First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave

First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave

The Buick Enclave’s versatility also applies to how it competes in the marketplace.

KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Buick these days, still tries to shake off its image as an automaker that builds vehicles solely for the geriatric crowd. Regardless of public perception, things really started to change for the brand about ten years ago. The “new” GM saw certain brands like Pontiac and Saturn get sent out to pasture. Once popular models like the Century, LeSabre, and Park Avenue all made way for the Rendevous, a crossover that arrived at just the right time. Considered a huge sales success at the time, it set the tone for what Buick (and GM on a larger scale), would do in the future.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Buick Enclave is one of the brand’s hottest sellers, and sits at the top of a now surprisingly European-focused lineup. Selling in big numbers, it’s no surprise that Buick isn’t looking to re-invent the Enclave, but improve on the winning formula that people seem to love so much. It is described as “elegant” and “versatile”, and Buick fully sees it as a 3-row luxury crossover. Riding on an all-new platform for the 2018 model year, the Enclave continues to compete with a very wide variety of competitors, all of which are called out directly: Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, and even the Audi Q7.

First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave review

The first-generation Enclave was a seriously large vehicle. It also was a seriously heavy vehicle, tipping the scales at over 2100kg/4800lbs. With the second-generation vehicle, Buick has managed to both improve interior space, and make the Enclave visually slimmer. It’s also physically slimmer, dropping around 200kg/500lbs, thanks to the more intensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel. What’s most impressive is the third-row accommodations; the Enclave boasts 142mm/5.6” more legroom than the Acura MDX, 114mm/4.5” more than the Audi Q7, and 76mm/3” more than the Infiniti QX60. I have personally spent extended amounts of road-trip time in the third-row of the Acura MDX, and that extra space would have made all the difference.

Taking on cues from the rest of the new Buick lineup, as well as the Avenir concept, the new Enclave features a lower roofline and a longer wheelbase (for all that extra space). The two-box side profile doesn’t actually change much, but new LED lighting technology from Evonik Acrylite gives the front end of the Enclave a more distinctive look. Overall, the new Enclave isn’t quite as bubbly as the first-generation Enclave, but now features a sleeker and more handsome look that fits right in for the hyper-competitive luxury crossover market of today. A new Avenir trim line represents the best of the Enclave, with unique wheels, a different grille, and more premium finishings (read: floor mats and more interior wood trim).

First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave review

Inside, the Buick Enclave continues their tradition of crafting some seriously quiet interiors. Thanks to Buick’s QuietTuning, the additional seals, acoustic glass, and active noise cancellation means the driver can easily hold a conversation with somebody way back in the third row. Even the action of the windshield wipers is surprisingly quiet. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is standard, as is GM’s usual 4G LTE connectivity for new owners. The interior design overall is clean, uncluttered, and does a good job blending the luxurious look and feel, with the practicality of a full-size crossover. The third-row remains tight, but it’ll work for kids, in a pinch. The cargo area behind the third row can still handle a large checked piece of luggage with the seats up.

Under the hood, V6 power continues to be standard issue equipment. The 302 horsepower 3.6L V6 is updated with idle start-stop technology (though there’s no button to disable it), and a new nine-speed automatic transmission, and available all-wheel drive. This particular all-wheel drive system features a fancy twin-clutch rear differential (helps to shuttle power to specific rear wheels), and if you really want to, you can actually disable the AWD system for additional efficiency when you don’t need the extra traction. Towing capability is up as well, now up to 5000lb when equipped with the optional towing package. Interesting fact: the turning circle is now down to just 39 feet, which is better than expected for such a large crossover.

First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave review

First impressions behind the wheel suggests the Enclave doesn’t drive as “large” as its predecessor, even with the improved interior accommodations. The overall attention to detail is there, with a quiet and composed ride under most conditions. The “Sport” mode really doesn’t need to be there – we think a dedicated “Comfort” setting that relaxes the adjustable dampers would be more appropriate. One detail: the plastic latches that hold the roof sunshades closed are a low point in what is otherwise a smart and premium interior.

The previous-generation Buick Enclave started with an MSRP of $49,135, before incentives, taxes, and additional dealer fees. The new Enclave starts at $49,690 for the base front-drive variant, and adding all-wheel drive (which we expect most Canadians to do) bumps the price to $52,690. This starts to put it in contention with choices such as the fully-loaded Honda Pilot, a base-model Acura MDX, fully-loaded Mazda CX-9, and in some ways, a base Audi Q7 (though with four-cylinders). The Enclave Avenir sits at the top of the lineup, with just about everything included, for $63,690. The Buick Enclave’s versatility also applies to how it competes in the marketplace. We’ve had a good taste of what it has to offer, but we also look forward to spending more time to see how it really fits into our daily lives.

See also:

2017 Honda Pilot

2018 Acura MDX

2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature

 

 

Louis Vo
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