CRUISE IN COMFORT
Redesigned seven-seat Enclave is Buick’s first foray into its Avenir luxury offshoot
Buick has redesigned the Enclave with a new look for 2018, while ramping up the luxury with the introduction of Avenir, Buick’s new luxury trim level.
The Enclave shares a platform with the Chevrolet Traverse, but is aimed at codling its occupants with a higher degree of comfort, while offering more distinguished, flowing exterior lines.
The exterior now has a more sculpted, less generic appearance than the outgoing model, with narrower, squinting headlights, a wider grille, and a continuous beltline that flows more gracefully from front to rear. There are three trim levels, starting with the base Essence ($49,495), which is available with frontwheel or all-wheel drive, then moving up to the Premium ($57,495), and the top-of-theline Avenir ($63,495), both of which are only available with AWD. If you just bought a 2017 Enclave, you’ll notice that pricing has dropped by $1,240 on the base model and by $740 on the Premium for 2018.
Under the hood is the same 3.6-litre V6 engine, though it gets a boost in power to 310 horsepower from 288, and a slight drop in torque to 266 pound-feet from 270. The big change, however, is the addition of a start-stop function, which is standard in all trim levels, and there’s now a ninespeed automatic in place of the former six speed. These changes have reduced fuel consumption markedly, the new Enclave FWD claiming 12.9 L city and 9 L highway, compared with 15.7 L and 10.6 L respectively.
The interior has a more fluid and coherent design than before, with a tall centre console that makes you feel like you’re sitting deep within the vehicle. Quality materials are used throughout the interior, and my leatherclad Premium test vehicle has many soft-touch surfaces and warm, welcoming tones. Sevenpassenger seating is standard, and there are several storage compartments, including a deep one below the centre-console elbow rest, and a large one under the centre console by the front occupants’ feet.
Seating is firm yet supportive. Heated front seats are standard on the base model, while heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel are standard on the Premium and Avenir.
The second-row seats offer plenty of head and leg room, while the third row is a bit short on head room for full-sized adults.
It’s on the Avenir that Buick has pulled all the stops, including standard features that include a rear-view mirror camera, exclusively available driver assists, added exterior colour choices, an exclusive chestnut and ebony interior colour with embossed seats, wood-trimmed steering wheel, and eight-inch configurable instrument cluster, 360 degree-view camera, two-panel sunroof and inductive cellphone charging. It’s distinguishable on the outside by its mesh grille, 20-inch polished wheels, and Avenir badges.
The Enclave features Buick’s QuietTuning, which incorporates sound-deadening materials throughout the body, triple-sealed doors, and active noise cancelling to provide a serene cabin. As a result the ride is almost electric smooth, with very little tire noise or road vibration making it into the cockpit.
Steering is light but precise, and the Enclave exhibits minimal body roll through corners, particularly noteworthy because of its size. Although the Avenir is equipped with active suspension, I could not discern any improvement over the Premium’s standard suspension because of the area’s board-smooth roads.
The Avenir’s rear-view mirror camera takes a few minutes to get accustomed to, but it offers a wide view of what’s behind you, unobstructed by C pillars or seats. It also gives a much better view when pulling a trailer, with the trailer wheels clearly in view, thus allowing you to gauge the distance to curbs when pulling a wide trailer on narrow streets. One peculiarity I discovered, though, is that if you need reading glasses to see items closer than about a metre clearly, the image in the rear-view monitor (which doubles as a real mirror if desired) will appear blurred, as opposed to a true reflection, which has a focal point that is farther away than the camera image.
Buick has simplified the choices a driver needs to make at the wheel by offering very few drive modes.
When equipped with the trailer package there is a trailer mode that adjusts throttle and transmission mapping for hauling, and also firms up the damping on the Avenir’s dynamic suspension. You can activate the transmission range selector by tugging on the steering wheel paddles, allowing you to select which of the nine speeds you want to serve as the top gear. You’ll also find an AWD button on the centre stack that disconnects all but the rear half shafts from the transmission, effectively transforming AWD models to front drivers, which is said to reduce fuel consumption by about a half-litre per 100 km. The AWD system is available with an active twin-clutch rear differential.
Cargo capacity has been increased by 10 per cent to a total of more than 2,760 L. And maximum towing capacity has increased to 5,000 lbs (2,268 kilograms), up 500 lbs (227 kg) from the previous model.
A full array of driver assists is available. Blind-spot, lanechange and rear cross-traffic alerts are standard across the model range, while Premium and Avenir models add lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist with haptic feedback that warns you by vibrating the driver’s seat, forward-collision alert, park assist, auto high beams, and a following-distance indicator. Only on the Avenir can you opt for adaptive cruise control, which also has the capability to bring the vehicle to a stop and get it going again, and forwardcollision mitigation with auto braking.
The Enclave is Buick’s halo vehicle, and according to its maker most buyers opted for the top two trim levels. Buick is hoping to capitalize on that success by creating the Avenir trim, but time will tell if it will achieve its goal of luring buyers away from other luxury SUVs such as the Acura MDX, Infinity QX60 or the Lincoln MKX.
The 2018 Buick Enclave Premium offers supportive seating and plenty of storage space.
The interior has a fluid design and is made with quality materials.