Introduced 10 years ago, the Buick Enclave is completely redesigned for 2018 as the automaker continues to redefine its identity. With a renewed focus on style, technology and materials, the Enclave is not merely dressed to impress, but genuinely lives up to its sleek sheet metal styling.
Although in its second generation, with the hot-selling crossover segment only getting hotter, Buick’s decision to also introduce an all-new trim in the Enclave was a no-brainer. Dubbed “Avenir,” the line is akin to corporate sibling GMC’s Denali sub-brand. Currently, just the 2018 Enclave and the LaCrosse large sedan are available as top-level Avenir models, but other nameplates can expect to see the fancy badging and equally fancy amenities.
Fashionably Functional: 2018 Enclave
Our test vehicle was a well-loaded Enclave Avenir outfitted with a handsome Dark Slate Metallic. But one thing all Enclave vehicles receive is a design that emotes lean, polished luxury instead of the frumpy heftiness the outgoing model conveyed. And while a three-row midsize crossover, the Enclave’s visual footprint feels neither too large nor too little considering its cargo-carrying capabilities.
Its athletic appearance isn’t solely a design trick, as the all-new Enclave is indeed longer, lower and leaner. At 120.9 inches, the vehicle rides on a wheelbase that is 2 inches longer, which leads to a 2.4-inch increase in overall length. The redesigned SUV also shaves 0.4 inches up top, loses 0.2 inches at the waist and slims down about 366 pounds thanks to a new body structure consisting of lighter, but stronger, materials.
Like a bespoke suit, the Enclave never will feel underdressed, fitting right in behind the gates of a private country club. And yet by wearing the right amount of chrome and shiny bits (i.e., not gaudy), this Buick would not look out of place at a low-key mom-and-pop strip mall, either. It’s the perfect outfit every time.
And pairing nicely with its luxurious looks is the overwhelming quietness of the cabin. Thanks to Buick’s QuietTuning, which further reduces noise, including active noise canceling, the Enclave is a library on wheels — except without all the shushing.
The second-row bench has gone away, but the new 2/2/3 format still offers plenty of seats and easier access to the always-usable third row. Unlike competitors, the Enclave doesn’t make you choose between seats and space, with a whopping 23.6 cubic feet of capacity behind the third row.
By comparison, the Infiniti QX60 and Volvo XC90 offer 13 and 15.8 cubic feet, respectively, which is about average for similarly equipped vehicles. Folding the third row down opens up to a 58-cubic-foot cargo hold in the Enclave with an additional 3.1 cubic feet of underfloor storage.
Pep in Its Step
For 2018, the Buick Enclave receives an updated 3.6-liter V6 with standard stop-start technology. Although torque sees a minuscule 1 percent drop from 270 pound-feet to 266 pound-feet, horsepower jumps 8 percent to 310. Towing also increases to 5,000 pounds.
Obviously, the Enclave will be no match for, say, a V8-powered, 475-horsepower Dodge Durango SRT. On its own, however, the vehicle is adroit in its movements, smooth in its shifts and accelerates with more verve than whine. Fun to drive is subjective, but the Enclave satisfies and is hardly a bore.
Paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy is among the best of V6-powered midsize CUVs. Official EPA estimates are 18 city, 26 highway and 21 combined mpg, which is much improved compared to last year’s 15/22/18.
Also new is an electronic shifter. Traditionalists may shout blasphemy (among other things), but the design is easy to learn and creates more room in the cabin. Still, those who rest their hands on shifters might want to kick the habit. You can’t accidentally push into park if in motion, but you can do so once the vehicle has stopped, such as at a stoplight. And you can indeed shift into neutral while driving. The issue can be quickly remedied, but the moment is nonetheless unnerving.
Starting at $39,995 (plus $975 destination), the all-new Enclave is nearly the same price as the now-old Enclave. There are packaging variations from the previous generation, but this essentially streamlines the trims and makes the Build & Price feature of car buying less infuriating.
Base models are front-wheel drive, sit on 18-inch wheels and feature LED daytime running lights. Comfort comes via cloth seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone automatic climate control and active noise canceling.
Standard technology includes remote start, keyless entry with push-button start, a hands-free power liftgate, an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment display, smartphone integration, USB charging ports in every row, a complimentary 12-month satellite radio subscription and OnStar subscription services, including a Wi-Fi hotspot with a three-month data trial.
A la carte accessories can be added, but no options packages or all-wheel drive. Also worth noting is that non-metallic Summit White is the lone color that doesn’t require an upcharge of $395-$995.
Next is Essence, in which a new-for-2018 air ionizer is standard and all-wheel drive becomes available ($2,000). Starting at $44,215, this trim includes leather seats, navigation, lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Package selection is meager with all-weather mats or liners, but 20-inch wheels, a dual moonroof and surround vision can be optioned.
The latter includes the Buick-first implementation of a rear camera mirror, which, like in Cadillac products, projects a high-definition video image into the rearview mirror frame. Though not recommended for extended use, an occasional peep, particularly during times of excessive congestion or unfamiliar traffic patterns, proves invaluable thanks to the wide-angle view providing 300 percent more visibility.
Premium models ($48,015) add more amenities such as ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel with power-adjustable column, power-folding third-row seats, HD Radio, a Bose sound system and memory presets.
Standard safety systems include intelligent high beams, forward-collision alert, following distance indicator, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and a safety alert seat. An experience package offers a dual moonroof, 20-inch wheels and a trailering system.
Being the new “premium,” Avenir ($53,415) naturally includes all of the above, plus an 8-inch configurable driver information cluster and wireless device charging. A technology package adds adaptive cruise control, active upper front grille shutters and a premium ride suspension with real-time damping.
Additional exclusives include a three-dimensional mesh grille versus the standard vertical slats, 20-inch pearl nickel finish wheels, unique exterior and interior colors, a wood-accented steering wheel, and Avenir-scripted leather seats, floor mats, door sill plates and exterior badging.
In the end, expect “That’s nice for a Buick” to be a common soundbite. Not meant as a slight, but a compliment, many onlookers simply found themselves surprised by their approvals of an automaker that would otherwise never find its way onto their shopping lists. With a price point starting less than its targeted competitors, the all-new 2018 Buick Enclave offers more bang for your hard-earned buck without sacrificing luxury or looks to do so.