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Buick’s Enclave raises CUV stakes Specifications

All it takes is a really well-conceived product to revive a brand’s image and concurrently, sales, and in the case of Buick, the new Enclave might just be what’s needed.

It seems that a number of brands are staking their future profitability on SUV cum stationwagon crossovers, but what I like about GM’s new design direction, as an automaker overall, is that most of its new vehicles don’t look like their first cousins in neighbouring brands (or in the case of the Aztek, the progeny of first cousins that got married).

It’s refreshing to see that the new Lambda CUVs hardly look alike at all, with the Enclave the most unique in the litter.

Its curves are plenty, with muscular haunches and dramatic shoulder lines that should be appealing to masculine buyers, plus a certain air of graciousness that no doubt will feel right to women. Its liberal use of chrome is also right for the times, but also pays tribute to Buicks of days gone by when chrome was king and a big Roadmaster’s waterfall grille was about as intimidating as anything smaller than the little bulldog atop the protruding grille on a Mack truck. Countering all the retrospective chrome and stylized portholes are LED head and tail lamps, giving it a modern, upscale presence. One thing’s for sure, the Enclave won’t be confused for a minivan.

This is critically important, of course, being that many from its aforementioned target market will be moving over from family hauling appliances, whether Terrazas or Town & Countrys, to this more engaging form of vehicle.

Buick hopes that the Enclave’s rather large dimensions will make it a good minivan alternative, and after spending some time crawling around inside one on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where it was introduced late in November, and then once again in Detroit, I believe that it will lend well to family hauling duties.

Inside, there are appealing elements to the Enclave Buick’s tufted, overstuffed furniture days are long gone. Complementing what are actually very upscale, perforated leather seating surfaces, Buick has integrated one of the most stimulating interiors to come along in a very long time. It’s all curves and ovoid shapes, the former most apparent in the double-bubble dash top housing an extremely classy instrument package on the left and a circular Tiffany-style analogue clock and vents on the right, atop the centre stack, and the latter seen in the left and right-side vents, plus circles for just about every other gauge and aperture. Bright metal, brushed aluminum and rich woodgrain is everywhere, while the show car featured an attractive two-tone dark gray and tan motif. All the controls are of the new high-quality GM ilk, so premium buyers won’t be put off by shoddy switchgear any longer, and as is usually the case, there are enough goodies onboard to keep even the most ardent early adopter engrossed for weeks on end.

As with most GM vehicles, the Enclave gets a serious audio system… or should I say, the system is not SIRIUS, but rather XM. I’m a giant fan of satellite radio, as those who read often will have grown weary of hearing, having my favourite stations (XM Lucy 54 number one on my chart) programmed into my test cars as soon as I can get my hands on them. GM audio systems are among the easiest to decode as well, which is critical for me as messing with complex electronics was never a passion I’ve held. Enclave buyers will also be able to add GM’s new Personal Audio Link iPod adaptor to the stereo at the time of sale, installed by the dealer, plus an overhead DVD entertainment system with what GM claims to be one of the industry’s largest screens will be available too. The audio system should be nothing less than stimulating, thanks to 10 speakers and Bose 5.1 surround sound dynamics. What else is there? Well, a factory installed remote start is a handy feature, and one that’s almost as useful in cold or hot weather as it is fun in a crowded parking lot when starting it up from 50 feet away. GM nav systems have come a long way in recent years, and making them even more enticing is OnStar Generation 7’s Turn-by-Turn voice-activated navigation, that also includes the Advanced Automatic Crash Notification system, and more. Of course, the Enclave will feature other items common to the up-market midsize segment, such as a rear backup camera, HID headlamps, articulating headlamps for seeing around corners, a power liftgate, a sliding second row seat, a second row console, ultrasonic rear parking assist, power tilt and telescopic steering column, power folding mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, heated windshield washer fluid, heated seats, and a super large sunroof and skylight combination.

While the General has a number of smooth, sophisticated V8s that would suit the Enclave, its powerful, refined 3.6-litre V6 has been given sole duty in the Enclave for the time being; although the fact that the Acadia Denali is getting a V8 means that one for the more upscale Enclave is probably forthcoming. Nevertheless, the V6, making 275 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque, is more V8-like than most rival V6s, and the added fuel savings should be good enough to stop would-be naysayers from complaining. As important for fuel savings, as well as performance, is GM’s new Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission, which in other applications provides liquid smooth shifts and spirited performance. Surprisingly, the robust drivetrain allows the Enclave to tow up to 2,041 kilos (4,500 lbs), which should be good enough for small watercraft, dirt bike trailers and/or snowmobiles.

An all-new fully independent chassis and rack-and-pinion steering system should make the big crossover handle well, as will 18- and 19-inch alloy wheel and tires combinations. GM even has 20-inch packages available at the dealer level, keeping its aftermarket sales in-house. A long wheelbase will smooth out road imperfections too, while adding occupant and cargo room to the seven-person crossover.

Yes, you can haul a driver and six passengers with the new Enclave, with the good news being that the nethermost seats aren’t too challenging for normal-sized adults. Few vehicles in this class are capable of transporting adults in the third row at all, let alone for long distances, but being that GM is dropping its minivans with hopes of pulling such buyers into its CUV range, such details were tantamount.

Those onboard will be grateful GM installed its most advanced safety equipment, starting with four-wheel antilock brakes (with all of the three-letter acronyms), traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, with rollover mitigation, plus a tire pressure monitoring system. Passive considerations include airbags stuffed behind almost every interior panel, including the two up front, of course, plus two inside the front seatbacks, two in the roof rail stretching from front to the very back, the latter pre-triggered by GM’s rollover sensing system, or impact.

Finally, GM backs most everything up with its comprehensive warranty for 48 months or 80,000 kilometers bumper to bumper, and five years, 160,000 kilometers of powertrain coverage.

Do they have a winner? By all counts Enclave prospects look extremely positive, yet only time will tell if Buick will not only be able to hold onto its depleting customer base but also pull in new clients from competing brands.

Price Range (FWD – AWD MSRP): TBA

Body Type: 5-door crossover

Layout: front engine, FWD (opt. AWD)

Engine: 275 hp, 251 lb-ft of torque, 3.6L, DOHC, VVT V6

Transmission: 6-spd auto

Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc with ABS

Curb Weight (FWD-AWD): 2,168 - 2,261 kg (4,780 - 4,985 lbs)

Exterior Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 5,126 / 2,006 / 1,846 / 3,021 mm (201.8 / 79.0 / 72.2 / 118.9 in)

Track (frt/rr); 1,709 mm (67.3 in)

Cargo Volume (behind 3rd row/2nd row/1st row): 535 / 1,911 / 3,291 L (18.9 / 67.5 / 116.2 cu-ft)

Towing Capacity: 2,041 kg (4,500 lbs)

Ground Clearance: 214 mm (8.4 in)

Tires: 255/65R18 (opt. 255/60R19

Turning Radius: 12.3 m (40.4 ft)

Fuel Economy (est. city/hwy): FWD 13.8 / 9.4 L/100 km, AWD 14.7 / 9.8 L/100 km

Warranty (mo/km): 48/80,000 comprehensive - 60/160,000 powertrain

Direct Competitors: BMW X5, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Taurus X, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Veracruz, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz ML350, Mitsubishi Endeavor, Nissan Murano, Mazda CX-9, Saturn Outlook, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Suzuki XL-7, Toyota Highlander

Source: http://www.saanichnews.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=28&cat=46&id=967468&more=
 
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