Buick Enclave has been fully redesigned for the 2018 model year. In addition to a sizable list of improvements, Buick has introduced a new top-of-the-line version, named Avenir.
Enclave was first launched as a 2008 model, then facelifted for 2013. The all-new 2018 Enclave begins the second generation of Buick’s largest premium crossover. Among the more expressively designed crossover SUVs, the Buick Enclave is related to the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.
Buick says the new Enclave is sleeker and more aerodynamic than its predecessor. The wheelbase has grown, the roofline is lower, and the windshield is more angled. Vehicle weight has dropped a little, and use of LED lighting has increased. Buick promises a 10-percent increase in cabin space, including concealed under-floor storage.
In addition to promising a smooth ride, the Enclave’s allure mixes lovely body lines with greatly improved handling. A considerable helping of technology also enters the picture.
The new Avenir has some unique styling cues, as well as premium-grade materials. A premium suspension with continuously variable, real-time damping is available for the Avenir.
Four trim levels are offered, topped by the new Avenir. Each employs the same powertrain: a robust version of GM’s latest 3.6-liter V6, producing 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. A quick-shifting 9-speed automatic is the sole transmission. Enclaves are available with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Two all-wheel-drive systems are available: standard and twin-clutch.
Engine output has grown by 22 horsepower, compared to the 2017 model, though torque has declined slightly. Active noise cancellation promises to reduce engine sound to a subtle purr.
A substantial amount of accident-avoidance technology is available. Typically, those safety items are offered in Driver Confidence or Technology packages, for upper trim levels only. Each Enclave has a rearview camera, parking sensors, and a rear-seat reminder. Automatic emergency braking is offered only on higher-cost models.
Safety options include adaptive cruise control and active lane control with lane-departure warning. An available rear camera mirror can expand the field of vision to 300 percent, according to Buick. An optional surround-view camera provides a 360-degree view.
Enclave ($39,995) comes standard with front-wheel drive, LED headlights, a power hands-free tailgate, keyless ignition, pushbutton start, heated power front seats, cloth upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, and 18-inch wheels. Eight-inch touchscreen infotainment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Prices do not include $975 destination charge.)
Essence ($44,215) adds perforated leather seat upholstery, lane-change alert, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. All-wheel drive ($2,000) is additional.
Premium ($48,015) includes 10-speaker Bose audio, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, front/rear parking sensors, power third-row seats, and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. Upgraded twin-clutch all-wheel drive ($2,300) is available.
Avenir ($53,415) has distinct styling touches as well as navigation, wireless charging, a wood-accented steering wheel, a dual moonroof, and 20-inch wheels. Upgraded twin-clutch all-wheel drive ($2,300) is an option.
Fetching in silhouette, the reworked Enclave no longer suffers from a bottom-heavy appearance. Inclined LED headlights lead the way, flanking a slatted grille that splits into wide wings. The nose is lower and sleeker than before. A metallic bodyside strip carefully defines the Enclave’s side view, drawing attention to its overall shape.
Avenir editions have a unique mesh grille with chrome wings, said to be inspired by concept models. Six-spoke 20-inch Avenir wheels have a pearl nickel finish.
Elegance continues into the rich yet subtle Enclave cockpit, blending technology with tastefulness. The cabin’s fit and finish excels and offers impressive comfort.
The standard seats are upholstered in cloth but offer masterful elegance. Other Enclaves upgrade to leather. Avenir models apply leather to the dashboard, console, and door panels. Electronic instruments and display touchscreens appear in an expressive sweep across the dashboard, which also contains buttons and traditional switches. Metallic frames on the air vents overlap each front door, helping to keep the cabin cohesive. Buick’s IntelliLink is among the simpler infotainment interfaces.
Adults in the first and second rows not only get plenty of space, they can expect to be coddled. They also get good head clearance and leg space. Power front seats are supportive and comparatively firm. Firm second-row bucket seats slide fore/aft to expand either leg or cargo space. Even with the optional dual-pane sunroof, headroom is sizable.
The second-row’s right-hand passenger seat pivots to ease access to the third row, which provides ample space. Even six-foot adults can fit comfortably, though the seat is somewhat low.
Cargo space excels. Cargo volume behind the third-row seat totals 23.6 cubic feet, growing to 58 cubic feet with that seat folded away. Though it’s not fully flat, the load floor is vast, with cargo capacity reaching 97.6 cubic when second-row seatbacks are down.
With its strong V6, the latest Enclave accelerates quicker and drives better than its predecessor. It even sounds more appealing. Buick estimates 0-60 mph acceleration at 6.4 seconds, with front-wheel drive. Most versions can tow 1500 pounds, 5000 with a towing package.
Shift qualities of the 9-speed automatic, beats some rivals with comparable 9-speed transmissions. Even at low speeds, shifts are never fidgety. Paddle controls are included, along with a semi-manual mode.
Road manners rank as lovely, matched by a well-composed ride. The Enclave suspension yields a suitably taut, firm ride, which never feels jittery. Optional adaptive shock absorbers broaden the range of pavement mastery further yet.
Electric power steering is short on off-center heft, and the sense of on-center accuracy could be better. Regardless, an Enclave steers smartly and predictably. Body lean is well controlled with the standard suspension, helped by firm springs.
Two all-wheel-drive systems are available. Mid-level models get a simple system that uses antilock brakes to control wheelspin. Premium and Avenir AWD twin-clutch systems have a rear differential and can tailor the delivered power.
Fuel economy is significantly improved, yet falls behind some competitors. Front-drive models are EPA-rated at 18/26 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate to 17/25/20 mpg, well worth it in wintry conditions.
Judged on looks alone, the redesigned Enclave stakes a strong claim on the crossover market. A strong engine and satisfying ride enhance its appeal. Even in base trim, the Enclave is equipped well. Plenty of options are available, including modern advanced safety technology, but most are bundled into packages.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.