2018 Buick Enclave

INDIANAPOLIS — Buick can be described as BE and AE, or before and after Enclave.  Before Enclave, Buick built large fluffy sedans for large fluffy people.  After Enclave, Buicks found homes in the exclusive driveways of younger style-conscious professionals.  Beyond that, though, Buick virtually invented the concept of a luxurious three-row crossover that’s become a staple of every luxury automaker.  After a decade, the Enclave goes in for a makeover.

A grille ornament hung on winged chrome and other bright flourishes on the front fenders, plus the floating rear roof, shine a spotlight on the Enclave’s new style even as sweeping fenders hearken to the original.  It’s more aerodynamic with a faster windshield angle and the Enclave rides on a longer wheelbase for improved passenger space.  LED projector headlamps and 20” wheels bring the bling.  Portholes stay in the past.

When the Enclave debuted, it possessed a crafted cabin worthy of a concept car, but a decade on, it started to feel its age with cumbersome infotainment controls.  Taking cues from the smaller Envision crossover, the Enclave adopts a wide curving horizontal theme with stitched coverings, inlaid woodgrain, and slick center touchscreen.

It’s quite opulent, topped off with heated and cooled front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated second-row captain’s chairs.
Details were not overlooked.  Our ride came with tri-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio, navigation, and 4G Wi-Fi to make long trips fade away.  Entering is easy with a foot-operated power hatch, power-fold third row seats, and second-row slide/fold center row seats.  Active noise cancellation provides the ideal environment for conversation and enjoying sweet tunes while a full suite of safety tech includes a rear seat child reminder, 360-degree camera, forward collision alert with pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning.
Getting it on the highway is a joy, allowing the 3.6-liter to make the most of its 310 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque — routed to the all-wheel-drive system through a nine-speed automatic transmission.  The powertrain feels eager to slip into the left lane and accelerate away.  Getting onto freeways with the family aboard is no problem, though you won’t race Camaros.  A tow rating of 5,000 lbs. pounds and 17/25-MPG city/highway are added benefits.
If you owned an Enclave in the past, or have driven other full-size crossovers, you’ll notice a calm quietness and smoothness unique to the newest big Buick.  It handles well, but rough pavement is soaked up without drama.  It’s every inch a modern luxury car that just happens to carry six people comfortably.  Whether during the morning commute, or a trip cross-country, it’s a refuge from the world and one’s hectic life. 
All in, the big Buick is a more exclusive Enclave.  Styling is agreeably European, interiors are sumptuous, and driving it is a delight.    If your vision of a Buick is a big fluffy sedan, you’re in for a shock.  In fact, it’s the first crossover on GM’s new full-size architecture that is wholly better than the model it replaces. 

Given a base price of $39,065, or $56,455 as tested, compare it to the Ford Explorer Platinum, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, and Audi Q7.

— Casey Williams