Monday, January 15, 2018

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2018 Buick Enclave

Since the Enclave first hit the streets more than 10 years ago, it has served Buick well. Sharing the same platform and mechanicals as its corporate cousins, the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia (and don't forget the Outlook from the now defunct Saturn brand), the Enclave always earned the honors of being the fanciest and most elegant of the bunch.

But 10 years is a long time to go without a major redesign, so it's not far-fetched to say one was overdue. Well that time has come, and for 2018 we get an all-new Buick Enclave - and it appears to pick up where the last one left off.

The new Enclave is easily recognizable as Buick's largest SUV. But gone are the soft smooth lines, replaced by elegantly sculptured styling cues. This gives the new Enclave a notably trimmer look than it's predecessor.

The new Enclave looks even better when trimmed out in the range-topping new Avenir trim level. This adds an exclusive three-dimensional mesh grille with chrome wings along with 20-inch chrome wheels with a nickle finish-pattern.

The Enclaves sculptured shape carries over in to the interior where a flowing dashboard spans across the cabin. The center console is surprisingly simple, with just a few buttons. The simplicity adds to the elegance of the Enclave's cabin. And as expected, the Avenir trim adds to it by offering a Chestnut interior with Ebony piping on the seats as well as a wood accents splashed around.

When it comes to seating, all Enclaves come one way - with seven seats. The second row features captain’s chairs and behind that is a third-row bench seat. The front two rows are super-comfy with the second row featuring adjustments like sliding and reclining. The third-row seat is accessed only by the passenger-side where the second row seat folds forward to allow access to the way back. The third row will accommodate adults, but not for long trips. Kids with iPads may hold out longer.

Powering all Enclaves is a 3.6 liter V6 engine. While that may sound like nothing has changed from prior Enclaves, Buick claims this engine is all new. While engine size and displacement are the same, the new engine makes 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. That's up 22 horses although torque is down by 4 lb-ft versus the previous engine. But with peak power coming in 600 RPMs lower along with being hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission (version the previous Enclave's six-speed auto), the new engine feels stronger.  As before, all Enclaves are front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive being an option.

As I get acquainted with the new Enclave, I'm discovering little things that wow me. For instance, the quietness of the vehicle is amazing. Another thing is the rear camera mirror that allows the rearview mirror to function as a traditional mirror or as a camera - which eliminates obstructions in the vehicle (like passenger heads and/or headrests) and expands the rear field of vision by 300%. And it seem not so long ago that more buttons seemed better, the Enclave gets by with less buttons, and it's refreshing.

The Enclave Avenir is Buick's flagship vehicle, and it shows that Buick is taking luxury very seriously.    

The Enclave starts at $41,000 for the base model while the Enclave Avenir starts at $54,500.