By Bob Plunkett
Driving down Powers Ferry Road while meandering through Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood, we're stacked in a line of cars waiting for a stoplight switch, engine idling and shifter stick notched to neutral with four 20-inch tires parked on the pavement. The pause in our seat-time cruise around Atlanta in a large and luxurious crossover utility vehicle from the Buick brand of General Motors provides an opportunity to scrutinize the styling of what amounts to one sleek wagon.
A discreet badge on the tailgate spells the wagon's name in shiny chrome letters: E-N-C-L-A-V-E. Looking sharp in a slinky package stretched excessively long and decorated with a chrome-plated prow flashing multi-lens headlamp clusters on corners plus fender blisters rippling around multi-spoke alloy wheels, Buick's CUV seems different from the lot of right-angled and too-tall SUVs.
Its lower body appears substantial and strong like a SUV although the upper section including a narrow wrap of windows with tipped-back windshield and sweeping roofline may be more reminiscent of some classic sports car or even a GT-style coupe. It's clearly a departure from the cube-stacked school of wagon styling. The curvaceous body styling disguises what amounts to a very large vehicle. Full-size passenger compartment contains seats for seven or eight riders with a load of cushy amenities in the mode of a premium luxury car.
The 2010 Enclave appears in two trims -- CX and CXL -- and each stocks electronic traction control (ETC) and GM's electronic stability device, StabiliTrak, with options for FWD or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction. Climb aboard for a drive test and you'll quickly observe that Enclave reveals an impressive quality of quietness in the cabin in terms of reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Enclave's smooth ride quality also compares to a plush sedan, thanks to independent components for both front and rear suspension systems. Enclave exhibits rather agile steering attributes due to the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, and the brakes rig a disc at every wheel with electronic tie to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Passive safety systems are aboard including frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags above outboard seats in all rows. Also on tap is GM's rollover sensing system, dubbed rollover mitigation technology (RMT). It will automatically deploy the side-impact air bags and curtain-style air bags if on-board sensors detect a potential vehicular roll event. The intelligent AWD rig employs a computer and wheel sensors in conjunction with ABS and StabiliTrak to determine how much power to apply to each wheel for maintaining tire traction on wet pavement.
Gear standard on base issue Enclave CX ranges from tri-zone automatic climate controls and power buttons to move windows and door locks and mirrors to auto-on headlamps and daytime running lights, six-way power for the driver's seat, real mahogany on the steering wheel with a leather wrap, power for the rear liftgate, GM's OnStar telecommunications equipment and XM satellite radio. Upgrading to CXL adds treats, like eight-way power for front seats, plus perforated and heated leather seats.
Buick marks the 2010 price chart at $35,200 for Enclave CX FWD and $37,200 for CX AWD. Enclave CXL FWD lists for $38,400 and CXL AWD begins at $40,400.