2018 Buick ENCLAVE Premium AWD – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis



If you haven’t had a Buick Enclave SUV on your shopping list in the past few years, it’s understandable.

The previous model has been in production since 2007.

And while it’s always been a strong seller, with so many new players coming in every year, it’s got to be hard to attract new buyers.

Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?

While that’s the tagline from Buick in the 60’s, with the all-new 2018 Enclave SUV, it’s a great question to ask – this is an excellent model for today’s SUV buyer.

B is for Bigger

With a 2-inch longer wheelbase and nearly 2 and a half inches longer overall length, the new Enclave is bigger – and also quite big for its segment. It’s even larger than the mammoth VW Atlas we tested recently.

That shouldn’t make you think the Buick is a land yacht. It carries its size extremely well. The new design is crisp, aerodynamic, and extremely handsome. With its lower roofline and more steeply-angled windshield, It’s curvy and European looking - an interesting contrast to the VW Atlas’ blocky lines.

LED headlamps, including LED Buick Evonik – a Buick first – Evonik Acrylite lighting technology provides a distinctive light signature, while LED bi-function projector lamps add to the modern, clean look. And we loved how our Enclave would sense us approaching, and project the Buick logo on the pavement to help you see – always an ooh and ahh moment for passersby.

Along with optional 20-inch alloy wheels and our tester’s handsome Red Quartz Tintcoat color, we think the Enclave is one of the best-looking vehicles in its class.

Luxury Accommodations

The Enclave is as posh inside as it is stylish on the outside. It starts with 3 rows of extra comfortable seating including heated and ventilated front, and heated second row (outboard positions), and power-folding 3rd row seats.

The leather interior in Brandy with Ebony Accents looks beautiful, and we were pleasantly surprised at how supportive the seats were. This isn’t Grandma’s hand-me-down Century.

The sweep of the dash is tasteful, and home to a handsome info-tainment system with Apple CarPlay, Google Android, and even a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot. Up to date! The shifter looks like it was stolen from a BMW (we like), and even gives you a volume knob (we like!) along with simple easy to use controls.

The only things we didn’t like were the tach and speedo. With such a modern, clean interior, they looked a little plain.

Offered as a 7-seater, with 2nd row captain’s chairs, access to the third row is easy thanks to easy-tilting seats. The 3rd row is even habitable by adults – fine for two traveling around town or shorter commutes. After that, passengers will be duke-ing it out to sit in the comfier second row.

Even with the rear seats up, cabin room is impressive, while folding the 3rd row gives even more room. Fold the second row, and you have a massive cargo hold that will even impress your pickup driving friends.

The standard power rear liftgate with remote sensor makes loading painless, and even includes a lit Buick logo. Not only another way to impress friends, but it also points out where to swing your foot to access the touchless remote. Snazzy.

Surprising Performance

We were expecting lots of luxury and room with our tester, but from a company known for soft, whisper-quiet rides, the Enclave’s joy of the drive was unexpected.

Surprise #1: Strong Power. Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 pushing out an impressive 310 horsepower and 266 lb.-feet of torque. Hooked up to a standard 9-speed automatic, our tester moved out with authority, even with optional All Wheel Drive.

Surprise #2: Agile Handling. That All Wheel Drive system is an advanced one, with a twin-clutch rear differential that can reduce understeer (helps point you into the turn), and switchable all-wheel drive so you can run in front-drive mode if you like.

We like the AWD on, thanks. It gives the big SUV a light-on-its-feet feeling, with a nice precise steering and strong grip. It’s fun on a twisty road – something you can’t say about all large SUVs.

Surprise #3. Well-controlled ride. Even with the 20-inch wheels and tires, our Enclave had a nice taut ride. Not too harsh, no too wallowy. Just right, we’d say. And with Buick’s inclusion of Active Noise Cancellation, along with other noise-absorbing materials, she’s a quiet, comfy cruiser on the superslab.

Surprise #4. City-friendly, too. A big SUV can be a big pain in the world of crowded parking lots, small spaces, and narrow lanes. Our Enclave had a secret weapon – the available RearView Camera with full SurroundVision.

With a 360-degree overhead view, it makes parking easy, even in the tightest spots. Our tester also had a trick Rear Camera Mirror –flip it one way, normal mirror. Flip it the other, and a camera projects the view behind you on the mirror – a real help when you’re loaded with cargo, passengers, or anything else that would normally block your view.

Safe and Sound

A vehicle like this is most likely going to pull family or carpool duty, so the safety equipment is always important.

Our tester checked the box with Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Alert, Low Speed Forward Auto Braking, Front pedestrian braking and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert.

You feel well looked after.

 

 

Filled with Premium.

The Enclave is a luxury vehicle in a luxury brand, so it’s no surprise that prices start at $39,995. Step up to the Essence trim level and you get goodies like Perforated leather, Lane Change Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Yours for $44,300.

The Premium model like our tester adds a Bose 10-speaker audio system, and the climate controlled front and heated 2nd row seats. With the All-Wheel Drive, we started at $50,315. Add in the dual moonroof ($1,400), 20” wheels ($1,400), RearView mirror with Surround Vision ($825), Trailering Equipment ($650), Navigation ($495) and Red Quartz Tintcoat paint ($495), and all totaled with Destination, our tester rang in at $56,555.

For those who want to make an even bigger statement, there’s also the super-lux Avenir model, that starts at $53,500.

There’s a wide range of 3-row large SUV’s to choose from, including the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot to Infiniti, Lexus and Acura models. The Buick is comfortably priced with the upscale brands, which is where it belongs.

We were extremely happy with our new Enclave. Styling, Performance, Luxury, Room – it’s at the top of the class in every one. Yeah, we’d rather have a Buick!

It might have been a 10-year wait for the new model, but this one – like the last Enclave – is a home run.

 

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.