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LA Auto Show – 2008 Buick Enclave: Tiger Helps Launch Buick's Future

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.

Comfortable, Usable Interior Wrapped in the Latest Safety Features
Even better, GM finally has an interior package chock full of touches that make it more comfortable to live with. Adults can actually use the third-row seat in reasonable comfort. And with significant room behind that third row, you don’t need to put the third row down just to go to the grocery store or on a weekend getaway. One of the nicest elements is the ability to (finally) very easily access the third row, access that can even be managed by the third-row passengers. GM calls the system Smart Slide, and that it is. Pushing a lever on the side of the second-row seats tips the seatback and pushes the seat bottom forward, allowing access to the third row. The lever may be a bit tougher for a small child to manage, but adults no longer need be held hostage in the back, waiting for someone to let them out.


The list of available equipment is also strong, with the Enclave coming in typical Buick CXL and CX trim levels. GM is expanding availability of a voice-activated, touch-screen DVD navigation system (though, if you really want to, you can order OnStar with Turn-by-Turn navigation instead). There are available HID headlights as well as adaptive cornering headlights, a power liftgate, rear-parking assist with video monitor, heated windshield washer fluid, large sunroof for front passengers and skylight for rear, and power liftgate.

Enclave is among the first GM products to get roof-mounted side-impact airbags with rollover sensors. The system uses a combination of rollover and airbag ECMs to communicate the type of impact anticipated and get the appropriate reaction. When the vehicle’s sensors detect a rollover accident, the bags deploy at a slower rate than during a side impact situation, which happens much faster, as well as keeping them deployed just a bit longer. (GM targets 2012MY for equipping the entire range with this type of airbag system; it will be implemented with each product’s next major change.)

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