2018 Buick Enclave Avenir: Three-row crossover in new generation with new sub-brand

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Buick boldly took on the large luxury crossover segment in 2007 with its 2008 Enclave (now a mid-size), replacing its truck-based Rainier, the minivan-based Rendezvous and the Tarraza minivan. Now, during an era when three-row crossovers have seriously eroded minivan sales, Buick has evolved its Enclave for the first time in 10 years -- though it received a facelift in 2013, it remained in its first generation.

The second-gen, 2018 Enclave has been completely redesigned and introduces the Avenir sub-brand as the highest expression of Buick luxury, offering unique styling cues and an extensive set of standard features and premium materials.

Enclave upgrades for 2018 with new design architecture that exhibits a balanced, athletic appearance, and new proportions that give the sports-ute a sleeker look with aerodynamic benefits for efficiency. Enclave also shows off a lower roofline, sharper windshield angle and longer wheelbase to present a more dramatic stance. The 2018 Enclave also gets extensive use of LEDs, including bi-functional LED projector headlamps and LED tail lamps.

Buick also touts Enclave’s premium suspension with continuously variable real-time damping on its up-level Avenir, for a smooth, comfortable ride, with enhanced body control and handling in Sport mode. And you get Buick’s signature quiet ride with QuietTuning that includes new active noise cancellation feature, to further reduce, block and absorb noise.

The new Enclave shows off elegant design cues and its Avenir’s five-sided black-mesh grille, character lines and sleekness are encompassed in a generation than is longer and lower than Gen-One, at 204.3 inches long (2.4 inches longer), 78.8 inches wide (0.2 inches narrower) and 69.6 inches high (0.4 inches lower) on a 120.9-inch wheelbase (2 inches longer) for a curbweight of about 4700 lbs.

All Enclave models are powered by a direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to a Hydra-Matic 9T65 9-speed automatic transmission. The system hums out 310hp and 266 lbs.-ft. of torque and is EPA estimated at 17mpg/city for AWD and 25mpg/highway for the AWD version with a huge 21.7-gallon tank. I got about 19mpg during my mixed-use tests.

Acceleration is good for a heavy luxury crossover, with best increases at speed during hill climbs. Enclave is a bit reticent off the line, and passing requires a bit of strategy at times, but the vehicle will get you there and hold a line doing it. From a stop, my Enclave finished off a zero-to-60mph dash in 6.9 seconds – more than a half-second faster than my last test in a Gen-One Enclave), and completed the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds.

On the road, the ride was refined and Buick quiet, though my test vehicle exhibited marked understeer from the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering during quick turning maneuvers.

The MacPherson strut independent front suspension with hydraulic control arm ride bushing and hollow stabilizer bar worked well with the five-link independent rear with auxiliary spring aids and hollow stabilizer bar frame to smooth out most road irregularities, and keep the sense of luxury intact. Additionally, a Premium front suspension with continuously variable real-time damping and Premium rear suspension with continuously variable real-time damping are available on the Avenir.

With seating for seven, the new Enclave presents a 10-percent increase in overall interior space, including hidden underfloor storage. Enclave is accommodating inside with 41 inches of front row headroom, 39.9 inches in row two and 37.6 inches in row three (moderate gains in the first two rows); legroom is a stout 41.2 inches up front with 38.9 and 33.5 for rows two and three (increased for rows two and three).

The lavish and intuitive cabin is packed with a cornucopia of amenities and tech and includes standard tri-zone automatic climate control and an available, new air ionizer that eliminates odors and provides higher air quality. A frameless eight-inch-diagonal Buick infotainment system is standard on all models.

Standard safety features include a rear vision camera, rear park assist and seven air bags, including a front center side airbag.

The 2018 Buick Enclave is available in four time levels starting with the 1SV at $40,990. The Essence trim adds leather and safety tech and starts at $45,295. Premium trim adds a premium entertainment system, heated steering wheel and ventilated seat for a $49,095 base and my top-of-the-line Avenir upgraded with unique upper and lower grilles, wheels and front door badging, exclusive Chestnut/Ebony interior color including seat stitching and piping, Avenir embroidered head rests and floor mats, bold Avenir script sill plates (all four doors), premium film decor accents, real Mahogany wood steering wheel, Infotainment with Navigation, wireless charging, Surround Vision with Rear Camera Mirror, five exterior colors and more … and based at $54,495.

My test Dark Slate Metallic 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir added AWD for $2,300; and the Avenir Technology Package cost $2095 for unique exterior/interior styling, Buick Infotainment System with Navigation, wireless charging, a power dual moonroof with rear fixed skylight, 8-inch diagonal reconfigurable driver information center, Surround Vision with full display inside rearview mirror, 20-inch cast aluminum wheels with Pearl Nickel finish and a premium ride suspension. Destination freight charges of $995 put the sticker price of $58,890.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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