Pros: Eight-passenger seating; spacious cargo area; fuel efficiency; upscale interior; plush ride; stylish appearance
Cons: Relatively low towing capacity; poor rear visibility; difficult to maneuver in tight spots

The 2012 Buick Enclave is many things at once. It's large, accommodating, luxurious, stylish, fuel-efficient and practical. For those in need of a premium family hauler, there may be no more ideal choice. Not only does it offer seating for eight, a carlike ride and functionality that's only second to a minivan, the Enclave is also a status symbol suitable for a night on the town (without the kids). The only things it won't do well is tow a big boat or go crawling up the side of mountain.  

The Enclave is built on the same General Motors unibody architecture as the Chevrolet Traverse and the GMC Acadia. In a short time, all three have built reputations as capable people movers. But, whereas the Acadia takes on a more trucklike personality and the Traverse assumes the role of a well-rounded everyday runner, the Enclave is the most upscale. It isn't quite at the caliber of Lexus or Mercedes, but it's not far off from those marks. And for the price, it may be the best near-luxury value play among all large utilities.  

For 2012, the Enclave's three trim levels have been consolidated into one model with a choice of different option packages. Newly added standard features include hill hold assist and a brake override system.

With its comfortable cabin and wide array of amenities, the 2012 Buick Enclave is a sensible choice for executive families of five or more.

Comfort & Utility

The Enclave's airy and refined seven- or eight-passenger cabin is its most impressive attribute. Touting soft-touch materials and excellent fit and finish, this interior is both elegant and well crafted. Its classic-looking wood-splashed dash features finely designed gauges and controls.

The front seats are comfortable, supportive and well shaped, intended to minimize fatigue even after long journeys. But the second row is the truly heroic seating. Not only does it offer two- or three-passenger configurations and an abundance of head- and legroom, it also comes equipped with flip-up cushions and the ability to slide forward, making access to the third row a breeze. Although the third-row seat can accommodate a pair of adults, it is much better suited for two or even three kids. 

In terms of cargo space, the Enclave affords more room and versatility than most large SUVs. While the second row bench is a 60/40 split, the third row folds 50/50, maximizing the Enclave's flexibility to haul multiple combinations of people and things. For hauling, both rows can be folded flat to create an expansive cargo floor. When the third row is upright, there are still enough cubes behind it for two to three pieces of luggage. And all of this area is accessible via an oversize hatch with remote capabilities.

The Enclave offers four separate trim packages, bringing an array of content and convenience features. The base model includes tri-zone climate control, a power liftgate, power-adjustable front seats and a six-speaker stereo. To this, the Convenience Package adds remote vehicle start and a backup-camera system. The Leather Package, as its name suggests, offers leather upholstery all around, along with heated front seats. The range-topping Premium Group adds cooling front seats, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and a high-end 10-speaker sound system. Stand-alone options include dual sunroofs and a large second-row center console.

Overall, the Enclave is a plush and well-equipped vessel with the ability to meet most large-family requirements.

Technology 

The Enclave offers a number of useful tech features. The base model brings Bluetooth connectivity. The second-tier Convenience Group includes a backup-camera system and parking sensors, both useful features for a vehicle this size, especially when steering through a crowded parking lot. The Leather Group doesn't add any relevant electronics, but Premium trim adds a USB interface in conjunction with its premium stereo. Notable stand-alone features are navigation and a rear DVD system for occupying second and third-row passengers during long drives.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The front- or all-wheel drive Buick Enclave is outfitted with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Energy is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission with gears well spaced to optimize power delivery and efficiency. The Enclave's maximum towing capacity is 4500 pounds.

Government fuel economy for the Enclave is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Safety

Occupant protection comes from six airbags, including three-row head curtains and GM's OnStar telematics.

The Enclave is also equipped with ABS, traction control and stability control. These systems, in tandem with optional all-wheel drive, are highly effective in keeping the Enclave balanced and planted despite hard corners and difficult weather conditions.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Buick Enclave, like its GM large-crossover brethren, delivers a nice, relaxed and carlike ride. It is, above everything else, comfortable. And thanks to Buick's sound-deadening efforts, this ride is free of most noise created by wind, road and tires.

The Enclave's crossover architecture allows it to exhibit more precision and agility than a similarly sized SUV. Its overall dynamics feel secure and confident. That said, the Enclave is still a large and heavy vehicle, and must be managed like one. Its size can become an issue on small city streets or crowded parking lots. Furthermore, this crossover's poor rear visibility makes these driving venues even more challenging.

The Enclave is not really intended for trail riding or mud running. It lacks the trucklike edge for these sorts of activities. However, being equipped with either 19- or 20-inch wheels makes the Enclave capable of taking on the harshest on-road conditions that Mother Nature can conjure.

Powerwise, the Enclave has good off-the-line acceleration but can use some extra horsepower for when it's loaded down with passengers and cargo or when it's pulling a trailer.

Other Cars to Consider

Acura M: Offers more convenience and technology features but less overall space for passengers and cargo. The MDX's all-wheel-drive system is more sophisticated than that of the Enclave.

Volvo XC90: The Enclave is much more spacious than the XC90, all the way back to the third row. It also feels more athletic and nimble compared with the XC90's heavy, trucklike maneuverability. But the Volvo wins hands down on all safety-related concerns.

Ford Flex: The Ford Flex offers a better balance of upscale and modern, providing more amenities and tech features. But the Enclave is a more spirited handler. Both vehicles enjoy well-designed passenger configurations and cargo capabilities.

AutoTrader Recommends

We think the best Enclave is the second-tier Convenience Package model. It tacks on just the right features (like a much needed rear-view camera) to the already well-equipped base Enclave. The top two trims (Leather and Premium) bring some over-the-top amenities that needlessly push the price up. We would steer clear of these. However, go ahead and opt for the stand-alone navigation and rear DVD systems. These are absolutely worth the extra price. Cold-climate buyers, be sure to arm yourself with all-wheel drive.

author photo

Shamit Choksey has a love for automobiles that worked into an early career writing and developing cop shows for network television. Later, diving even further into the world of wheels, he became a writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated PBS/Discovery Channel series "MotorWeek." These days, Shamit lives in Southern California, serving as a media consultant and journalist within the automotive industry. Incidentally, his wife and two sons are not impressed by any of this.

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