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Buick Enclave Competition
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Buick Enclave CXL

The 2009 Buick Enclave CXL comes out to play. enlarge.

16 September 2008     Top of Enclave Review     More Car Reviews

These are my own fast comparisons. If you're shopping, ignore me and follow your heart.


Mercedes GL450 (About $65,000)        top

We almost bought a Mercedes GL450 (see my incomplete Mercedes GL450 Review.)

The Enclave feels about the same size and weight as the GL450. The GL450 was faster if you're drag racing, but otherwise, from what I remember a year ago, the Enclave feels and drives very similarly with the exception of the dynamics expected between the AWD of the GL450 and FWD of the Enclave.

I'm a huge Mercedes fan, not just for the vehicles, but for the very high level of dealer and manufacturer service and support. If you get stuck 25 years from now out in the middle of nowhere, Mercedes will still most likely send out a dedicated technician to get you going. BMW and Lexus have no roadside help for anyone, except for the first few years of ownership when you'll never need it, Mercedes supports roadside assistance forever (so far).

If you want fuel economy, get the GL320 turbo, which for about $60,000, gets an EPA-rated 18/24 MPG.

The GL450 is made in Alabama.


BMW X5 4.8 V8 (about $60,000)       top

The BMW X5 has a third-row seat, but it's too small for adults. It almost drives like a real vehicle, not like a FWD minivan as does the Enclave, but if you want a real car, buy a real car or station wagon like the discontinued BMW 540 wagon or Mercedes E63 wagon.

The X5 V8 is smaller; 191.1" long, and weighs a little more (5,335 pounds). It feels that way: it's stronger and more solid. If I was running errands around town, I'd rather be in an X5 V8 than a minivan.

The rear seats have only the legroom of a compact car, and the 3rd row seats, new for the 2007 X5, are strictly for midgets.

BMW also make a wimpier 6-cylinder X5, which is what most people looking at an Enclave would be considering, at about $50,000. Even the 6-cylinder X5 is rated to accelerate to 60 MPH a little faster than the Enclave (7.8 seconds), but no one's buying an Enclave to take it to the track Saturday night. On the other hand, the Enclave I tested was better than expected by its specifications, so I'd give them even money at the track.

The X5 is made in South Carolina.


Lexus RX 350 (also about $40,000)        top

GM says that it considers the RX350 a competitor. Really? The RX350 is only half the size! The Enclave could eat an RX350! I see no similarities except in price. The RX350 lacks a row of seats, weighs 1,000 pounds less, and is over a foot shorter (186").

It's been a year since I drove one, but as I recall the RX350 drove like a soft, squishy terd. It was worthless and weak. The interior was nasty silver-painted plastic. My wife wanted an RX350 because of its exterior, but when got in and drove one, even she said forget it.

Another neighbor with a Toyota Highlander (the same thing as the RX350) thought the interior of the Enclave looked about the same as the fancier Lexus.

The real question is also the company. The few people I know who drive Lexii do so because of the extremely high level of dealer service. I doubt Buick just hands you the keys to another Buick whenever you pop by for service, but I don't know.

On a test drive we felt like we were going to swerve, roll over and die in the Lexus. We're used to vehicles with decent handling; the Lexus felt, handled and sounded exactly like the Dodge Minivans I used to have as company cars.

My wife also disliked the primitive seating arrangements. The seats just stood there, like in an old-style minivan.


Toyota Highlander        top

Consumer Reports rated the Highlander Hybrid #1 in 2007, two clicks above the Mercedes GL450. The highlander is just about the same thing as the RX350.

The Highlander has no third row of seats.


Cadillac Escalade       top

Who are they kidding? Middle America and urban criminals, that's who.

The Escalade costs more than the Mercedes, and has purely rental-car grade interior right out of the 1995 Dodge minivan I had as a company car. The seats are cumbersome things that you have to haul out of the Cadillac and leave in your garage if you need extra cargo capacity.

The back of the Escalade was exactly like my old minivan: even after you haul out the heavy seats, the floor still had huge tracks in which the seats ran, and had huge holes in the floor into which those seats would latch. You don't have the smooth, flat floor of the GL450, so you can't use the Escalade for hauling anything of value. Valuables would be damaged by all the junk protruding from the Escalade's floor.


Audi Q7        top

The Audi Q7 is nice. Nice, but never quite as nice as the Mercedes GL450, and since the Audi costs the same, why bother?

I wouldn't make the Q7 park outside, but I'd still rather have the Mercedes GL450.

The Audi treats you like an idiot: there are dangerous, insulting, demeaning and distracting clicks through which you must go to get to the various computer and nav functions. I doubt the passenger can run the nav while someone else drives; it's probably locked out.

The Enclave is far more pleasant and respectful of my intelligence.


Honda Pilot        top

Consumer Reports rated the 2007 Honda Pilot as better than the Mercedes GL450, and second only to the Toyota Highlander.

The Honda has three rows of seats, but none of the flexibility or finesse of the Mercedes GL450.


Range Rover LR3 (about $55,000)        top

The Range Rover LR3 may be nice for places that don't have roads, but my wife hated how it looked, and the interior parts are of rental-car quality. Range Rover had been owned by Ford, so it uses many of the same parts as other Ford-owned brands, but now I think is owned by Tata Motors in India.

We passed on the Range Rover — fast.


Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (About $130,000)        top

A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is are completely different vehicle from an Enclave. The Porsche is a small SUV with only two rows of seats, 188.3" overall, but even heavier at 5,192 pounds.

The Enclave is more comfortable, quieter, holds and carries more, is much easier to re-arrange the seats for utility, and sucks less gas.

The Turbo S is a crazy-man's 521 HP racing SUV, not a people or utility hauler. It has a top speed of about 167 MPH and does 0-60 MPH in about 4.8 seconds.

Compared to the Enclave, the Turbo S has much more wind noise, much less exterior sound isolation, far more gear and transmission noise, more exhaust noise, and more engine noise. People who buy the Turbo S probably want to hear the engine burbling even at idle, but it takes a bit of a gear head to love the fine mechanical sounds made by the Porsche as compared to the elegant silence of the Enclave. I prefer silent power; if Buick makes a 650 HP shrunken AWD Enclave, count me in.

Of course the Turbo S, with its double power and smaller size, is more fun to blast around town. You also can burn your legs on the hot, active exhaust outlets of the Porsche, and enough hot air blows out from under the front of the Turbo S to fry chickens. The Enclave has none of the Turbo S' turbo lag, but it doesn't have turbos either.


Porsche Cayenne (About $50,000)        top

The Cayenne is the stripper model of the Cayenne series. It has a weak 6-cylinder motor that barely outruns the Enclave (7.5s for the Porsche vs. 8.2s rated 0-60 MPH).

I don't know why anyone buy a Porsche to go slow, but if you want a Porsche for about the same price as an Enclave, I'll bet you even this budget model out-handles the front-wheel-drive Enclave.

For most people, the base-model V-8 Porsche Cayenne S is the way to go.


Volvo XC90 V8 (About $55,000)        top

The XC90 has a nice little V8. The Volvo is solid and practical. Most people making comparisons to the Enclave would get the 6-cylinder XC90 whose price is similar to the Enclave.

The XC90 V8 is smaller and more powerful than the Enclave, and sucks more gas.

The Volvo is made in Sweden. I'd take a good look at the XC90. Unlike the Mercedes or BMW, the Volvo is actually made in Europe.


More Details

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Competition (to other SUVs, not how to race-prep an Enclave)



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