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Buick Enclave Convenience
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16 September 2008     Top of Enclave Review     More Car Reviews

Automatic Climate Control


Just like every real car for the past 20 years, the climate control is fully automatic.

Pick your favorite temperature, and you're done for the day. The Enclave adjusts the fans, vents and temperatures for you magically as the Enclave cools off and as outside conditions change.

The HVAC is settable in single degrees Fahrenheit (67, 68, 69, 70ºF, etc.).

Lesser cars only allow setting to every other degree F (66, 68, 70 F, etc.)

The Buick Enclave is nice because you and the passenger may each select their own temperatures, and if you're driving alone, unhit the PASS button and your control will adjust both sides at once as shown above. (On Porsche, this is called the MONO mode, which you get if you hold the AUTO button for a few seconds.)

Keys and Remote Controls       top

GM used to make the huge mistake of using one key for the doors, and a second completely different one for the ignition. This required you to carry and deal with two car keys for the same car, and if you lost either one, you were stranded. One key is a much smarter idea, and everyone else, like Chrysler, Ford and every other car company, has done this forever.

GM recently got the clue and went to using just one key, but now with electronic remote controls, screwed up again.

The Enclave, like most GM cars, has a regular key, and a cheap separate remote transmitter. Just like the 1950s, you again need to carry two things on your key ring, while every other decent car company puts the remote control in the key itself, which is a much neater and smarter (but more expensive) idea.

Call me silly, but it bothers me that with the Enclave I have to find the dinky remote on my key ring, unlock the Enclave, and then fiddle around again looking for the ignition key.

The one great advantage of this silly system is for paranoids like me who carry spare keys. You can carry one small key, and it will let you get in and drive the car. You don't need to carry the big remote that's part of most other modern car keys if you like to pack a spare in your wallet.

Surfers: I don't know if the key, which has an RFID or some other theft control ID in it, will survive saltwater. I do know the key doesn't have any batteries in it.

BMW has this down the best. BMWs have one key with the remote control in the head. The remote controls are so well laid out that you can hit them by feel, and just slide the same key in the ignition as you get in. Mercedes hasn't even bothered with the old metal keys for the ignition, having replaced them with passive IR electronics in every Mercedes since the late 1990s, but no keys are as logically and beautifully laid out as the BMW keys.

Dome Lights       top

Just like the 1960s, the dome lights come on when you crank the dashboard illumination knob all the way to bright.

It's bad that the Enclave lacks automatic dashboard illumination control, but good that it has an easy way to fire up all the inside lights. Modern Porsche, BMW and Mercedes instead have a zillion idiotic controls for each individual dome light all over the place, so on these cars I usually leave the driver's door open a crack to see what I'm doing.

Locks and Locking       top

The Enclave gets a B in access.

The locks rarely got in my way, but I did have to hit a few buttons now and then to get in or out.

All doors don't open and close with one click. You need two click to open all doors, and the owner's manual made no mention of if you can fix this in a menu someplace. I looked and didn't find it. I prefer my cars to open everything with one click.

All Windows Close       top

If you hold down the remote control's LOCK button on BMW and Mercedes, all the windows roll up as you hold the button.

Unlike Mercedes and BMW, you have to close all the windows one-by-one in the Enclave.

Metal Door Key        top

Forget using the metal door key on a regular basis.

When I used the metal key to stick in the door lock to let myself in, I set off some sort of an alarm that beeped the horn once per second. I get the hint that the Enclave prefers you to use only the remote control to get in.

Alarm Light        top

I usually prefer a lack of noise and blinking lights, however I do like a small blinking LED to let me know my car's locked from a distance.

I see none on the Enclave; I have to walk closer to confirm if it's all locked up since I can't look for the blinking light across my garage.

No Needless Bongs       top

Thank God, the Enclave doesn't bong at me as I get in and insert the key.

It will bong if I get in and start it without my seat belt fastened, but it does not bong at me, as do some lesser cars, in my normal preflight routine.

You can open the door and insert the key, and nothing bongs until after you start the Enclave if you haven't belted up yet.

Power Windows       top

Only the front windows have express down, and only the front windows have express up.

The rear side windows require holding the switches until they complete their motion.

Back Hatch       top

Hatch Controls

Press the middle right OFF button to get the rear hatch back to normal.

The back hatch is motorized, which is stupid, dangerous and slow. The only fun part is that you can open and close the rear hatch with a switch on the dashboard.

All you need to do to get it back to normal is to flip the dashboard switch to OFF, and it works like every other minivan. If you leave it ON, my wife says it almost cut off her head when she wasn't expecting it.

The back hatch is very well designed. It closes easily on the first try without slamming. If you're a little on the delicate side, a little motor pulls it the rest of the way closed.

Remote Start       top

Tap the Lock button on the dinky remote, then hold the circular arrow button for several seconds. The Enclave starts, even if you're not in it! You can do this from almost 200 feet away if you're lucky.

If you're at a motel, you can have your Enclave start and cool off before you get in it.

It only runs for 10 minutes, so you have to time yourself carefully.

I presume if you live in Michigan or Sweden that you'd also use it for heating the Enclave. Here in sunny California, and especially in Arizona, this is used to cool it before entering if the Enclave has been left in the sun.

You don't have to twiddle with the HVAC; when the Enclave starts remotely, it just knows how to heat or cool the cabin.

Autostart       top

Starting the Buick Enclave

The Enclave lacks autostart, a feature in all Mercedes since the 1990s.

With the Enclave, you have to hold the key until it starts. With more advanced cars, just tap the key, and the car will crank itself over until it starts. Call me lazy, but I wish the Enclave did this, too.

HomeLink Integrated Garage Door Opener       top

The HomeLink transmitter programs like they all do: Hold a button down for a long time until it blinks (about 20 seconds), and then press the button on your old remote held close to it. As soon as the light on the Enclave blinks very fast, you're programmed. (Call for help or read the manual if you have a newer garage door opener with rolling codes.)

I get at least as much range as with the similar transmitters on my other cars. I like this!

If you have a loan car, program it so you won't leave your remote in the loaner. If you're paranoid, all you have to do to clear it all is to hold both outside buttons for a long time until the light blinks.

Interior Lights       top

The many dome/reading lights work great. They light up the whole interior, and each one individually makes a great reading light without much glare into the driver's eyes.

There aren't any ambient or mood lights under the seats or in the doors like BMW, Porsche and Mercedes. There is just one dim light to light the center console between the front seats.

There are two lights on the bottom of the back hatch door, which do a great job lighting up the rear luggage space at night. There is one catch: both lights were accidentally put too close to each other in the middle of the door (instead of one on each side), so when you lean into the luggage area, you cast a shadow. Whoops!

Memory Seats       top

The driver's seat has two memory positions. Unlike european cars, there is no "M" button needed to memorize the positions. The Enclave does Europe one better: just hold either button until in beeps, and you've memorized the settings. I wish all cars were this simple.

No other seats have any memory positions.

The driver's seat has a third "Comfort Exit" position for fat people. It slides the seat back.

The fans in the front seats are excellent, but they do not remember where you set them. You must turn them on and select your speed preference every time you start the Enclave.

Trip Computer       top

Trip Computer

Only two lines of display — total.

You only get two rows of information at a time. The top line defines the measurement, and the bottom line shows it.

You can't get the odometer at the same time as Trip or MPG!

The outside temperature and compass always show in the same location.

You have to keep cycling forward to get each indication. If you go one too far, you have to cycle through all these and try again.

The measurements are:

Odometer (Life of car)

Trip A

Trip B

Miles of fuel remaining

MPG (since reset)

Elapsed Time HH:MM:SS (since reset)

Gallons of fuel used (since reset)

Average speed (since reset)

Each resets individually.

There is no instantaneous fuel economy readout.

There is a retroactive trip odometer reset feature which, if you forgot to reset the trip odometer before you left, lets you reset it to indicate the mileage since the Enclave was last started.

Two Clocks       top

Center Console

Center console with analog clock. enlarge.

The center Analog clock is a nice touch, although it's not much more legible than other cars like the Mercedes S550 with illegible center clocks. Pardon me, but I'm from the school which says auto gauges must be white numbers, black faces and red or orange fluorescent hands.

I shouldn't have to say this, but yes, the analog clock is always visible, even with the keys out of the ignition.

The clock in the radio and the clock with hands aren't related. You need to set them separately, which means you also may set them to different time zones.

The analog clock in my loaner Enclave was a little fast. I didn't try to reset it, because it sets with just one button. The button only moves it forward, so I didn't want to get greedy and gamble that I wouldn't miss the right time — again.

The font for the digital clock is ugly.

The Enclave's analog clock is a little glittery in daytime.

At night, the analog clock lights up heavy-metal style with nothing other than a grayish EL backlight on the face, leaving the hands and index marks in black.

It's cute that Buick copies the center analog clock from an S550, but they both got it wrong. The clock is supposed to be on the dashboard, not over on the center console.

Seat Folding       top

All Rear seats folded

All seats folded: You can get this in 10 seconds! enlarge.

The second and third rows of seats fold and unfold more easily than any other car I've used. They just go up and down, and make it trivial to reconfigure the Enclave to bring home any treasures you find while out.

The split 60/40 third row seats fold easily, one or both at a time.

The rear seats fold forward and down quite easily. From the back hatch, just grab the flip lever on either side, and down they go.

To raise, just pull the strap.

It's totally manual, and works fine. Compare this to the rear seats of the Mercedes GL450, which operate automatically with an electric switch.

The rear seats come out, but you need to remove bolts for which there is no storage other than back in their original holes in the Enclave. There's so much room that I see no reason to want to pull the rear row of seats.

Bootlegger's Hatch       top


There is a small, non-locking compartment hidden under the floor of the rear storage area.

Center Console Storage       top

Console Storage

The center console tray lifts out for more storage underneath!

There is a deep secret storage area under the tray. You probably can fit a couple of bottles of Colt 45 in it; it's about a foot deep.

Alarm       top

Like all good alarms, it was easy to program the Enclave so there were no annoying honks

The alarm has no blinking light. I usually hate blinking lights and beeps, but I miss this so I can see if the car is locked from a distance.

Navigation System       top

Every Enclave has the best navigation system I've ever used. It's called OnStar.

Push one button, a real person comes on the speaker and asks where you'd like to go. The system magically learns the directions, and then an automated voice, just like having an expert guide in your back seat, guides you turn by turn.

It's faster, easier and much safer than the expensive old style navigation systems that left you without live help and left you with big screens and confusing controls to figure out while you're trying to drive.

Yes, Onstar charges a monthly fee, and if you drive a lot, I can't see how you'd ever want to be without it. The sales reps I know who have it swear by it.

I'd pass on paying for the dedicated nav system in the Enclave, and instead use that money to pay for a subscription to the superior OnStar service.

OnStar       top

OnStar is excellent! See my separate OnStar page.

As each turn comes up, sometimes there will be a display with details on the radio display. There is no display where it ought to be, on center of the dashboard.

OnStar works regardless of it the radio is on or off.

If the radio's on, it mutes completely when navigation commands play.

Even crazier, the Enclave's air conditioning fans are so noisy that OnStar shuts them off for a moment to let you hear commands more easily!

Built-in Phone        top

Really works! Press the button, say "Dial," say the number, and it just works. It sounds fine on both ends.

OnStar works regardless of if the radio is on or off.

Motorized Foldaway Outside Mirrors       top

The Enclave I borrowed didn't have this. It's an option.

Parking Brake       top

The parking brake is completely manual. It does not set or release automatically. It is easy to hit by accident when getting out.

Electricity and Power Outlets        top

The 12V outlets always on, which is very handy for battery chargers.

The outlets are covered by crummy flip-caps.

Optional (not on my loaner) is a 120V AC outlet on the rear of the center console. No big deal; you can buy converters at Radio Shack which do the same thing.

Rear Side Doors       top

The rear side doors are the old-style hinged type. If you're between parked cars, you'll wish you had sliding doors as do minivans. The doors are big.

Storage       top


Only one small luggage area with all seats up. enlarge.

There is no trunk.

The luggage area behind the third row of seats is small. It's barely wide enough for one row of bags. As you can see, you can't set things all on the floor since there isn't enough room, and I was traveling alone.

Bags will tend to fall out as you open the back hatch; watch out as you open it.

There is no place to put camera bags without them being visible to anyone who wants to look in. The tinted glass hides everything, but put your hands up to the glass (or use a keyring flashlight at night) and you can see everything.

I saw no flaps or covers to hide your gear from prying eyes.

Flip the rear seats forward and you have ton of room.

Glove Box       top

The glove box is big.

It's the flip-out kind, meaning the entire compartment flips out when you open it. It keeps everything in it.

It's better than Mercedes, Porsche and BMW, which use fixed dashboard storage compartments with a door that moves. In these cars, when you open the glovebox, unless you've just got the manual and a pair of driving gloves, everything comes flying out.

Thank you, Buick!


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