ATLANTA, Ga. -- Driving down Powers Ferry Road while meandering through Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood, we're stacked in a line of cars waiting for a stoplight switch, engine idling and shifter stick notched to neutral with four 20-inch tires parked on the pavement.
The pause in our seat-time cruise around Atlanta in a large and luxurious crossover utility vehicle from the Buick brand of General Motors provides an opportunity to scrutinize the styling of what amounts to one sleek wagon.
A discreet badge on the tailgate spells the wagon's name in shiny chrome letters: E-N-C-L-A-V-E.
Looking sharp in a slinky package stretched excessively long and decorated with a chrome-plated prow flashing multi-lens headlamp clusters on corners plus fender blisters rippling around multi-spoke alloy wheels, Buick's CUV seems different from the lot of right-angled and too-tall SUVs.
Its 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.
And Enclave is designed to act differently from that lot, thanks to the integral body-frame structure which compares to a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car rather than the conventional SUV's rear-wheel-drive (RWD) body-on-frame truck platform.
Its wheelbase runs almost ten feet in length, that sculpted body measures nearly 17 feet long by 6.5 feet wide and six high, and the full-size passenger compartment contains seats for seven or eight riders with a load of cushy amenities in the mode of a premium luxury car.
Enclave as a full-size CUV joins two luxury sedans -- LaCrosse and Lucerne -- to comprise the 2010 product line for Buick.
The 2010 Enclave appears in two trims -- CX and CXL -- and each stocks electronic traction control (ETC) and GM's electronic stability device, StabiliTrak, with options for FWD or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.
Climb aboard for a drive test and you'll quickly observe that Enclave reveals an impressive quality of quietness in the cabin in terms of reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
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.
The effort to control NVH inside Enclave is labeled by Buick marketeers as Quiet Tuning. It represents a sense of refinement more akin to the finest luxury sedan rather than a big wagon.
Enclave's smooth ride quality also compares to a plush sedan, thanks to independent components for both front and rear suspension systems.
There's a coil-over strut design up front with direct-acting stabilizer bar, and in the rear the independent H-arm arrangement has twin-tube shocks mounted on a sub-frame assembly to isolate the road-bump action.
Enclave exhibits rather agile steering attributes due to the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, and the brakes rig a disc at every wheel with electronic tie to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Passive safety systems are aboard including frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags above outboard seats in all rows.
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.
Enclave presents the option of FWD traction or a permanently-engaged all-wheel-drive (AWD) system.
The intelligent AWD 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.
Motivation for Enclave comes from a V6 engine which displaces 3.6 liters and contains dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
The V6 produces 288 hp at 6300 rpm plus torque of 270 lb-ft at 3400 rpm.
The transmission is GM's fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6T75 six-speed automatic.
With the 6T75 in play, Enclave earns EPA fuel economy scores up to 24 mpg for highway cruising in the FWD edition, or 22 mpg with the AWD equipment.
Enclave's passenger compartment has room for three rows of seats and a rear bay 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 additional riders aboard. Individual sections of the bench have bolsters for added comfort.
Access to the back bench is aided by extra width of the two rear portals plus second-row seats which move out of the way easily, thanks to a one-tap lever labeled Smart Slide.
With the back bench in place, a flat-floored cargo bay has 23.2 cubic feet of stow room. With the back bench folded down, the bay expands to 67.5 cubic feet, but with both second and third tiers of seats down, the bay stretches to 115.3 cubic feet.
Gear standard on base issue Enclave CX ranges from tri-zone automatic climate controls and power buttons to move windows and door locks and mirrors to auto-on headlamps and daytime running lights, six-way power for the driver's seat, real mahogany on the steering wheel with a leather wrap, power for the rear liftgate, GM's OnStar telecommunications equipment and XM satellite radio.
Upgrading to CXL adds treats, like eight-way power for front seats, plus perforated and heated leather seats.