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2012 Buick Enclave Review

 

2012 Buick Enclave
By Glen Woodcock, Toronto Sun

 

Buick hopes to change fortunes from Enclave

 

The 2012 Buick Enclave is the latest version of the vehicle that helped save the company and restore its reputation. Consider this:

 

* Buick was the nameplate Billy Durant used as the keystone to create General Motors back in 1908.

 

* For many years Buick was the car you aspired to own if you couldn’t quite swing the cash for a Cadillac (or didn’t want people to know you could). Back then, Buick was known as “the doctor’s car” because it was a favourite with MDs who didn’t want to be seen making house calls in a Caddy.

 

However, like home visits by your family physician, by the turn of this century Buick seemed a thing of the past. Sales were declining and now it was seen as an old man’s car. Buick had three wheels in the grave and nobody expected the brand to survive.

 

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery. China passed the U.S. as the world’s biggest automobile market – and the Chinese love Buicks. In fact they top the sales charts in that country.

 

Partly because of that, Buick survived GM’s great blood-letting of 2008 that saw the demise of Pontiac and Saturn, and set about reinventing itself as a premium brand that would appeal to younger buyers.

 

Enclave was at the forefront of that movement, coming online in 2007 as a 2008 model, when the average age of a new Buick buyer was 65.

 

It was hailed for its refinement, beautifully crafted interiors and handsome exterior lines. And the new 2012 Enclave is the best yet with 13 more horsepower and an OnStar app that allows you remotely activate and check some vehicle functions.

 

The handsome exterior flows smoothly from front to back with styling cues inspired by notable Buicks of the past – the massive grille that reminds me of Roadmasters from the late 1940s and a stylized version of the famous portholes of the 1950s.

 

Enclave comes in front-wheel or all-wheel drive in three trim levels starting at $43,750. Our test vehicle is a mid-line CXL with AWD and starts at $51,750. As tested, its MSRP is $58,875. At that price it lacks very little in the way of modern conveniences.

 

All Enclaves are powered by a 3.5-litre direct-injected DOHC V6 that makes 288 hp at 6,300 rpm. The only transmission is GM’s proven six-speed automatic with overdrive, completing a powertrain that is notable for its smooth operation.

 

A smooth ride and precise handling are also part of every Enclave, thanks to four-wheel independent suspension and, on our model, intelligent all-wheel drive.

 

Enclave is also relatively quick for a unit weighing 2,265 kg, with the ability to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 7.5 seconds.

 

But Enclave’s real hallmark is the interior – rich and luxurious in its design and use of leather and wood trim, but also family friendly. Many seven-passenger SUVs or crossovers have a rear seat that’s difficult to access but not Enclave – its centre row captain’s chairs have a gap between them to allow easier access to the optional third row. Unlike most of its kind, for large families it really is a fashionable alternative to the minivan.

 

And our tester has a killer entertainment system that will keep mom, dad and the kids all happy.

 

Enclave also has great cargo space: 657 litres with the rear seat upright; 1.912 litres when it’s folded and a cavernous 3,265 litres when both second and third rows are folded.

 

Our tester even has the optional trailer tow package, which expands its usefulness by giving it the ability to pull up to 2,041 kg – the weight of a loaded dual horse trailer.

 

Buick Enclave sales have risen steadily, from 27,286 in 2007 to 55,246 in 2010; and with Buick solidly on the comeback trail, I expect that trend to continue.

 

 

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