What is it: The Buick Enclave Avenir is the brand’s most expensive and largest crossover. With three rows, attractive styling and ample luxury features, the Enclave is meant to appeal to folks who would buy a Chevy Traverse but prefer a more luxurious vehicle; unlike the old Enclave, and the Buick Rendezvous before that, this current version is different enough to warrant the price bump over competitive three-row CUVs.
Key Competitors: Ford Explorer, Lexus RX 350L, Acura MDX
Base Price: $56,795 As-Tested Price: $59,540
Highlights: For 2018, Buick completely reshaped the Enclave, giving it a new, lower top profile, extra standard features and a new trim line named after Buick’s coupe concept: Avenir. New standard features include LED headlights, LED taillights, rearview camera and rear park assist. The all-wheel-drive system is a twin-clutch design and is Buick’s first switchable AWD system. There are available high-tech features like Buick’s new QuietTuning system, a 360-degree view camera and ventilated front seats. Heated front seats are standard.
Our Opinion: You can’t really call Buick’s return to interesting and premium cars a comeback, but it feels like Buick’s lineup has surged ahead of where it was even five years ago. The Enclave is the current crown on Buick’s crossover lineup, with the Avenir trim being its jewel. Sitting in a parking lot, the redesigned Enclave looks better than ever, and more in line with the premium space Buick is supposed to fill. It’s not quite as stylish as a ’53 Skylark or a ’65 Riviera, but for a crossover -- it looks sharp.
Of course, styling isn't everything -- the new Buick offers a similar suite of convenience features as the competition: a 360-degree camera, heated seats, LED headlights and taillights and standard 4G Wi-Fi. Powering the Enclave is a potent 3.6-liter V6 that’s good for 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. That power goes through a nine-speed automatic and into the all-wheel-drive system.
With over 300 hp, the Enclave is quicker than you’d expect from a nonperformance-minded crossover. The power delivery is smooth and linear and peaks at 6,800 rpm. We can't comment on whether the AWD system will survive a vicious bout of off-roading -- we stayed on pavement -- but the switchable system is good enough for winter struggles.
The Enclave's suspension is tuned soft to better manage bumps with the big 20-inch wheels. The ride is soft as well, which says a lot considering the lack of sidewall deflection. If you don’t opt for the big wheels, the ride will likely be even smoother. The soft suspension does lend itself to roll and dive, but that shouldn’t be too big of a problem when you’re picking up the kids from school.
In the cabin, the standard 8-inch infotainment screen is crisp and easily navigated. The Buick comes standard with CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as six USB ports -- more than enough for you and your friends to charge your phones on a road trip.
Buick has sold about 18,000 Enclaves this year, putting it sixth in the large crossover category. To put that in perspective, Ford sold about 100,000 Explorers and Toyota sold about 90,000 Highlanders. So it has a ways to go. But this is the best SUV the company has ever produced.
We’d love to see a stylish Buick coupe leading the company's luxury push, but we're not holding our breath. With that in mind, the well-styled, three-row Enclave is the nicest car the company makes. Take a drive.