En­clave de­buts Avenir off­shoot

First Drive: 2018 Buick En­clave


AT­LANTA — 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 front-wheel or all-wheel drive, then mov­ing up to the Pre­mium ($57,495), and the topof-the-line 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 3.6litre 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 nine-speed 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 leather-clad 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-viewmir­ror 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 fa­ther 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 half a litre per 100 km. The AWD sys­tem is avail­able with an ac­tive twin­clutch 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, lane-change and rear cross-traf­fic alerts are stan­dard across the model range, while Pre­mium and Avenir mod­els add lane-de­par­ture warn­ing, lane-keep as­sist with hap tic 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 for­ward-col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion with auto brak­ing.


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