Latest Industry News

2008 Buick Enclave – Top Line GM Lambda Crossover SUV

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.
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.


Buick Enclave – First Drive
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.

Enclave – Best Buick Styling in a Decade
I can’t remember a recent Buick with styling I have liked more than the Enclave. While being a rolling box appropriate of a Crossover SUV, Enclave adopts expressive styling with appropriate Buick design cues. It looks strong, upscale and very Buick with its vertical bar grille and blue rimmed projector headlamps.
Interior Nicely Done
Except for not having cooled seats, the Enclave interior is a homerun. Ingress/egress is excellent. You don’t have to duck your head like in the Audi Q7/Volkswagen Touareg we had a couple of weeks back. The driver and front passenger seating is spacious. The seats are comfortable and supportive – from Johnson Controls. The 2nd row seats are comfortable and there is excellent knee room. Makes a nice five-passenger wagon/SUV.


Visibility from the driver’s seat is good with only a short hood to peer over. The A-Pillars are designed to minimize their obstruction with your view.
The instrument panel ergonomics is excellent whether you have the GM navigation system or the new style GM “bowtie” radio system. The instrument cluster uses blue lighting for an upscale ambiance. Even a typical Buick driver (over 65) could read the fonts – there is good contrast as well. The center mounted round clock is a distinctive feature – moving the Buick upscale from its more pedestrian Saturn and GMC stablemates.
I would have preferred side-by-side cupholders, but the Enclave has fore and aft cupholders on the passenger side of the center console. Also, going against our druthers, the vehicle had a console mounted shifter that eliminates ‘stuff” space in the middle of the vehicle.
GM’s Philosophy on Three Rows Only – No Five Passenger Version
Anna Kretz, the Lambda Platform Vehicle Line Executive, described the target buyer as a “family” with one or two children or grandchildren. While the Enclave is designed to satisfy that group, it was interesting they avoided talking about empty nesters who will never have kids occupying the third row seat. My thought is that the Enclave is perfect for an empty nester couple… kind of a replacement for the old 6-passenger sedan (Buick LeSabre).

Enclave Has Excellent Cargo Swallowing Capability
Anna Kretz, using newly appointed Tool of Management James Bell publisher of as a demonstrator, showed the capability of Enclave to handle different cargo configurations. She and James compared Enclave’s capabilities with that of the new Acura MDX. Of course, Enclave won. And perhaps its sufficient to say that yes, you can carry four sets of golf clubs behind the second row of seats in the Enclave. Just what Tiger (Woods) would order.

Quiet Tuning – Attention to Detail Helps NVH

The Enclave is a very quiet vehicle. GM engineers used “Quiet Tuning” techniques to block, absorb or reduce (BAR) unwanted noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH). While sharing production processes and many components with the Acadia and Outlook, Buick gets a few extra dollops of BAR features like specific engine mounts, specifically built Michelin tires for the CXL, perforated acoustic leather seating. These plus other upgrades make Enclave a very quiet environment for touring or talking.
Driving the Enclave
With its 275HP 3.6L V6 engine, the Enclave has OK performance. I’d rate it above sedate, but below exciting. Punch the V6 and it will get up and go, but not without effort. After all it’s pulling around 4780-pounds in FWD form and 4985-pounds when equipped with all wheel drive. So, Enclave is a heavyweight, but it still gets pretty good fuel economy with its 6-speed automatic transmission – 16/24 with FWD and 16/22 with AWD. So, neck snapping acceleration is not what the Enclave is all about. It’s about a pleasant driving experience. Nothing untoward, please.
Enclave handling is excellent for a vehicle its size. It handles like a much smaller vehicle. Handling is flat. Ride is controlled. Ride is not harsh. Easy to drive. Gee, it seems that GM has been listening to what SUV owners have been asking for for the past 25 years.
What Would We Have Done Differently?
No vehicle is perfect of course. There are always nitpicks. As mentioned at the beginning, I would definitely have cooled seats as part of the feature set – a California/Sun Belt bias. I would have mounted the screen for the navigation system higher in the sight line. Right now, in my most humble opinion, a person has to look too much down and to the right to see the screen when driving. I would have a five-passenger version in both CX and CXL trim levels. I would have a power operated 3rd row seat for those who want three rows of seats. I might tone down the taillamp surrounds – they border on being overdone.
Our strongest request is for GM to launch an Enclave Super – a V8 powered Lambda Crossover SUV. Early on, GM showed Enclave concepts with four portholes on the side of the hood. Of course, this implies that Enclave would have a V8. GM has been much more cagey of late saying that a V8 is possible, but not planned.
But if these are the only bitches, then GM has done a very credible job with the Enclave and the other Lambda entries.
Pricing Knocks Competition into the Weeds – Great Values!
The base price of the Enclave is a bit under $33,000 and as I would equip it comes in around $41,000. Remember, we have been writing about Q7 ($68,000), Touareg ($47,000) and XC90 ($54,000) as they were equipped for our evaluation. At $41,000 or thereabouts – starting $8,000 lower for a CX model with nice equipment, the Enclave represents a huge value. I guess by checking all the boxes you could touch $45,000 with it, but still the Euro Crossovers pale in comparison.
Oh, yeah, go to the websites for Enclave and Outlook and comparably equip them. The Buick MSRP is ONLY $121 more than the Saturn the way I would equip them. Wow! Saturn is now as premium a brand as Buick?


  • Stan Phillips| September 2, 2008 at 9:02 am

    I find the acceleration and lack of acceleration when going around another car a slow to moderate speed can be dangerous. Its either the engine or the transmission which is not responding when you punch the gas pedal. Not a all a smooth acceleration. Hope the correct the problem and will cover under warranty. I have had mine in twice now and they say they make adustments as approved by GM. Not sure what the adjustments are to.??
    Stan Phillips, Palm Harbor, Florida.

  • Stan Hache| February 20, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I am the proud owner of a new Silver colored – black interior Enclave CXL. I have had a lot of pretty outstanding cars in my life and never have I gotten so many compliments as I have with this ride. GM has bellied up to the bar and I don’t know of a car this size on the road that is this enjoyable to drive. Let’s get with the program and applaud GM instead of nit-picking.

  • kbeal| October 15, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    don’t listen to this one guy. i for one, and i know many others, like the enclave very much. Job well done. I would love a v8 or high output v6 tho. thx, and keep on building the “gooods”

  • Ash Majumdar| August 6, 2007 at 7:46 am

    Mr Lutz:
    I have always been a die-hard fan of yours. And I agree whole heartedly for the strategy that you have set for GM. There is one comment that you had made which I do not see any execution on. You had said that
    “Pontiac and Buick are damaged brands”
    I think they are 2 extra brands that General Motors can do without. Pontiac should be scratched and I will like to create a New Chevrolet line called “Chevrolet Redline”. These should include all the Chevy Sportscars with lead by the Corvette.”
    The Enclave is just overbearing. The Buick logo is too big, excessive chrome. The chrome bands are too wide. On the contrary the execution on the GMC version has been on the Money, tastefull, aggressive…just right. Buick keeps missing the mark, not to mention the old geyser image. It makes no sense to me having 3 brands of the same vehicle. Given that I have not looked up the true sales. I do not however think that the sales will hit DRI volume forecast. There should have been only two versions of this vehicle. A Cadillac and a GMC version.
    Now, Let’s take Toyota, with just 2 key lines Lexus and Toyota they do a great job beating every car company in sales.
    Mr. Lutz, You killed the overdesigned GM Styling making it once again a car enthusiast want a GM car. The ugly interior is replaced with a classy and elegant Delphi black tie radio.
    Reducing GM brands and hiring a solid Marketing team should make GM vehicles #1 again.

Back to top