The Enclave actually looks dramatically different -- and I think better -- than its GMC and Saturn siblings.
What was tested? 2008 Buick Enclave CXL AWD ($37,040).
Options: DVD entertainment package ($4,320), dual skyscape sunroof ($1,300), luxury package ($975).
Price as tested (including $735 destination charge): $44,370
More than any of the other General Motors brands, it doesn't seem to have its own identity. Chevrolet is affordable; Cadillac is luxurious; Pontiac is sporty; GMC is hard-working; Saturn is friendly; and Hummer is homicidal.
But Buick seems to be the neglected stepchild. A Buick is nicer than a Chevy and not as nice as a Cadillac, but beyond that, does it inspire any emotional response other than "I want to be like Tiger Woods?"
It's a fine near-luxury SUV with lots of space and a comfortable ride.
I didn't think so.
Still, Buick exists and -- probably after having taken a backpacking trip in Europe to "find itself" -- has come up with a clearer answer about what it means to be Buick: affordable luxury.
That answer is embodied in the Enclave, a big, roomy SUV that's built like a car and outfitted almost like a Cadillac. It's the latest vehicle to join the Buick lineup, and it shows a refreshing emphasis on style that the copycat Buicks have lacked for years.
For example, the Enclave is built on the same platform as the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. If the Enclave were built in the old days, you could have parked the Buick, GMC and Saturn side by side and seen that they were pretty much identical except for the badges.
Not so today, though. The Enclave actually looks dramatically different -- and I think better -- than its GMC and Saturn siblings. Buick's designers took the time to create something completely different inside and out rather than just slapping on some new stickers and calling it done.
The interior isn't quite as distinctive, but it definitely has a unique style.
Outside, the Enclave has a feline appearance that's daring on such a big vehicle. It's bold. It doesn't reek of bland, design-by-committee styling that I think has ruined some otherwise great Buicks in the past.
The interior isn't quite as distinctive, but it definitely has a unique style. The gauges are lit with light blue highlights, and the soft, neutral colors give it a more inviting feel than the Acadia and Outlook.
When you see the Enclave in pictures, you'll notice it has the same swoopy lines of the small car-based SUVs that are becoming more popular each year. But when you see it in person, you realize the Enclave is on a completely different scale.
It's a full-size SUV with a roomy third-row seat, not one of those medieval torture devices squeezed into the hind end of many of today's mid-size SUVs. It's tall, wide and looks a little bigger than most minivans.
It starts at $33,000 and quickly climbs with each check mark on the options list.
That's not to say the Enclave is cheap. It starts at $33,000 and quickly climbs with each check mark on the options list. Nonetheless, that's thousands cheaper than any of the luxury SUVs it competes with.
It's definitely a good start for remaking Buick. I'm just not sure it's going to be enough to rescue an entire brand from mediocrity.
Pros: It's a fine near-luxury SUV with lots of space and a comfortable ride.
Cons: Some of its interior materials aren't up to true luxury standards.