- Unique, elegant styling
- User-friendly interior
- Adult-sized second-row seats
- Drives heavy and big
- Transmission hesitates to downshift
- Gas mileage is disappointing
One of the most user-friendly, luxurious, and distinctive crossovers available, the 2012 Buick Enclave is some of GM's best styling work.
The Buick Enclave was the first vehicle to signal a sea change at the GM brand. A replacement for Rendezvous and Rainier SUVs, the Enclave crossover was pitched directly at luxury-car owners who wanted something pretty, luxurious--and American.
The Enclave may have been the beginning of the renaissance at Buick that now includes a new Regal and the Verano, but it still wears its feminine styling well, and outclasses some seven-seat crossovers that seem to have lost the narrative. Of the GM vehicles to share its running gear, the Enclave might be our favorite, just slightly ahead of the GMC Acadia and a few well-detailed steps ahead of the plainer Chevy Traverse.
It starts with curvy, Coke-bottle sheetmetal, highlighted gently by mostly smooth chrome details. We're no fans of the borderline tacky "ventiports" on the hood, or of the body-color C-pillar when the glass shapes are so handsomely curved, but those are minor foibles in a foppish look. The interior's mostly a success, too with a faintly Art Deco-inspired dash punctuated by a big analog clock up top on the dash. It's a classy look, if conservative, and if trimmed out in some inexpensive-looking plastics in some places.
The Enclave isn't as strapping as the 365-hp turbocharged versions of the Flex and MKT, but its 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 has its own charms. The usable powerband reaches higher into the rev range than in some crossovers, giving it a perky feel, still torquey enough at city speeds. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, though it's less quick to downshift than the Flex and MKT--though all vehicles share the transmission, developed as a joint-venture with GM and Ford. Fuel economy checks in at 17/24 mpg with front-drive models, and 16/22 mpg with all-wheel-drive Enclaves.
Buick offers the Enclave in front-drive or with available all-wheel drive, really only necessary if you experience winter weather for more than a few weeks. Handling isn't quite carlike, though the Enclave rides as well as many luxury cars. It steers well for a vehicle of its size, and body roll isn't excessive for its ride height, either.
This large crossover vehicle has seating for up to eight passengers and sports lots of cargo room. Adults will fit in the third row, though entry and exit won't be graceful. Interior volume even with the third-row seat in place is 24.1 cubic feet, rising to more than 115 cubic feet when the second- and third-row seats are folded forward. That's nearly as large as the biggest minivans--minus their convenient sliding side doors, of course.
The Enclave's crash scores have remained excellent even as testing criteria have changed. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick; the NHTSA gives it five stars overall, with a four-star rating for front and a five-star rating for side impacts.Standard equipment includes satellite radio, Bluetooth, power features and cruise control. A navigation system, rearview camera, front parking sensors and remote start are offered as options, as are 19- and 20-inch wheels, a Bose audio system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Buick's done away with trim levels this year, so instead of opting for an Enclave CXL or CX, you'll simply order from a choice of equipment packages, which can push the price of the Enclave to the $50,000 mark.
When the Enclave was new in 2008, it led its segment. And while it remains one of the better, bigger crossover utility vehicles, we've rated the Ford Flex a bit higher overall thanks to its superior interior and accessibility. If the Enclave's curves catch your eye before the Flex's squared-off jaw can, you won't hear a word from us.