Flash Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD

An All-New Buick Enclave (Finally)—And It’s a Dandy

Buick’s three-row Enclave utility vehicle began showing up in driveways nearly a decade ago. Other than minor facelifts and equipment upgrades, Buick has done little else to this workhorse. But now, for 2018 it has totally redesigned the Enclave, including adding a new top-of-the-line version named Avenir.

The 2018 Buick Enclave rides on an all-new platform, has distinctive and fresh styling outside and in, and offers a host of new features. The 3.6-liter V6 engine puts out more power and is now mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. This latest Buick three-row crossover succeeds in being a marked improvement over its predecessor in every meaningful way.

2018 Buick Enclave

The Buick Enclave is finally all-new for 2018

Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available in two forms: a $2,000 conventional on-demand system for mid-level Essence models, and a $2,300 setup on Premium and Avenir trims, which includes a rear axle that can apportion torque to either wheel to minimize understeer.

Few other SUVs in the class can match the 2018 Enclave’s gas mileage. This crossover gets up to 18 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive versions subtract 1 mpg across the board.

The base Enclave starts at $39,995, the Essence trim is $44,300, while the Premium  model stickers at $48,100. The range-topping Enclave Avenir is priced starting at $53,500.

Revised Powertrain 

The 2018 Buick Enclave has a reworked direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine that pushes out an ample 310 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque—up 22 horses yet down four pounds-feet versus the previous 3.6-liter. It’s mated to a slick shifting nine speed automatic transmission. The shifter comes with paddle controls and a semi-manual mode.

2018 Buick Enclave

The Enclave now has a better towing set up

The powertrain has a base towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, but a new trailer-towing package that includes additional cooling and other tweaks enables the Enclave to have a tow rating of 5,000 pounds. To help bolster fuel economy, the Enclave is equipped with seamless stop/start technology.

Stylish Exterior, Superb Interior

Riding on a 120.9-inch wheelbase, the 2018 Enclave’s length of 204.3 inches is 2.4 inches longer than the 2017 model. The Enclave is a big boy and yet the svelte exterior styling takes a bit off that bulk. Character lines on the sides and a roof that slopes down at the rear enhance the impression of a trim vehicle.

2018 Buick Enclave

A new grill, too!

Gone is the waterfall grill design. It’s replaced by a more contemporary opening with wings extending from either side of the Buick tri-shield logo accented with handsomely canted LED headlights. The tail of the Enclave wears its band of metallic trim like a tie bar.

The Enclave’s sculpted shape carries over into its cavernous interior, with a contoured dashboard that flows nicely across the cabin and into the door panels and is accented by dark wood and chrome accents. An 8-inch screen dominates the center of the dash, and electronic analog gauges are positioned in front of the driver. Controls are logically arrayed and easy to use in concert with the touch screen.

2018 Buick Enclave

Third row ingress is best-in-class

Available only with seven seats, Enclave excels in coddling adults in the first and second rows. The sliding and reclining second-row captain’s chairs offer limo-like amounts of legroom. On the passenger side, the second-row seat tilts out of the way for third-row access, even with a child safety seat installed. Even adults will find good head and leg room in the way-back seats, not to mention a USB port and a cupholder.

The Enclave easily beats out the cargo capacities of most competitors. Clever packaging affords it a substantial 24 cubic feet of cargo space with all of the seats up; folding third row and collapsible captain’s chairs allow quick access to its full 98-cube capacity.

Base model 2018 Buick Enclaves come standard with power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free power liftgate, a six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth, an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, remote start, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors.

Leather upholstery, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert are added to Enclave Essence models.

2018 Buick Enclave

Buick’s interior is now in the suburb range

Our Premium test driver featured a host of additional standard equipment. These included ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a power tilting and telescoping heated steering wheel, power-folding third-row seats along with a 10-speaker Bose audio system, HD Radio. Additionally, forward collision warning, low speed automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, active lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and front parking sensors were standard.

In addition to unique styling exterior elements, top-of-the-line Enclave Avenir adds a dual-pane moonroof, navigation, wireless smartphone charging and a rear camera mirror.

A Very Quiet Ride

On the move, the Buick paid close attention and felt powerful, with the V-6 providing much needed get-up-and go. The nine-speed worked through its many ratios with precision and smoothness.

2018 Buick Enclave

Smooth & quiet are Enclave hallmarks

The all-new Enclave still has the smooth ride of the previous model, but even more so thanks to the new two-inch-longer wheelbase providing a better ride and shorter turning radius. The new five-link independent rear suspension gave the Enclave a sharper response and is tuned to minimize body roll in corners. The electric power steering featured an active return assist, which gave the steering a lighter touch when unwinding the wheel. Brake pedal feel was satisfyingly firm with a positive on-center feel.

Quiet Tuning has become a Buick hallmark and is what distinguished the previous model from the competition. The cabin was downright serene thanks to the attention to detail in controlling noise, vibration and harshness. The laminated glass returns as does the extensive use of sound-deadening material.

As for fuel economy, I was delighted with the 22.3 combined mpg after driving 267 miles on a variety of urban streets and highways.

In the Marketplace

The 2018 Buick Enclave has some pretty tough competition in the form of the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 450hL Infiniti QX60 and Mazda CX-9. It is more upscale than most of its rivals, but it’s not too far above the pack in terms of price. The Enclave is a great choice for buyers that want luxury-SUV quality at non-luxury prices.

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

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