There was once a time when Buick was synonymous with stodginess—an aging automotive brand out of touch with contemporary luxury car buyers. Then came the Buick Enclave for 2008 model year, a premium mid-size crossover that gave birth to a more exciting, redesigned Buick, providing styling cues that today’s luxury customers demand. So has been the theme of recent Buick entries and revivals, including its latest premium compact entrant, the Buick Verano. And for 2013 model year, Buick has made notable improvements to both Verano and Enclave.
We have now driven all three General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs on the market and the all-new Ford Flex Crossover SUV. While we have had a week apiece in the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, we’ll use the Enclave as the comparison vehicle because it is most recent.
AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards results are in. AutoPacific’s awards collect the opinions of OWNERS. There is no subjectivity added by AutoPacific at all.
Truck-Based Traditional SUVs Most Satisfying
As usual, there are expected winners and unexpected losers, but let’s take a look at some overall results that will surprise many of you.
The vehicle type with the highest Vehicle Satisfaction Score is the Traditional Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are truck-based SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade
, Toyota Sequoia
, Ford Explorer
, Toyota 4Runner
, Kia Sorento
, HUMMER H3
and Toyota FJ Cruiser
. In fact, the Toyota Sequoia was the top scoring vehicle – car or truck – in AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction results.
Car-Based Crossover SUVs More Satisfying than Cars, Minivans, Pickups
The second highest scoring category was the Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are car-based SUVs like the Audi Q7
, BMW X3
, Acura RDX
, Buick Enclave
, GMC Acadia
, Hyundai Veracruz
, Suzuki XL-7
, Ford Edge
, Saturn Vue
, Toyota RAV4
and Nissan Rogue
. Crossovers are the response by the automakers to make more user-friendly SUVs and in 2006 Crossover SUVs began outselling Traditional SUVs… a trend that will not be reversed.
Rated substantially behind SUVs are Cars, Minivans and Pickups.
Clearly, even in times of high and increasing fuel prices, SUVs are here to stay. Their Swiss Army Knife utility guarantees they will be a central part of a high many family fleets in the future. The continuing jihad against SUVs has failed again!
Editor’s Note: Traverse may be the most significant new vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show. The highest volume of the four General Motors Lambda Large Crossover SUVs, Traverse pickups the positive styling cues of the Enclave’s haunches and adds Chevrolet’s front end styling. GM design definitely did not dumb down the styling of the Traverse. With the Buick so fully-featured and having loads of special enhancements to handle noise vibration and harshness, hopefully Traverse gets more than its fair share.
‘s 2008 Chicago auto show
star, the Traverse, is the brand’s answer to changing consumer demands, as buyers gravitate toward car-based SUVs and more and more prioritize fuel efficiency over SUV image. If you need the towing or off-road capability of a traditional truck-based SUV, Chevy will still offer Tahoe, Suburban, and Avalanche. If you need a comfortable, stylish, and relatively efficient non-minivan family car, Chevy will offer the Traverse late in 2008. The Traverse Vehicle Line Executive enlisted the help of her four kids and husband in introducing the vehicle, proving the people and stuff-hauling benefits of Traverse. Chevrolet will eventually give up on the mid-size, truck-based TrailBlazer, as buyers are already doing.
Based on the same platform as the Buick Enclave
, GMC Acadia
, and Saturn Outlook
, the Traverse is quite large. It offers a longer wheelbase than the latest Tahoe and is wider and nearly as long. The size pays off in plenty of space, but it feels small on the road, offers more in terms of family comfort, and is cheaper to fuel than TrailBlazer or Tahoe. Though GM never quite got competitive with minivans, Traverse will be a satisfying family product. The Traverse and its siblings are the right products at the right time. Still, while giving up the TrailBlazer for the Traverse was a bold move when the decision was taken, by time the Traverse arrives on market, Chevy doesn’t look so much brave as keeping up.
No matter how it got here, Chevrolet is adding a good-looking product. The Traverse sports a clearly Chevrolet face and a profile more like the Enclave than Acadia and Outlook, to Chevrolet’s benefit. As a follow-up to the latest Malibu, Chevrolet is proving they are going to provide us with more stylish, as well as affordable and practical, family transportation going forward. With recent introductions of the Tahoe and Silverado hybrids, Corvette ZR1, and upcoming Camaro, there’s also no doubt Chevrolet will remain a full-line make and more dedicated to getting products right than ever before.
Best of Show
You always go to an autoshow with the hope that there will be a truly outstanding example there. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific’s eight staffers at the 2008 North American International Auto Show were extremely impressed with the Lincoln MKT concept vehicle.
A vehicle we will call a Crossover SUV, the MKT is in many ways similar to General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs and especially the Buick Enclave. The thing that makes MKT special is its exterior styling which uses all six Lincoln design cues
(although they say seven at the show, Peter Horbury, Ford’s head designer in North America says he only really uses six) which are critical to the definition of a Lincoln design. Wow, this thing is beautiful. From the bow wave grille to the relatively fast rear end treatment, MKT comes across as a premium, substantial vehicle worthy of carrying the Lincoln badge.
Not only is the exterior stunning, the interior carries on new Lincoln cues which are very upscale, contemporary and modern. A four passenger concept with no pretense at transporting seven passengers, the MKT is decked out like a luxury business jet.
Only Thing Wrong… The Name
A few years back, Ford made the unfortunate error of renaming Lincoln vehicles with alphanumeric names – MKZ (Zephyr), MKX (Aviator), MKS (Continental), and now MKT. Another great concept is the MKR flagship sedan. Better with a real name. Only the Navigator and Town Car have not succumbed to this folly. I guess MKT means Lincoln “Truck”. No, it’s really “Touring”… guess that fits better. Well, MKT certainly ain’t no truck. It’s really special and deserves better… a name.
[Even Mark Fields, Ford’s President of North American Operations, botched up the name of the MKS when he introduced it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He first said “MKX”. If Ford’s biggies can’t keep ’em straight, think about salespeople at Lincoln dealerships and prospective buyers].
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV is Base for MKT
Based on Ford Flex (Ford Crossover SUV to be launched in mid-2008) underpinnings, MKT is powered by Ford’s 3.5L Twin Turbo GDI EcoBoost V6. This should give it enough punch to qualify as a high performance Crossover. In the MKT the 3.5L V6 has 415-horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
Only A Concept – Get them to Build It
In discussions with Ford design management, there was no confirmation that the MKT – codenamed D472 – has been approved for production. In fact, the designers contend that the MKT design has not even been proven feasible. The front fenders and rear quarters have a very crisp blade on the upper surface that would be practically impossible to stamp out of metal. MKT uses plastic to get around that particular problem.
In any event, write, email, telephone Ford to convince them to produce the MKT. If they give the vehicle the go ahead, we could expect to see it in 2010 as a 2011 model year vehicle.
Ford’s press release on the Lincoln MKT Concept is below the fold.
• • • • •
General Motors has now completed the launch of its Lambda platform Large Crossover SUVs. The Lambda platform includes vehicles from Saturn – the Outlook, GMC – the Acadia (not ARcadia) and Buick – the Enclave). Eventually, a Chevrolet version will be added as well.
Buick Enclave – First Drive
These are the landmark vehicles that represent the end of the classic body-on-frame V8 powered SUV. They are that good.
I just returned from a driving event for the recently introduced Buick Enclave in St. Louis, Missouri. When I got into the office there was a Saturn Outlook in the parking lot for the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staff to evaluate. Great opportunity for a back to back comparison of two Lambda crossovers. This story will concentrate on the Enclave – a future story will showcase the Outlook.
First, lets talk about the Buick. This is a vehicle that I have been waiting to drive for two years now. I think I have been to three events where Enclave was a featured subject, but this was the first opportunity I have had to drive it. Why was I looking forward to the Enclave? From my perspective it is a good size, has expressive styling inside and out, and is an example of the latest General Motors platform architecture.
Was it what I was expecting? Yeah, I guess so. First, I had to calibrate myself to the fact that the Enclave is a BUICK and what General Motors was attempting to achieve when they developed the vehicle. They wanted a vehicle with Buick ambiance – expressive, upscale styling inside and out. They wanted a spacious crossover capable of seating seven or eight passengers in three rows of seats. It was to have excellent ergonomics and be very pleasant to drive. It was to be very quiet. Check the boxes and the Lambda design and development team appears to have achieved their objectives.
The Saturn Outlook is a large Crossover SUV based on the General Motors’ Lambda platform. The Lambda platform is shared with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia and also with an upcoming Chevrolet large Crossover.
Has GM Nailed Crossover SUV Execution?
First, you might be asking “what is a Crossover SUV”? For years, we at VehicleVoice have been avoiding using the “crossover” word because, frankly, our research shows that consumers are not yet using the term widely. In our eyes, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. Our chief industry oracle, Jim Hall, always referred to Crossovers as “mongrelhalfbreedbastards”. But, with vehicles like the Outlook hitting the market we’ve decided to use the Crossover moniker.
Basically, a Crossover SUV takes the basic SUV theme and civilizes it. SUV drivers have for decades been asking for more maneuverable, more economical, more easy to live with SUVs. Crossover SUVs are the answer and the GM Lambda vehicles are the latest examples of Crossover SUV design and execution. We think GM has pretty well nailed it.
Pricing Makes Outlook a Persuasive Proposition
The Saturn Outlook XR that we evaluated is a mid-priced model listing at about $33,250. When you check the boxes you really want – like all wheel drive and a navigation system the price slips over $41,000. When you check ALL the boxes and add a moonroof and rear seat entertainment system you can touch $45,000. For a Saturn!
While you might think that is a high price, the base, base, base price of the FWD Outlook XE (the lower model) is about $28,000 including destination. This puts it mid-way between the base price of a Ford Explorer and Expedition. Given that Outlook is about the size of a Chevrolet Tahoe – priced about $4,000 more with a V8, the Saturn looks like a good deal.
General Motors is rolling out three new crossover SUVs that share an all-new, purpose-built platform. GM has called this platform Lambda for internal purposes. The Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are on sale now and the Buick Enclave arrives in summer 2007 as a 2008MY vehicle. These crossover SUVs are taking on not only traditional and crossover mid-size SUVs but also full-size SUVs and minivans due to their large size and dimensions (they are nearly as large as the Chevrolet Tahoe). They do not have the towing capability of truck-based SUVs, but do have the other attributes for which buyers go to SUVs, or minivans. They have high seating positions, available AWD, and interiors big enough to hold seven passengers or lots of stuff.
Following the roll-out of the Lambda crossover SUVs, General Motors will kill their conventional minivans (similar to Ford’s strategy of killing the Monterey and Freestar minivans). The Pontiac Montana SV6 is already history and its demise will be followed by the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Oh, yeah, Chevrolet will get a Lambda Crossover SUV in the next year or so as well.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice analysts have been included in the reviews of these critically important General Motors vehicles.
General Motors describes their current state as an interior renaissance, and these products are examples of smart interior thinking. They include a level of interior detail not before seen from the General. As these products were developed with a clean slate, new platform, new interiors, new powertrain, GM took the opportunity to make sure they will be easy to live with.
The second- and third-row folding operations are simple and easy to use and the overall package is terrific. One could buy any one of these vehicles and spend the life of the vehicle discovering all the little things that will add up to a product that enhances and eases daily life. It’s taken GM a very long time to get to such a solid package design, but they have finally succeeded.
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The Los Angeles International Auto Show opened it’s doors to the general public today. For those of you who are saying, ‘What a minute! It’s not January yet!’, don’t worry. You haven’t lost a month somewhere. The L.A. Auto Show opened a month earlier than usual this year. They’ve had the change of date in the works for years now. The old January time table had them overlapping with the Detroit Auto Show, and nobody liked that very much. The earlier show time has them in the unique position of debuting a record number of new models. And one of those models was the new Buick Enclave, which was introduced to the world (and our intrepid VehicleVoice panel of experts) Wednesday.
AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Consultant Jim Hossack thinks the new crossover could be a hit, but it’s probably not going to take over a traditional demographic Buick is gunning for. Jim brings us the first of no less than a dozen pieces from the 2006 L.A. Auto Show.
Show Runtime – 1:29
At the legendary car-designer school, Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, California, and with the assistance of legendary golfer and Buick spokesperson Tiger Woods, GM boss Rick Wagoner introduced Buick‘s next big thing. And big it is. Nearly as long as a Tahoe, Buick’s Enclave is one direction for the future of crossover SUVs and people movers in this country. With seats for seven or eight, standard front-drive and optional all-wheel-drive, and contemporary styling, the Enclave has what it takes to bring the brand into the modern automotive market. The production Enclave takes a look very close to the concept introduced at the Detroit auto show in January this year (click here), to our view a very good thing.
While the relatively new LaCrosse and Lucerne have more to offer in dynamics and style than Buick sedans of the late 1990s, they follow the same, generations-old family sedan formula. It is more difficult to create buzz or change the image of Buick dramatically by bringing out a new four-door sedan. And Buick’s first attempts at SUVs seemed at best afterthoughts. Buick’s Rendezvous, a Pontiac Aztek-based ungainly entry, almost had what it took. Then came Rainier, a version of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy. Rainier is a decent mid-size SUV, but it launched well after its siblings and isn’t significantly different from the competition.
Enter Enclave, driven tonight through a purpose-built wall by Woods and Wagoner. Enclave gives Buick a chance to bust out of the doldrums in the SUV and crossover SUV landscape with a stylish, usable, and modern entry. Buick’s General Manager Steve Shannon describes the Enclave as “the new face of Buick and everything we want in future Buicks.” We haven’t driven Enclave yet, but it promises to offer driving dynamics tuned for real-world use. This means solid acceleration and passing power and the capability to handle dirt roads and inclement weather as well as the ubiquitous mall parking lot. Power is from a 275HP 3.6L V6, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which should give even this heavy product reasonable oomph. Buick is hoping consumer reaction is as strong as that of the media, who flocked around the vehicle as soon as the formal presentation was over.