The Buick CXL-2 AWD Enclave, a crossover, is one of those vehicles that seems bigger once you get in it. For example, from the outside, you might not think the Enclave could comfortably fit six adults and still have a significant amount of storage behind the second row of seats. But it does, about 29 ft3 of it. And being a crossover, it’s not a climb to get in or out. Then, once you’re in, it’s so comfortable, you might not want to get out.

The vehicle is powered by an LLT 3.76-liter V6, the same engine as in many Camaros, as well as a few Cadillacs and light trucks. In the Enclave, it’s tuned to put out 288 hp, and do it quietly. In fact, several passengers thought the vehicle was an electric hybrid. And being underpowered is really not an issue. The engine, one of “Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2008,” uses spark-ignition direct injection (SIDI). So fuel sprays into the cylinder at high pressure, and it cools combustion-chamber components as it evaporates. This lets the engine handle compression ratios of 11.3:1 and run on regular gas. The EPA estimates the Enclave will get 16/22 mpg (city/highway).

The vehicle comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. It also has a clutchless-manual option for drivers who insist on shifting. But the automatic does such a fine job, it seems to me only obsessive-compulsive shifters would use it.

The big leather front seats come with eight-way power adjustments and lumbar support, as well as heating or cooling, and make the ride easy to take. Second-row passengers must make do with four-way power adjustments. And the rear bench, though it lacks adjustments, has enough leg and headroom for full-sized adults. However, I would have liked to lower the driver seat a bit more so it would be easier to read the deeply set dials on the dash. The mirrors, together with the rearview camera (which only works while in Reverse), make it somewhat easier to back into tight spots.

But I never could get a good fix on where the front bumper was when pulling into a parking spot. I wouldn’t mind a proximity sensor that beeped when nearing a wall or guard rail, as does the one that engages when the Enclave backs up.

For safety, the Enclave carries ABS, traction and stability control, and front, side-impact, and head-curtain air bags. It earned five-star ratings from NHTSA for front and passenger seats for frontal crashes and for front and rear seats in side crashes, and four stars for rollovers. The vehicle feels substantial and well built. There are no tinny sounds, no reverberating doors, and cross winds and passing semi trucks don’t blow you across the road.

The vehicle handles well, despite its size and heft, thanks to a well-tuned independent suspension.

The 10-speaker Bose stereo sounds great and, coupled with XM satellite radio, can pacify a carload of teenagers (as long as you don’t care what they’re listening to). But XM radio, like the DVD screen and player for the rear seats, comes at an additional cost. The DVD subsystem, together with the in-dash navigation unit, runs $3,185, and includes three months of XM navigation and traffic services.

Another set of options, ones that didn’t tickle my fancy but really wowed some of my friends and relatives, was the power sunroof up front and a larger “skylight” over the second row of bucket seats. They add $1,400 to the bottom line.

The Enclave also came with optional 20-in. chrome-clad aluminum wheels. They look impressive and put a lot of rubber on the road. Fortunately, it had yet to snow here, so I didn’t get much of chance to put them or the AWD to the test.

With the destination charge, the total tab for this crossover is $49,655.

— Stephen J. Mraz, Senior Editor

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.