For sure, Buick is going to move a ton of Enclaves on appearance alone. Okay, maybe the nose is as prominent as Karl Malden's, but this seven-passenger rig knows how to dress for the party.

Under the hood, a DOHC 3.6-liter V-6 delivers a sturdy 275 horses through a six-speed automatic and, on our top-model CXL test car, optional all-wheel drive. For relaxed motoring, the powertrain feels up to the job, revving with a pleasing note and cruising with refinement. Unfortunately, the six has to move around a whopping 5077 pounds, a curb weight topped in our test only by the Land Cruiser. Climbing steep, wriggling Highway 18 to Lake Arrowhead, the Enclave strained (a V-8 is said to be coming in a year or two). Shifting with the electric manual selector helped--and made driving through our handling loop more fun--but the pushbutton is inconveniently mounted on the shift column.

The variable-effort steering telegraphs little in the way of tire information, the engine turns coarse, and the sheer, shifting mass constantly hints that you should be looking for thrills elsewhere--though, in fairness, the Enclave remains poised and holds its line through turns.

The spacious, well-insulated interior is dressed in neatly tailored leather, camphor burled wood trim, and copious electronic conveniences. Worthy of special mention are the brilliant SmartSlide second-row captain's chairs that easily flip completely out of the way for access to the rear bench. This is a cabin worth fighting to ride in.

Given a diet (or more power) and zestier handling moves, this new Buick could be a stronger player.


2008 Buick Enclave
Base price range $32,790-$36,990
Price as tested $44,245 (CXL AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine3.6L/275-hp/251-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5077 lb (55/45%)
Wheelbase 119.0 in
Length x width x height 201.5 x 79.0 x 72.5 in
0-60 mph 8.1 sec
Quarter mile 16.3 sec @ 84.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 124 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.76 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.7 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/22 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.06 lb/mile
Ratings
Engineering ****
Design ****
Interior/Functionality ****
Performance **
On-Road Refinement ****
Off-Road Ability *
Value ***
Bottom Line Refined, roomy, smart-undoubtedly, the best Buick SUV to date.