enclave

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Buick Enclave is a big, comfortable vehicle with mostly plush interior trim.

Reviewers across the Web agree that the 2008 Buick Enclave is one quiet, roomy crossover, with an occasional knock against the crossover’s trim.

The Auto Channel notes the "magnificent" job GM's designers have done on insulating the vehicle against road noise. GM's QuietTuning also attracts the attention of the New York Times: “The Enclave gets more soundproofing than its cousins,” which may help Buick compete one day against Lexus, they note. Kelley Blue Book describes the interior as "delightfully calm and free of the sounds that fatigue occupants on long drives."

The 2008 Buick Enclave has lots of interior room, and it’s usefully packaged, according to the reviews consulted by TheCarConnection.com. ConsumerGuide reports that there is an abundance of head- and legroom, and getting in and out of the passenger compartment "is a breeze." BusinessWeek points out that the “second-row captain's seats are exceptionally comfortable,” and have a SmartSlide feature, “which allows them to fold forward, making room for an adult to step into the third-row seats.” Cars.com suggests that adults might find the third row a little too cozy for comfort.

Car and Driver is impressed with the sheer volume of the interior with seated folded or raised. There’s “19 cubic feet behind the third row,” and “115 cubic feet behind the front row with the rest of the seats folded down, a cavity that can accommodate the ubiquitous four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood.”

In terms of quality, the Buick Enclave has inviting styling and only a material lapse or two. Kelley Blue Book calls the interior "extremely inviting" with a dashboard that features "camphor burl wood appliques and chrome trim" and high-quality materials all around. Motor Trend admires the “wood and the leather steering-wheel rim,” but points out that it “contrasts harshly with the hard plastic on the back of the steering-wheel hub, and some of the plastic and vinyl grains could be finer.”

9

2008 Buick Enclave

Safety

The 2008 Buick Enclave sits at the top of its class for occupant safety.

The 2008 Buick Enclave has a complete roster of standard safety gear, and it scores well in federal crash tests.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) scores the Buick Enclave at five stars for front and side impact protection, while giving the big crossover four stars for rollover resistance.

Cars.com reports that Buick includes anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability system in the Enclave’s package of standard equipment, along with six airbags. Car and Driver reports that in addition to the passive safety feature, GM has also used "high-strength steel for protection" of occupants.

All-wheel drive is offered on the Enclave. According to Kelley Blue Book, the AWD option is "engineered to enhance traction in the more realistic conditions of wet or snowy roads," but is not appropriate for hardcore off-roading.

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2008 Buick Enclave

Features

The 2008 Buick Enclave has a long list of features, including satellite radio and a navigation system, but Bluetooth isn’t offered.

The 2008 Buick Enclave has a long list of standard features and luxurious options.

The price of a base-model Buick Enclave FWD CX, according to The Auto Channel, is $34,255, but their reviewers say the cost of all the extra features that increase the price anywhere from $7,000 to $8,000 are "well worth it."

Cars.com reports that keyless entry, CD stereo with XM Satellite Radio (free for the first three months, according to The Auto Channel), and a power liftgate are all standard on the base model. In addition, tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a rearview camera are available options, but Edmunds warns that these will increase the price "well past the $40,000 mark."

Mother Proof praises the many optional features available for the Buick Enclave, and expresses surprise that a fully loaded, top-of-the-line version is "only $44,055." These options include a navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, heated seats, a sunroof, and power seats all around (except the third row).

TheCarConnection.com adds that higher-end models offer or can be ordered with all the niceties, from a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo to three-zone climate control, a power rear liftgate, a head-up display (HUD), a two-panel sunroof, and backseat DVD entertainment system. A 19-inch wheel/tire package is available and looks sharp, but be sure you test drive a model so equipped before you buy, as the ride quality suffers a bit.

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August 10, 2015
2008 Buick Enclave AWD 4-Door CXL

One of the best SUV's available.

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If more options were offered I would buy a new one.
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Styling 9.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
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