GM has overhauled its 3-row family movers for 2018 – a segment they do exceptionally well. But this one is for the luxury crowd. The all-new Enclave debuts a high-end trim you can think of as the Denali of the Buick brand. This is Avenir.
Though Buick’s pipeline of German-designed cars will soon run dry with Opel having been sold to France’s PSA Group last year, the first complete redesign of their biggest vehicle shows the future of GM’s premium brand is still bright.
Introduced more than a decade ago, the trifecta of Traverse, Enclave and Acadia have been a boon for the General but during their recent remake the GMC went in a smaller direction, leaving the Chevy and Buick to carry the big 3-row load. And atop the 2018 Enclave’s 4-trim lineup is the first-ever Avenir-branded Buick, designed with distinction. This is the only Enclave with Pearl Nickle finish 20” wheels, a bigger 8” configurable Driver Information Center, a Chestnut/Ebony interior including seat stitching and piping, a wood accent steering wheel, wireless device charging, and a 3D mesh grille with chrome wings. Base price of an AWD Avenir is $56,795, $5,400 more than the Premium trim directly below it.
The Enclave now sports a lower roofline, sharper windshield angle and longer wheelbase. It’s not easy to make a big 3-row attractive to the eye, but the Enclave has a certain style about it that works particularly well, aided by the sensuously styled LED headlamps.
The substantially lighter body is backed by an updated version of GM’s venerable 3.6-liter V6, producing up to 310 horsepower. In the name of efficiency, a new 9-speed automatic transmission employs stop/start technology and peak torque has been slightly reduced, rated at 266 pound-feet. But no worries, this Enclave can hustle and its powertrain is as smooth as its ride. Though it feels sizeable from behind the wheel, there’s a sense of confident control and a connection with the driver. More importantly though is the optional Avenir Premium Suspension Package that delivers every bit the refined, isolating ride you’d expect from a Buick and a setup that’s not available on Traverse. Sourced from GKN, the Avenir’s upgraded all-wheel drive system incorporates torque vectoring technology to help steer the vehicle making on-road performance more stable and dynamic as well as enhancing off-road capabilities. Plus, it makes the setup more fuel-efficient by providing a simpler AWD disconnect; driver selectable when not needed. Gas mileage checks in at 17mpg city/25mpg highway – an 18% improvement with an extended driving range of over 430 miles. With the optional trailering package, the Enclave is good for up to 5,000 pounds.
Not all Enclaves can be upgraded to the twin-clutch all-wheel drive system and continuous damping suspension but the Avenir offers both and they’re important benefits you might not initially consider. With them you get improved control, handling and ride comfort that elevates the Avenir’s drive to luxury status Lexus has long been known for their quiet cabins and plush rides but Buick is right there now on both fronts, providing a sense of calm and serenity for the family.
With 10% more interior space than before, there’s no problem fitting 7 in here, made easier by an easy slide 2nd row seat – but only on the passenger side.
That includes a large underfloor storage area with a lid that stays up, if needed, and the driver’s side 2nd row seat does slide but it doesn’t allow for the easy in that the passenger’s side does. This is also helpful for leaving a child seat in place while you’re doing it but the mechanics require some muscle so kids might struggle with this. Power folding 3rd row seats are a nice touch but require some wrangling if the 2nd row seats are pushed all the way back. People space is quite impressive. This tri-shield logo illuminates where you should kick your foot to operate the liftgate but again this one is too sensitive, requiring you to find the absolute sweet spot in order to make it work.
I love how GM integrates its vast arsenal of technologies so seamlessly. This Enclave has nearly everything you could want to make the drive more enjoyable, including the new Marketplace feature, allowing you do things such as order and pay for your morning donut and find and reserve and parking.
TGIFridays, Dunkin’ Donuts, Red Lobster and others are on board to help save you time and money. Plus, notice how uncluttered and simple everything is in here yet there’s much going on. So kudos to GM for making their myriad features simple to use. My tester takes advantage of the optional Avenir Technology Package and thus has adaptive cruise control and forward automatic braking in addition to such standard items as the rear view camera mirror, surround vision camera and vibrating safety alert seat. Remote start, Wi-Fi, OnStar – you name it and Buick delivers. I recognize it’s not a Cadillac but if you’re keeping score there’s no head-up display, no wireless CarPlay a la BMW, no changeable ambient interior lighting, and no exterior light carpet projection. Otherwise the Avenir has it all for an as-tested price of $59,540. Buick’s Avenir sub-brand is off to a rousing start as the new Enclave continues its 3-row excellence.