Buick Enclave — Second generation

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's been more than a decade since the Buick Enclave was introduced, a luxury-oriented near-full-size crossover that challenged competitors with a stylish design and a library-quiet interior. Since then Enclave has soldiered on with incremental improvements, updated software, and engine and transmission refinements.

Although the Enclave has aged well, it has grown old. Now the Enclave has finally received a complete makeover — and it's a good one. The second-generation 2018 Enclave has a more powerful V-6 engine, is about 350 pounds lighter, has a fresh interior — and it is once again competitive in the premium three-row crossover segment.

The 2018 Enclave takes on the new Buick design language with a more streamlined appearance featuring a less bulbous-looking body highlighted by a new grille treatment. It’s more aerodynamic with a faster windshield angle and it rides on a longer wheelbase for improved passenger space.  LED projector headlamps and optional 20-inch wheels add to the new look. In the rear, Buck has discarded the round taillights of the outgoing model and now features slimmer lights integrated into a silver bar that runs across the width of the vehicle. The overall appearance is modern and rather striking.

One of the highlights of the Enclave is the revised drivetrain that includes a 310-horsepower V-6 with 266 pound-feet of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. That represents an increase of three forward gears and 22-horsepower over the outgoing model. This all translates into a satisfying feeling of urgency whether in stop and start city traffic, merging into fast-moving interstate traffic, or passing slower moving vehicles on a two-lane blacktop.

You will feel it in the seat of your pants, but if you need numbers for further verification the 2018 Enclave has been instrument tested from 0-to-60 in 6.6 seconds and in 15.2 seconds @ 94 mph for the quarter mile. The icing on the cake is the Enclave's EPA mileage figures of 17 mpg city, 25 highway and 20 overall with all-wheel drive, a three mpg advantage over the outgoing model. Front-wheel drive mileage is slightly better at 18/26/21. Important to note — less-expensive regular gas is recommended.

The interior offers a quiet environment even at highway speeds adding to its luxury attributes. While the Enclave handles well for a big crossover, the suspension yields a just-right ride quality with the ability to soak up road imperfections without disturbing the passengers. The front seats are plush, but supportive and should wear well over long stretches of driving. Inside, the Enclave loses many of its buttons and knobs in favor of a new 8-inch frameless infotainment screen.

The Enclave is available with only seven seats because the second-row features standard captain's chairs — no bench seat is available. We are good with that because our short stint in a second-row seat proved very comfortable. And the second row seats will slide and recline offering limo-like amounts of legroom. The third row is a bit cramped for adults, but it will do for two people on short jaunts. Otherwise make the far-back chairs the permanent home for the kids.

The Buick’s size and packaging yield a useable 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all of the seats up, and the standard power-folding third row and collapsible captain’s chairs allow quick access to its full 97.6-cubic-foot capacity. There’s also a three-cubic-foot storage bin beneath the load floor and a standard power liftgate with a remote-opening sensor under the rear bumper.

The Enclave comes in four trim levels — Enclave, Essence, Premium and the new luxury-infused Avenir, offering technology, safety and comfort features on a par with top luxury crossovers. The Enclave starts at $40,990 and the Essence has a base of $45,000. The Premium starts at $51,290 and Avenir starts at just under $55,000. Add $2,000 for all-wheel drive in the bottom two trims and $2,300 in the Premium and Avenir.

On the base Enclave standard features are generous including keyless entry with push-button start, tri-zone climate control, six USB ports, and a hands-free liftgate. It also includes 18-inch wheels, power-adjustable front seats with heat, the 8-inch touchscreen, and rearview camera, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additionally OnStar communications, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio are included as well. To get what we feel is an essential safety feature in our modern world — blind-spot monitoring — you will have to move up to the Essence trim.

Our Premium test car with all-wheel drive, a dual moonroof and 20-inch aluminum wheels carried a price of  $57,055.

Base price: $40,999; as driven, $57,055
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 310 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 266 pound-feet @ 2,800 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 120.9 inches
Length: 204.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,358 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Luggage capacity: 23.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 97.6 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 17 city, 25 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW X5, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60

The Good
• Energetic V-6 engine
• Quiet, soothing ride
• Standard features plentiful

The Bad
• Tight third row for adults

The Ugly
• Some key safety features only available on top trims