- - Thursday, February 17, 2011

With a baby on board and another on the way, Rick and Heather Suchocki of Surprise, Arizona needed a new family hauler, one with enough room for strollers, playpens, diaper bags and the other necessities of a growing family. They decided the Lexus in their driveway wasn’t cutting it anymore, and started shopping crossover utilities including luxury imports and — much to their own surprise — the 2011 Buick Enclave.

“I’d never thought about shopping Buick before, because I’d never pictured myself in their older models,” said Rick, a 41-year-old grocery store manager. “But the Enclave is designed for my generation. It has great styling and ride quality. It’s very quiet, luxurious and roomier than the other crossovers we shopped. We couldn’t get our baby seat into the back seat of the Lexus RX350, but it fit perfectly in the Enclave. It’s lived up to our expectations, and then some.”

Exceeding expectations is something at which Enclave excels. The luxury crossover enjoyed its strongest sales in history in 2010, with total sales up 28 percent, and retail sales nearly double what they were in its first year on the market. After having its best retail month ever in December, Enclave’s retail sales grew in January by 37 percent compared to the same month in 2010.

Enclave is a four-time winner of Consumer Digest’s Best Buy award, and was recently nominated for About.com’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Award in the “Best New Crossover Vehicle” category.

“As a contemporary people mover, Enclave has a high level of luxury appointments and is, at a glance, very upscale,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, a marketing research and consultancy firm. “The fact that Enclave’s retail sales are so robust is testament to the appeal of the product itself and Buick as a brand as well. As the economy continues to improve, prospects for the Enclave do as well.”

Enclave has the highest “conquest” rate of any Buick, with 51 percent coming from non-GM brands, approximately half of which are import brands.

Enclave has brought a new kind of customer to our showroom — young professionals with families who previously owned an Acura or Lexus,” said Tim Fitzgerald, general manager at Bowser Buick GMC of Pleasant Hills, Pa. “They have very high expectations for styling, interior amenities and quality materials, and they’re finding out that the Enclave delivers in all of those respects and more.”

One of the hallmarks of interior quality is quietness, and Enclave is the only crossover in its segment that benefits from QuietTuning, a Buick-exclusive engineering process that reduces, blocks and absorbs unwanted noise from entering the vehicle’s cabin. Noise-reducing components include an acoustic-laminated windshield, laminated safety glass for front doors, triple-door seals, flat-blade windshield wipers, and aerodynamic rearview mirrors.

Among Enclave’s many interior amenities are three rows of seats that accommodate up to eight passengers, offering more space than the Mercedes R-class or Acura MDX. Enclave’s second-row seats feature General Motors’ Smart Slide system, a feature that allows easy entry to the third row with the pull of one handle. With Smart Slide, the second-row seat cushion flips up while the seatback slides forward, providing more room for passengers to enter and exit the third row.

Enclave’s smooth car-like driving experience is attributed to its stiff structure, its purpose-built suspension and aerodynamic shape, the latter of which contributes to Enclave’s 24 mpg highway (2WD), which is better fuel economy than any non-GM eight-passenger crossover.

“Buick has come a long way,” said Lori Ashmore Peters, an attorney and mother of two in Dallas, who recently traded in an SUV for an Enclave. “Honestly, I had some reservations about buying a Buick at first, but the Enclave’s ride, handling, styling and amenities sold me on it. I would definitely consider Buick again.”

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