The 2008 Buick Enclave might satisfy you. A so-called “crossover vehicle,” the Enclave’s unibody construction combine s the smo ot h ride of a car with a 115-ft3 cargo space — about as much as a large SUV. Buick says unibody construction allows for more tightly focused design because the vehicles are not intended to go off-road or tow things. Overall, the big wagon provides eye appeal, good handling, and solid safety features.

Outside, our FWD tester’s 79-in.-wide, 72.2-in.-high, and 201.8-in.-long sculpted body sat majestically atop dealer-installed 20-in., 15-spoke, machined aluminum wheels (standard are 18 in. for the CX model, and 19 in. for the CXL). Chrome trim around the side windows and on the bumpers adds a nice dash of sparkle. What really takes the cake, though, are the Xenon headlights. Unlike conventional halogen bulbs with a glowing filament and reflectors that direct the light, xenons use a bright, white gas-discharge lamp. Powered by ac (unlike halogens, which run off battery dc), they emit a beautiful, almost eerie blue glow that lights up the darkest of roads.

Stepping up and into the vehicle brings you to what looks like the inside of an airplane cockpit. The car is chock-full of high-tech gadgets and instruments, including an XM satellite radio, a CD player that reads MP3, OnStar navigation and, of course, a computer that displays average speed, average fuel consumption, and range for remaining fuel. On the downside, the temperature controls are unnecessarily complex. They force you to scroll through countless inscrutable icons just to adjust the heat. Needless to say, trying to do this at 60 mph is dangerous at best, especially in a vehicle that weighs almost 5,000 lb.

Seven-passenger seating includes second-row captain’s chairs and a third-row split bench. My traveling companion’s teenage son came along for our test ride, and complained about not enough head room in the back row. (We dubbed it the “bad-boy’s seat.”) That aside, the six-way adjustable driver’s seat held me comfortably yet securely behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Our tester’s nice, stable feel was no doubt partially due to a traction control that limits wheel spin by reducing engine power to the wheels while applying brakes to individual wheels. A 275-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine mates to a six-speed automatic transmission for a reasonably powerful ride. Adding options such as power sunroof and ultrasonic rear parking assist brought the standard vehicle price of $32,055 to $34,340.

— Leslie Gordon

Comparison

2008 Buick Enclave2008 Saturn Outlook
Length: 201.8 in.Length: 200.7 in.
Width: 79.0 in.Width: 78.2 in.
Height: 72.2 in.Height: 69.9 in.
Wheelbase: 118.9 in.Wheelbase: 118.9 in.
Curb weight: 4,780 in.Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Engine: 3.6-liter V6Curb weight: 4,722 in.

Buick Enclave