AN ENCORE FOR THE ENCLAVE
Published on Thu, Sep 30, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Bill Wright A few months ago, I wrote about being in a Buick Enclave briefly and the occupants commenting that “it wasn’t bad, for a GM product.” Having had the opportunity to spend more time with the vehicle, I can report that my previous comment sold the Enclave short. When one is in need of a large vehicle, seating for up to seven people, with generous room for luggage, the Enclave is far beyond “not bad”. It is, in fact, a helluva car. I generally make allowances for how people movers (minivans, crossovers, large SUVs) look. After all, it’s function that counts: how many bodies can it hold, how much stuff can it pack, etc. However, the Enclave is actually quite attractive, both inside and out. The trim level for our test vehicle is the top-of-the-line CXL-2. Whatever you might be looking for, this one has it all, from 19-inch wheels down below to a power sunroof with back seat skylight above, and a long list of goodies in between. Among them, the standouts for me are satellite radio, the USB port, heated and air-conditioned front seats, a Bose sound system, and the ultrasonic rear parking assist/rearview camera system. Also helpful when hauling a lot of folks are the three-zone climate control and the DVD rear seat entertainment system.
My interest in Buicks was piqued a few years back when high performance V-6 engines became the mainstay of its fleet. When I was a much younger red-blooded American male, I held the belief that bigger is always better when it comes to automotive engines—or, as they used to say, “there’s no substitute for cubic inches.” Back then, however, efficiency was never the issue, fuel was cheap, and we loved our cubic inches (remember the line of GM’s 460-472 cubic inch motors?). Well, they say that with age comes wisdom, and I guess that applies to GM as well as o aging re-blooded Americans. I spend a great deal of in Europe, where cars (and the associated engines) are smaller, and SUV’s the size of the Enclave are rare. I pay an average of $6.00/gal to put fuel into my Euro car (a 1.9-liter diesel), so I have become a little more attentive to the efficiency of whatever is under the hood.
The 3.6L SIDI V6 under the Enclave’s hood puts out 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This power is channeled to the wheels via a six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode and it is enough to move the Enclave sprightly down the road. This vehicle isn’t really set up to win any awards at the drag strip, but it will get quickly up to speed while getting on a highway—and passing other cars is not a problem. At 4780 pounds, the Enclave is no lightweight ballerina. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the idea of taking it on a trip anywhere. The EPA rates the Enclave at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway (19 combined). In the six days (and many miles) that I drove the vehicle, I can report with more than a little surprise that my numbers are more in the range of 19 in the city and 28 on the highway (22 combined). Oddly, when viewed through the prism of real world math, the Enclave is actually cheaper to drive than my little diesel in Sweden. In Sweden, I get 36 mpg in combined driving while paying $6.00 per gallon, so it costs me $6.00 to drive 36 miles. The Enclave averages 22 mpg in combined driving while paying around $2.95 per gallon. This means it cost me $4.83 to drive 36 miles in the Enclave. I am surprised that my European wife is (for the most part) positive in her assessment of the Enclave. The only real negative in her mind (and this applies to a lot of vehicles) is the lack of a grab handle above the passenger window. I realize that Buick would respond, “there is a grab-handle in front of the front seat passenger.” I have to agree with the Missus that Buick’s idea of a handle (probably intended for clambering in and out of the vehicle) is in an awkward position; to be of any use, one has to have the seat so far forward that your knees are up under your chin.
Around town, the Enclave, like most SUVs, feels large. But visibility from the driver’s seat is not bad, and the aforementioned parking aids help a lot when maneuvering in tight quarters. Out on the highway is where one really appreciates what the Enclave is all about. For long distance stretches on the Interstate, it is truly a nice ride. The steering has a nice feel and isn’t too soft, even in the twisties, as was observed on a very winding mountain road in the wine (and beer) country of California. State Hwy 175, heading east out of Hopland in Mendocino County over the Hopland Grade is considered to be one of the most crooked roads in California, and is a good place to get a feel for how well any car or motorcycle handles. (The local wineries include Fetzer, Milano and McDowell among others. Hopland, by the way, is the birthplace of Mendocino Brewing Company of Red Tail Ale fame.) Would I want one of these in my driveway?” In the case of the Enclave, the answer is a qualified yes. I say ‘qualified’, because my wife and I are empty nesters, and we don’t really need this sort of hauler. But, on the other hand, as an RBA (red-blooded American), it’s nice to know that you’ll always have room in the Enclave. If there is a discouraging word to be spoken in all of this, it’s the price: 50 big ones ($48,905.00, as tested). On the other hand, Buick sees the competition as being the Acura MDX, the Lexus RX350, and the Volvo XC90. Compared to those three, the pricing is commensurate. For more information about Buick products, go to buick.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: 2010 Buick Enclave CXL-2 FWD Price: $48,905.00, as tested EPA fuel economy rating: 17 mpg City/ 24 mpg Highway Engine: 3.6L SIDI V-6 Horsepower: 288 @ 6300 rpm Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm Drive Configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6T75 - Six speed automatic with manual shift control Wheels: 19-inch chrome clad Dimensions Length: 201.5 in/5118mm Width: 79 in/2006mm Height: 72.5 in/1842mm Curb weight; 4780 pounds