Title:First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave
Published:10 October 2017
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ATLANTA – Buick has redesigned the Enclave with a new look for 2018, while on the same vehicle ramping up the luxury with the introduction of Avenir, Buick’s new luxury sub-brand.The Enclave shares platforms 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 top-of-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 3.6-litre V6 engine, though it gets a boost in power to 310 hp from 288, and a slight drop in torque to 266 lb.-ft. 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 12.9L city and 9L highway compared with 15.7L and 10.6L 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.Seven-passenger 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; front seat heat is 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 like 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 due to 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 that I discovered, though, is that if you need reading glasses to see clearly items closer than about a metre, 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