2012 Buick Enclave Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 8, 2012

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.

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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.

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2012 Buick Enclave

Styling

Conservative-looking would be the best way to sum the look of the 2012 Buick Enclave inside and out; but its curvy, handsome look saves it from anonymity.

The 2012 Buick Enclave has styling that's certainly not fresh, but it is, we think, the best-looking of GM's large crossover vehicles, with its curvy, Coke-bottle sheetmetal, highlighted gently by mostly smooth chrome details.

But some of the details still fail to win us over; the "ventiports" on the hood are borderline tacky, and the C-pillar tends to interrupt what's otherwise such beautiful continuous side glass. Otherwise, the Enclave is handsome and pretty classy.

Inside, cabin appointments are mostly a success; the instrument panel skirts the line between the vaguely Art Deco look that Buick was trying to pull off a few years ago, crossed with some more contemporary instrument panel curves, complemented by a big analog clock up top on the dash. Altogether, it's classy, if a bit too conservative, and the only thing that lets it down in some places are a few rather cheap-looking plastic trim details.

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2012 Buick Enclave

Performance

The 2012 Buick Enclave performs as well as most sedans, although its heft discourages quick changes of direction.

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. It works well, with the six-speed automatic shifting smoothly, although the one hitch is that it's a little sluggish to downshift compared to the transmissions in most other crossovers. In part, that's the product of wide transmission ratios that leaves the engine turning very slowly in the upper couple of gears, requiring a downshift for even mild grades.

Buick offers the Enclave in front-drive or with available all-wheel drive, which is really only necessary if you experience extended winter weather. 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--although you'll never forget that the Enclave is a very heavy vehicle.

You feel that weight whenever you're starting, stopping, or making any abrupt change in direction, and the Enclave has more nosedive in hard braking than any other vehicle we've been in recently—minivans included—but the brakes are confidence-inspiring, with a firm pedal feel.

The Enclave can tow up to 4,500 pounds, which should be more than enough if you plan to tow a couple of jet-skis or a small boat out to the lake.

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2012 Buick Enclave

Comfort & Quality

Roomy and versatile seating and a smooth, quiet ride make the Enclave a great pick for family road trips.

A roomy, quiet interior really is the Enclave's forte. This large crossover vehicle has seating for up to eight passengers and sports lots of cargo room, and it has a soft, mostly composed ride as well as a standard of refinement you won't find in some other large crossovers.

Seating and flexibility are strengths, especially compared to truck-based SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe. Even the third row is large enough for adults--although entry and exit may be a challenge. The front seats in the Enclave are nothing special; they're large and wide, but overly soft. The second-row seats sit a bit higher than in most other large crossovers, which makes them comfortable for adults and gives a good view out.

The third-row seat is the largest in this crossover class; adults can sit back there—including those way over six feet. The seat's a little low and crunched, but you can do it for a trip out to the soccer game or short commute. And with total seating capacity of up to eight, it's a true minivan alternative.

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. The Enclave's back seats fold down to a completely flat cargo floor, too, allowing a minivan-like space behind the second row good enough for just about any purchase from big-box stores, and the second tow tilts forward for even more space. The only issue is that you might not be able to fully open those wide rear side doors if you're parked.

Throughout the cabin, materials and trims are quite good, although there's a bit too much dull, hard plastic trim for a vehicle that can cost nearly $50k.

Your passengers will appreciate the quiet cabin and smooth ride of the 2012 Buick Enclave, too. The suspension is soft and absorbent but never bouncy—although there's a fair amount of nosedive during hard stops. If you get the larger 20-inch wheels, you'll add a little more harshness, even though it's still softer and more refined than other three-row crossovers.

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2012 Buick Enclave

Safety

The 2012 Buick Enclave offers the peace of mind of top crash-test ratings, a strong structure, and plenty of safety equipment.

The 2012 Buick Enclave might just be one of the safest, sturdiest family vehicles you can get. With top crash-test ratings and a very strong list of features, the Enclave has the makings of a very safe vehicle.

Standard equipment on the Enclave includes front-seat side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, and electronic stability control. OnStar's Vehicle Diagnostics even monitor the stability control system.

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The Enclave performs well in crash tests from both major U.S. safety programs, too. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given it top 'good' ratings in all categories, as well as its Top Safety Pick designation, and it's been awarded four- and five-star ratings in federal tests--including a top five-star result in the new side pole test.
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2012 Buick Enclave

Features

Hold back on the options, and the 2012 Buick Enclave is a strong value with more than a hint of luxury.

The 2012 Buick Enclave looks like a reasonably good value, for an almost-luxury, three-row vehicle that starts under $37k. Standard equipment for the Enclave is pretty rich, though. Satellite radio, Bluetooth, power features and cruise control are standard across the line.

Major options include a navigation system, rearview camera, front parking sensors and remote start, along with 19- and 20-inch wheels, a Bose audio system, a head-up display (HUD), 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, just as with the previous trim setup, you can easily push the price of the Enclave to the $50,000 mark.

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2012 Buick Enclave

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage for the 2012 Buick Enclave is unimpressive, but if you take advantage of all the space it's better than it sounds.

Thanks to the transmission's wide span or gear ratios, the 2012 Buick Enclave gets better mileage than most vehicles of this size and weight. But that said, while sedans have been making significant improvements in gas mileage over the past several model years, the Enclave has numbers that might be a little hard to stomach if you're driving solo much of the time--as little as 16/22 mpg, with all-wheel drive.

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Those EPA numbers, even at that, seem a little optimistic based on the real-world observations of our editors along with other review sources. In our last significant stint with a previous mode-year Enclave, we saw an indicated 17 mpg over a mix of conditions.
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July 17, 2016
2012 Buick Enclave AWD 4-Door Premium

Wish it were higher tech

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Loved this car, but the safety options are non existent
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