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2018 Buick Enclave: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Buick Enclave, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Buick Enclave Review

It’s been a decade coming, but the second-generation Buick Enclave is rolling into showrooms for 2018. Right from the get-go, the original Enclave was a big hit. Part of a GM trio that also includes the Chevrolet Traverse and the somewhat smaller GMC Acadia, the Buick interpretation of this 3-row, 7-passenger crossover, if anything, is sleeker, roomier and more high end than the outgoing version.

CUVs contribute the bulk of Buick sales (77 percent at last count). Not only is the Enclave the top dog of the brand’s crossovers, which also include the Encore and the Envision, but it’s also the flagship of the entire Buick stable. Because of its top-of-the-batting-order position among Buick’s CUVs and the importance of CUVs to the brand, remaking the Enclave was no small undertaking. Buick can’t afford a New Coke moment where the Enclave is concerned.

Adding to the significance of updating the Enclave, Buick tasked the 2018 version with pioneering its Avenir sub-brand. Its most luxurious trim, Buick hopes Avenir will do for it what Denali has done for GMC. Eventually, Avenir will find its way into most of Buick’s lineup.

What’s New for 2018?

The Enclave is completely redesigned for 2018. See the 2018 Buick Enclave models for sale near you

What We Like

User-friendly controls; no-hands automatic power lift gate; Avenir trim; upscale interior; whisper-quiet cabin

What We Don’t

Most driver-assist and safety technology is not available on base model; finicky electronic shifter

How Much?

$41,945-$55,365

Fuel Economy

Buick offers only one powertrain for the Enclave, featuring a 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and 9-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. The electronic shifter requires some getting used to, but it does free up space under the center console for extra storage. One of two all-wheel-drive systems is offered on all but the entry-level model. If opting for AWD, the Essence grade gets a typical AWD system; while the two upper trims qualify for Buick’s Intelligent AWD with a rear axle that switches torque from one wheel to the other as needed.

Because of its size (more than 204 inches in total length), the Enclave barely qualifies for the midsize segment. However, weight is down for every trim level: 400 pounds in the base model, for example. The result is respectable gas mileage for a 3-row hauler. According to government estimates, FWD versions deliver 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. AWD scrubs 1 mpg from both numbers.

Standard Features & Options

The Enclave 1SV trim ($41,945) comes nicely equipped with seven airbags, tri-zone automatic climate control, six USB ports, cruise control, a Driver Information Center with a 4.2-in display, full power accessories, remote keyless locks and start, a rear-vision camera, leather seating, power-adjustable heatable front seats, an easy-access second-row seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, active noise cancellation, LED headlights and daytime running lights, active front grille shutters, auto on/off headlights, a hands-free power rear lift gate, turn signals integrated into outboard mirrors, rear-park assist, Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar telematics, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability and an infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, SiriusXM capability, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Essence trim ($46,165) is the volume-seller and includes all the standard features on the Enclave 1SV, adding the Driver Confidence package with lane-change alert, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as an ionizing interior air cleaner. Available options include the Buick Infotainment System with navigation, a rearview mirror with rear-vision camera display, 360-degree surround vision, a power moonroof and 120V power outlet.

The Premium trim ($49,965) makes the 120V power outlet standard, as well as the Driver Confidence II package with low-speed automatic forward braking, the Memory package with two driver presets for seats, outboard mirrors and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 10-speaker Bose-infused audio system, HD radio, following distance indicator, forward-collision alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, pedestrian detection, safety alert driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, a power-folding third-row seat, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, auto high-beam control, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, and front- and rear-park assist. Options include those on the Essence grade, except the 120V outlet.

The Avenir trim ($55,365) adds all of the Premium grade’s options plus replaces the Driver Information Center’s 4.2-in touchscreen with an 8-in one. A steering wheel with a wood accent, wireless smartphone charging, 20-in aluminum wheels, a unique mesh grille and two-tone leather interior with contrast stitching are included. Options include the Technology package with adaptive cruise control with stop/go and forward automatic braking, and the Premium Suspension package with continuously variable real-time damping.

Safety

NHTSA and IIHS have yet to crash-test the Enclave. Every Enclave comes with seven airbags, a rear-vision camera and rear-park assist. Standard on the Essence is the Driver Confidence package with lane-change alert, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Standard on the Premium and Avenir grades is the Driver Confidence II package that adds front- and rear-park assist and low-speed automatic forward braking, as well as automatic high-beam control, a safety alert driver’s seat, following distance alert, forward-collision alert and forward-pedestrian alert. Available for the Avenir grade is a Technology package with adaptive cruise control and forward automatic braking.

Behind the Wheel

Although the 2018 Buick Enclave is larger than the outgoing model, it drives smaller. It’s nimble with responsive steering and stop-on-a-dime braking. Acceleration is relentless, if not neck-snapping. It accumulates speed at a consistent pace with plenty left in the tank to pass slower traffic, even in hilly terrain.

Plenty of sound-deadening insulation, noise-cancellation technology and laminated glass in the windshield and front doors manage to nearly shut out all the racket outside the vehicle. The two front rows of captain’s seats are comfy and sufficiently supportive. Because the Enclave flirts with being a full-size CUV, it can host a lot of stuff behind the third-row seat, as well as with the second- and third-row seats folded flat with the cargo floor.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Acura MDX — Wildly popular, the MDX is the best-selling 3-row CUV of all time. It checks all of the boxes. Comfortable, upscale, roomy and crammed full of driver-assist/safety features, it appeals on multiple levels.

2018 Mazda CX-9 — Although not considered a luxury CUV, the CX-9 is pretty darn nice. It manages to balance a sporty driving experience with upscale comfort, 3-row seating and excellent fuel economy.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas — This all-new CUV is VW’s first crack at a 3-row ute. Although it can haul a bunch of people and all their stuff, the Atlas drives like a much smaller vehicle. It has plenty of get-up-and-go and decent fuel economy for its size.

Autotrader’s Advice

Buick expects the Essence will be the Enclave’s best-selling trim and for good reason. At only a few grand more than the well-stocked entry-level grade, the Essence adds some safety technology, such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert that we think is important. It also offers some popular options like a navi system, adding to its appeal.

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