Auto review: Buick’s seven-passenger Enclave crossover redesigned for 2018; prices start at $39,995

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 19, 2018

      

Buick's roomy three-row crossover, the Enclave, receives a complete makeover for 2018, bringing it into its second generation.

Buick’s large three-row crossover, the Enclave, got a complete makeover for 2018, bringing it into its second generation.

It’s actually about 10 percent roomier inside than before, and still offers comfortable seating for up to seven passengers — even adults.

Prices for 2018 begin at $39,995 (plus $995 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive Enclave 1SV model, and top out at $55,800 for the all-wheel-drive Avenir model, which is a new, premium sub-brand for Buick.

Other trim levels and their prices are the Essence front-drive ($44,300); Essence AWD ($46,300); Premium front-drive ($48,100); Premium AWD ($50,400); and Avenir front-drive ($53,500). All-wheel drive is available on all except the Enclave 1SV.

The Avenir sub-brand, which is offered in other Buick vehicles for 2018 as well, is meant to represent "the highest expression of Buick luxury," the automaker says. It includes unique styling cues — such as the Enclave Avenir’s special three-dimensional mesh grille — along with more standard amenities, premium materials and an uplevel suspension with continuously variable real-time automatic damping.

Overall, the new Enclave has a more muscular appearance, less rounded than the previous model. It’s also a sleeker design that is more aerodynamic, for improved fuel economy and aesthetics.

There is a lower roofline, sharper windshield angle and longer wheelbase. That extended wheelbase allows for the increased interior space. LED lighting is introduced on the 2018 model, including bi-functional LED projector headlamps and LED taillights

Under the hood is a normally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 engine, cranking out 310 horsepower and 266 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. With this drivetrain, we had plenty of power for routine interstate highway driving and some country roads we have around our home area.

EPA ratings are 18 mpg city/27 highway with front drive, and 17 city/25 highway with all-wheel drive.

New standard safety features on all trim levels include a rearview camera (showing in the dash audio/nav screen), rear park assist and seven air bags, including a front center side air bag.

A new rearview camera mirror ($825) is available and was included on our test vehicle. It allows the rearview mirror to work as a regular mirror or as a display for a rearview camera (separate from the standard rear camera). In the camera mode, there are no obstructions for the rear view, such as rear headrests, body panels and passengers’ heads.

The available Surround Vision camera system gives an overhead downward view of the vehicle to assist in maneuvering at low speeds. This was included on our vehicle as part of the rearview mirror camera system.

Buick’s QuietTuning cabin noise-reduction system comes with active noise cancellation, designed to block and absorb noise. In our Premium AWD tester, the cabin was very quiet at highway speeds, even on some bumpy roads.

Also included at no extra charge on our tester was a new air ionizer system, designed to eliminate cabin odors and boost interior air quality.

Buick’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, available on Premium and Avenir models, has an active twin-clutch rear differential and a switch to force front drive only for better fuel efficiency. The Essence model’s AWD does not include these extras.

Our tester came with seating for seven, with two bucket seats up front, two captain’s chairs with a center aisle in the middle row, and a three-person 60/40 split/power folding bench seat in the rear.

Other Premium model standard features include leather seats; heated and ventilated eight-way power driver’s seat (with memory) and six-way power front passenger seat; three-zone automatic climate control; a Bose premium 10-speaker audio system with navigation ($495 extra for nav); power hands-free rear lift gate; heated middle-row seats and steering wheel; power tilt/telescopic steering column; dual power/heated outside mirrors with turn signals and blind-zone alerts; and keyless entry with pushbutton start.

While 18-inch aluminum wheels are standard on the Premium model, our tester came with the optional 20-inch aluminum wheels ($1,400). We also had the power front/fixed rear dual-panel moon roof ($1,400), and a trailer-towing package ($650), which included a heavy-duty cooling system.

Our tester had the White Frost Tricoat exterior color ($995 extra), and it also had the Brandy interior with Ebony accents.

The included second-row SmartSlide seat provides easy access to the third row. Located on the passenger side, the SmartSlide seat allows access to the third row even with an empty child seat installed using the LATCH system.

General Motors’ new Rear Seat Reminder system alerts the driver to check the rear before departing the vehicle, if the second-row doors had been opened before the vehicle was started.

The eight-inch-diagonal Buick infotainment system is standard on all models, and includes six USB ports (two for infotainment, four for charging). It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also included is OnStar 4G with LTE Wi-Fi hotspot (AT&T data plan required after data trial period) and five years of the OnStar Basic Plan at no additional cost. Wireless phone charging is standard on the Avenir, and it supports the iPhone 8.

Among the included air bags are front and side-impact for the driver and front passenger, driver inboard seat-mounted side-impact and head-curtain side-impact for all rows in the outboard seating positions.

High-tech safety features on our Premium model included the Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Safety Alert Seat, Front and Rear Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam headlights.

We did not have radar cruise control, which is quickly becoming standard on many vehicles, including ones that cost less than half of what the Enclave costs.

Along with the redesign, the Enclave retained its generous third-row space, particularly the legroom, which makes that seat nearly as comfortable for adults as for children. This is one of the few big crossovers that can achieve that. There is also ample cargo room and overall interior space.

With the captain’s chairs in the middle row, included on our test vehicle, access to the third row is easier because of the gap between the two middle-row seats.

Remote start, which was a nice feature on cold days, was standard on our vehicle. We also had a universal garage/gate opener, and a 120-volt power outlet. In the center console area, in front of the shifter, there were dual USB ports and a nice tray that could accommodate two big smartphones.

The all-wheel drive gives the Enclave all-weather driving capability, along with limited off-road ability, allowing it to handle many gravel and dirt roads in national and state parks. But it has lower ground clearance than most traditional SUVs, and the all-wheel drive doesn’t include low-range gearing for serious trail driving.

With freight and options, the sticker price of our 2018 Enclave Premium AWD model was $57,160.

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2018 Buick Enclave

The package: Large, five-door, seven-passenger, front- or all-wheel-drive, V-6 gasoline-powered crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: The Enclave has been redesigned for 2018, and now enters its second generation. It’s roomy and comfortable, has plenty of power and decent fuel economy, and comes with a wide variety of standard and optional features, depending on trim level.

Disadvantages: Can get pricey at higher trim levels, and with available options.

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, normally aspirated.

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 310 HP/266 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 204.3 inches.

Curb weight (base): 4,358 pounds.

Cargo volume: 23.6 cubic feet (behind third seat); 58 cubic feet (behind second row, third row folded); 97.6 cubic feet (behind first row, all rear seats folded).

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain, all three rows, standard.

Trailer-towing capacity: 5,000 pounds.

Fuel capacity/type: 19.4 gallons/unleaded regular (front drive); 21.7 gallons/unleaded regular (AWD).

EPA fuel economy: 18 city/26 highway (2WD); 17/25 (AWD).

Major competitors: Nissan Pathfinder, Infiniti QX60, Honda Pilot, Ford Flex, Toyota Highlander, Acura MDX, Mazda CX-9, Dodge Durango, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia.

Base price range: $39,995-$55,800, plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $57,160, including freight and options (Premium AWD).

On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).

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