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January 21, 2013

Spacious Buick crossover one of top luxury contenders

— One of the weird things about reviewing new cars — a bizarre world where you drive a different, brand-new car every week — is that your expectations change so much with each vehicle.

If I drive a $15,000 economy car today after driving a $100,000 luxury car last week, how is that fair? Is the cheap car really bad, or does it just feel bad because I spent seven days sitting in the Taj Mahal?

That's why I try to hit a mental reset button after each vehicle, so

as not to set my expectations too high. After driving a fancy Cadillac

SRX last week, for example, I tried not to expect as much from the

Buick Enclave, a crossover from a brand that traditionally sits lower

than Cadillac's on General Motors' totem pole.

The weird thing? I think I like the Enclave even better than I did the Cadillac. This big Buick has a softer ride than the SRX, which seems fitting in a luxury crossover. If I wanted a sporty ride, I'd pick a sports sedan instead of a bulky, pseudo-sporty crossover.

It's also incredibly practical, with three rows of seats and minivan-like storage options. And unlike some three-row crossovers, it actually has a decent amount of cargo space in back when the third-row seat is in place. That makes it a good car for family road trips.

If you're cross-shopping with the Cadillac — and with a fully loaded

price in the $50,000 range for the Enclave, you easily could — the one

area the Caddy wins is in technology. The Enclave lacks the "gee whiz"

appeal of the SRX's fancy new CUE digital interface, opting instead

for more traditional buttons and radio dials. But in terms of the

interior trim, the Buick definitely has Cadillac-level quality.

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