TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Twisty state highway 281 climbs over Cheaha Mountain with hairpin curves carved through granite ramparts. This sinuous trail over the tallest hurdle in Alabama serves as our tortuous track to test the road-hugging manners and feel the cushy ride quality of Enclave, Buick's luxe-loaded crossover utility vehicle.
This full-size 5-door CUV, stretching almost 17 feet long by six feet wide, provides a humongous passenger compartment rigged with three rows of seats for seven or eight passengers and a wagonload of luxurious fittings and high-tech electronics.
Enclave's 2016 models expand to encompass the new Tuscan Edition wearing a bronze-tinged waterfall grille and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels plus exclusive premium paint shades like White Frost Tricoat, Dark Chocolate Metallic and Ebony Twilight Metallic.
All Enclave '16 issues look sharp with wing-shaped blue translucent LED lighting and xenon headlamps on forward corners and the rear dotted with LED taillamps and integrated exhaust outlets.
Enclave's lower body appears substantial and strong like a SUV although the upper section including a narrow wrap of windows with tipped-back windshield and sweeping roofline may be more reminiscent of some classic sports car or even a GT-style coupe.
Every Enclave carries an integral body-frame structure which compares to a front-wheel-drive car rather than a SUV's rear-wheel-drive body-on-frame truck platform.
Enclave issues of 2016 comprise three levels -- Convenience, Leather and Premium -- and each stocks electronic traction control (ETC) and GM's electronic stability device, StabiliTrak, with options for standard front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive traction. New Tuscan Edition brings the option of Leather or Premium trimmings.
Enclave's smooth ride quality compares to a plush sedan, thanks to independent components for both front and rear suspension systems.
Enclave's agile steering attributes stem from the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, and the brakes set a disc at each wheel post with electronic tie to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Also on tap is GM's rollover sensing system, dubbed rollover mitigation technology (RMT). It will automatically deploy the side-impact air bags and curtain-style air bags if on-board sensors detect a potential vehicular roll event.
The optional all-wheel-drive rig employs a computer and wheel sensors in conjunction with ABS and StabiliTrak to determine how much power to apply to each wheel for maintaining tire traction on wet or slippery pavement.
Every Enclave benefits from Buick's effort to control noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) within the passenger compartment. Take a spin on a road test and you will quickly notice that virtually all external NVH seems locked outside, the result of wrapping the compartment liberally with sound-deadening material, including thick layers of laminate applied to the windshield and front side windows.
Motivation for Enclave stems from a juicy V6 engine which displaces 3.6 liters and contains dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) and variable valve timing (VVT). The V6 delivers 288 hp at 6300 rpm plus torque of 270 lb-ft at 3400 rpm.
The transmission is GM's fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6T75 6-speed automatic. With the 6T75 in play, the 2016 Enclave earns EPA fuel economy scores up to 24 mpg for highway cruising in the FWD edition, or 22 mpg with AWD equipment.
Enclave's passenger compartment has room for three rows of seats and a rear bay contains 23.3 cubic feet of room for cargo. On the first row two wide bucket seats flank a floor console. On the second row the standard arrangement shows two captain's chairs which slide to and fro, although a sliding bench to accommodate three passengers is available. On the third row, a folding bench split 60/40 can squeeze up to three more riders aboard.
New cabin enhancements for 2016 include a heated wood-trimmed steering wheel for Leather and Premium models, ice-blue LED ambient lighting around the dash, 8-way power front driver seat with power recline and lumbar support on Convenience models, power-tilting/telescoping steering column standard on Premium models, and an optional dual moonroof added with power sliding front pane and fixed rear pane.
We estimate the MSRPs for Buick's 2016 Enclave line will stretch from $39,000 to $51,000.