Auto review: Buick Enclave Avenir eyes the future with a new level of luxury

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 12, 2018

        

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir offers unique styling cues, more standard features and upscale touches throughout.

There’s no debate that Buick is exploring the future of luxury with its 2018 Enclave Avenir. After all, Avenir is French for future.

The midsize crossover SUV is the first in the lineup to get the Avenir luxury designation, which means unique styling cues, more standard features and upscale touches throughout. The redesigned, second-gen Enclave is longer and roomier, too.

Enclave’s overdue redesign makes it arguably one of the best-looking crossovers on the road, with its rounded edges and lower roofline. A black mesh grilled gives Avenir a more premium look and the 20-inch six-spoke wheels don’t hurt, either. All Avenir interiors have chestnut wood with ebony accents.

There’s only one engine available, too, but it’s all most anyone will need. GM’s 3.6-liter V-6 was upgraded for 2018 and puts out 310 horsepower — a 22-hp boost — and 266 pound-feet of torque, which proved more than ample even when climbing hills even with several passengers and cargo aboard.

A new 9-speed transmission distributes the power to two or all four wheels. And, for the first time, Enclave can get a twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system (a $2,300 option) that can be switched on with the push of a button on the dash.

Enclave feels lighter on its feet than its curb weight of 4,358 pounds might suggest. Acceleration to 60 mph is a full second quicker this year, at 6.4 seconds. Handling is competent even while cutting tight curves.

On the open road, Avenir is smooth, quiet and comfortable thanks to a dynamic suspension system that actively makes adjustments depending on road conditions. It is impressive as it effectively keeps bumps and dips in check.

Less impressive are mileage figures for Enclave: An EPA-estimated 18 mpg city, 26 highway for a combined 21 mpg.

While the Enclave’s longer and wider body translates to more headroom, legroom and cargo space, it’s the upscale look and feel that makes Avenir’s cabin a special place. It starts with ultra-comfy heated/cooled and ventilated front seats — heated seats in the second row, too.

The thick padded dash feels rich, and the controls and dials are easy to reach and operate. Avenir gets Buick’s premium shifter which is a little tricky and takes some getting used to.

The rear-view mirror can convert to camera for a view without backseat passengers’ heads in the way. And GM’s best infotainment screen includes navigation and the goodies that come via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Dual moon roofs, powered in front and fixed in the rear, introduce warmth, daylight or starlight into the three-row, 7-passenger cabin. Good vibes emanate from an upgraded 10-speaker Bose audio system.

The Enclave also has better cargo space than most three-row SUVs: 23 cubic feet behind the third row, 58 with the third row folded down (just push a button), and a cavernous 97 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded.

Enter the cargo area with the swipe of a foot under the bumper — and you won’t lose balance searching for the right spot: A lighted Buick logo shines on the ground to show you just where to swipe. Nice touch, Buick.

Avenir gets Surround View camera standard, plus lane change and blind spot alerts. Optional is a safety-technology package ($2,095) which adds adaptive cruise control, with full-speed stop and go, and forward automatic braking at all speeds. All-wheel-drive is available for another $2,300.

Calling it futuristic may be a stretch, but the Enclave Avenir does give us a peek at the next level of luxury for Buick.

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2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Vehicle Price: $56,200 (with Technology Package, $2,095)

What’s all the excitement about? Buick’s redesigned Enclave is first to wear the new Avenir luxury badge

Powertrain: 3.6-liter V-6 produces 310 horsepower, a 22-hp boost over last year

How’s the performance? Quiet and smooth with an adaptive suspension that makes adjustments based on road conditions

What about fuel economy? EPA-rated at 18 mpg city, 26 highway, for a combined 21 mpg