The Buick story is one of survival. While General Motors’ mid-level brands, Oldsmobile and Pontiac, were discontinued, Buick remains in the game, along with Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC. Contributing to Buick’s enduring success is its lines of near-luxury crossover and sport-utility models — which now include the tiny Encore, compact Envision and midsize Enclave.
Since its introduction 10 years ago, the Enclave has cruised along at a comfortable 50,000 to 60,000 units sold every year. Sales of the redesigned Enclave are a bit hotter so far this year than they were in 2017. Meanwhile, Buick’s flagship SUV routinely outsells the LaCrosse sedan, a more traditional Buick model.
What’s the Enclave’s attraction? Partly, Buick’s reputation for quality and luxury, and the fact the Enclave is made in the United States. Its competition mainly is comprised of premium Japanese SUVs by Acura, Infiniti and Lexus. Buick also contends with the Ford Explorer and several GM models, including the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Terrain, which share many components with the Enclave.
The challenge, for Buick, is to build a significantly more desirable SUV than the models offered by Chevrolet and GMC. Having test-driven a Traverse, we judged the Enclave more refined but not more functional, or significantly easier on the eyes. And it costs a lot more. Our 2018 Enclave Avenir AWD carried a sticker price just shy of $60,000, compared with about $54,000 for a similarly equipped Traverse. (The base Enclave, with front-wheel drive, starts at $40,970.)
The Enclave’s long standard-equipment list included a 310-horsepower V-6 engine, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats, three-zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, 20-inch aluminum wheels, dual moonroof, remote starter, and power liftgate.
Among the major safety systems were front and rear parking assist, following distance indicator, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert and front pedestrian braking. A rear camera mirror provides a view to the rear that avoids obstacles such as passengers’ heads, cargo and headrests. It’s clear and sharp, but takes some getting used to because the change in focus can be disorienting.
For younger drivers, Buick’s impressive connectivity package is an attraction. The basic features included satellite radio, Onstar, navigation system, Wi-Fi hotspot, and an infotainment system displayed on an 8-inch diagonal screen. For an additional $2,095, our Enclave was equipped with the Avenir Technology Package: adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking, and premium suspension package.
The Enclave felt sure-footed and predictable on the road, and fuel economy was more than acceptable at 17 mpg city, 25 highway. The V-6 engine delivered ample, consistent power via a 9-speed shiftable automatic transmission. The ride and sound level are appropriately luxurious.
The Enclave scored the top rating of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in major crashworthiness categories, but the institute has not yet completed crash testing on this model. The Envision was rated a Top Safety Pick.
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 310 horsepower, 266 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Curb weight: 4,605 lb.
Ground clearance: 7.7 in.
Wheels: 20-in. alloy
Tires: P255/55R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 23.6 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 97.6 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 5,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gal.
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 25 highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.