When it comes time at General Motors to dole out those big body-on-frame three-row SUVs everyone loves, Buick – despite being GM’s second-best-selling brand – has always been left wanting. But for 2018, GM’s decided to throw the brand a bone not only in the form of an all-new and embiggened version of its midsize three-row Enclave SUV, but it's granted Buick a sub-brand/top trim level of its own like GMC’s popular Denali (called Avenir) to boot.
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2018 Buick Enclave Overview
What's New for 2018
The Enclave is all-new for 2018.
Choosing Your Buick Enclave
Gone is the last generation’s gawky minivanesque awkwardness and painfully dowdy interior in favor of a smoothly-sculpted shape that – despite being larger in every important dimension inside and out – looks svelter and more stylish than any mass-market crossover The General’s ever built.
The story’s the same on the inside as well, where one will find a multi-tiered dashboard every bit as slick and swoopy as the exterior’s pillarless “floating” roof. But the best interior feature of all – at least for third-row riders – is a health share of legroom (one of the main reasons for upsizing the Enclave in the first place). And thanks to a trick sliding second-row seat on the passenger’s side, accessing that third row is easier than ever.
Enclave prices range from the fleet-special, front-wheel-drive-only Enclave 1SV ($40,990, including $995 destination charge) to the full-boat $56,710 Avenir with all-wheel drive. In between – both price- and equipment-wise – are the $45,210 Essence FWD (all-wheel drive is $2,000 extra) and the $49,010 Premium FWD trim (all-wheel drive is $300 more here, as it is on the Avenir), all – naturally – before any options or accessories are added.
Every Enclave gets the same auto stop/start 3.6-liter V6 with 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque coupled to a nine-speed automatic. The EPA says front-drive versions return 18 mpg city, 26 highway, and 21 combined and 17/25/20 mpg if one opts for the extra-cost all-wheel-drive system, which includes driver-selectable modes and an active twin-clutch rear differential for enhanced grip and stability on slippery surfaces.
And, as weird as it is to say, the Enclave is Buick’s flagship, so it’s no surprise it threw every possible luxury, comfort, convenience, safety, and entertainment feature it could find into the Enclave line.
The one feature that needs no explanation is the latest version of what made many become Buick buyers in the first place: silence. In addition to old-school “QuietTuning” tricks like an acoustic-laminated windshield and front side glass, triple door seals, softer suspension settings, and "special quiet wheels” to keep engine and road noises out of the cabin, Buick’s system also takes a turn for the electronic with an in-cabin microphone and active noise cancellation system that all conspire to cosset the passengers in a cacophony-free cocoon.
Keep in mind, however – as Buick bigwigs surely do – what worked for the Roadmaster and Park Avenue crowd is almost diametrically-opposed to what their younger target audience wants in a vehicle. To that end, every – as in without exception – Enclave boasts a boatload of new tech, including a frameless eight-inch color touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth connectivity, six USB ports (two data/charging, four charging), an OnStar/AT&T 4G LTE with wifi hotspot and five free years of OnStar Basic services, plus perimeter locking with push-button start.
Beyond those shared basics and others, Buick offers its Enclaves four ways:
The Enclave shares a powertrain with and is built upon the same bones as Chevy’s Traverse – a vehicle that in certain combinations can be $10,000 less than its Tri-Shield sibling. And yet the Enclave, offers buyers not just the better of the two GM SUVs, but a beauty in its own right. We can’t recommend the all-in Avenir, but the Premium – thanks in no small part to its including most lower-trims’ options as standard and offering its own upgrades and packages – offers buyers the best Buick has to offer without taking a dive into the Avenir range.
2018 Buick Enclave Review
For the past 11 years, the Buick Enclave served as the brand's large crossover, offering a surprising amount of space with an upscale feel. The previous Enclave performed its duties, but it had become a bit long in the tooth and its styling aged awkwardly. Thankfully, the all-new and much improved 2018 Buick Enclave is here, and regains its place as a fantastic option in the highly competitive realm of large crossovers.
The Enclave's top-of-the-line Avenir trim is compelling, but we'd stick with the Premium trim. It comes with almost everything you'd want in a luxury crossover, like leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear captain's chairs, tri-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a power-folding third row, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system with a subwoofer. The Premium also comes standard with a plethora of driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assist. While all-wheel drive is optional, we'd save the money and use it on a set of snow tires once it gets colder.
As for options, we'd go with the Experience Buick Package, which gives us dual sunroofs that bathe the handsome cabin in natural light and a towing capability of 5,000 pounds. We'd also spring for the rear seat infotainment system without the DVD player, because with the system can wirelessly connect with devices that can stream video.
We'd also recommend saving up $395 for the exterior paint – aside from Summit White, every paint color Buick offers on the Enclave carries a premium. The bulk of the colors are metallic and ring up at $395, although Red Quartz Tintcoat and White Frost Tricoat require $495 and $995, respectively.
Here's how we'd build our Enclave:
- Model: 2018 Buick Enclave Premium
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6
- Output: 310 hp/ 266 lb-ft
- Transmission: Nine-speed Automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 18 City / 26 Hwy
- Options: Experience Buick Package ($3,250, dual sunroof, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, heavy duty cooling system, trailering package), Rear Seat Infotainment System without DVD player ($1,750), Havana Metallic Paint ($395)
- Base Price:$49,010 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$54,490
The Enclave is a surprisingly quick large crossover due to its 310 horsepower 3.6-liter V6, which allows it to hit 60 mph in about six and a half seconds. The transmission is a quick-shifting nine speed automatic that is very competent, with smooth shifts and a logic that prevents it from constantly hunting for the right gear, like you see with many similar transmissions. Enclaves also have a choice of two different all-wheel-drive systems; the Essence trim receives an open differential and uses anti-lock brakes to control wheel spin, while the Premium and Avenir receive proper rear differentials to send the appropriate amount of power to the rear wheels.
On the road, the Enclave handles well with accurate steering and a suspension that makes this three-rower feel surprisingly planted in the corners. Body roll is minimal, even on base trims. Higher trims have adaptive suspension that can tailor the driving experience between sporty and comfortable. The exhaust note of the Enclave is nice, but quiet due to the standard active noise cancellation and copious amounts of sound deadening – Buick's traditional Quiet Tuning is at work.
It's not often that you can describe an SUV as beautiful, but the Enclave is just that. It is styled, but not overly so, giving a sense of movement even when it's sitting still. Creases extend across the sides of the crossover from that originate from the the corners of the handsome grille, while another crease creates a tuck along the bottom of the doors, making the Enclave feel a bit athletic. It's oddly reminiscent of Mazda's Kodo design language.
Inside, Buick has really made the Enclave into something special. It's well equipped at all trim levels, but base trims are fairly limited in their offerings. Higher trim levels get a choice of several leather palettes and a plethora of high-quality materials, while the Avenir gets the premium treatment with open pore-wood and exclusive colors.
The Enclave is also very comfortable. The front seats are spacious and supportive with heat and ventilation in most trims, and the rear captain's chairs can slide and recline. Surprisingly, the third row is spacious enough for six-foot tall adults, which is a rarity in this segment. The amount of cargo space is also impressive; with the third row folded flat, you get 58 cubic feet of room, which is about as much as an entire Volkswagen Golf with its rear seat folded.
The Best and Worst Things
The best thing about the new Enclave is the style. It really is a good looking vehicle, and it stands out. Buick is hitting some real home runs as of late, but the Enclave is a grand slam. It's also incredibly spacious, and it's very well equipped. For about $50,000 you can get a really great family hauler with accoutrements you'd see in luxury vehicles that cost $20-30,000 more.
The one area that is lacking for the Enclave is the fuel economy. It's poor with a rating of 18 mpg in the city. While the power of the V6 is appreciated, one has to wonder why Buick didn't go with some sort of forced induction to help bump up the mpg ratings a bit.
Right For? Wrong For?
The Buick Enclave is perfect for families with older children, as even tall people can fit comfortably in the third row. Everyone will be comfortable on long trips, not just those in the captain's chairs. The Enclave is a perfect vehicle for this application, providing a more stylish alternative to the minivan.
This may be obvious, but the Enclave is not a good vehicle for the eligible bachelor or bachelorette. The Encore is essentially a modern minivan, and unless you're moonlighting as an Uber XL driver, you won't get enough use out of it to justify the purchase if you don't have kids. Instead, buy a Mazda Miata for fun and a Toyota Tacoma for practicality. You can get both for the price of the Enclave.
The Bottom Line
If the Enclave is a picture of the direction Buick is going, we should watch out. It's a fantastic looking crossover that is well equipped and incredibly spacious. Essentially, it's a great vehicle that should be seriously considered if you're looking into that space. Buick has done a great job with the Enclave, so we are hoping they're rewarded for the effort.
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