2019 Buick Enclave Avenir delivers sleek styling, impressive handling

By Peter A. Hubbard

(August 9, 2018) For the past 10 years or so following General Motor’s 2008 bankruptcy and the demise of four key brands — Oldsmobile, Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac — GM has been working to fortify it’s four remaining nameplates — Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick. 

Part of that plan included adding a boatload of new crossovers as the market started to abandon coupes and sedans in favor of the more popular car-based crossover utilities (CUVs) across all market segments — subcompact, compact, mid-sized and full-size or luxury/performance models.   

Buick introduced the Enclave luxury model some 10 years ago, and made quite an impact. While not quite as cutting edge as the Lexus RX 350 that created this segment 20 years ago, it still set a solid standard for domestic three-row deluxe CUVs. 

Frankly, the level of refinement and performance from the Enclave raises the bar for what buyers can expect in this segment, despite fairly stiff competition from the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and Mazda CX-9.  

Given the fact it provides much better packaging, and a more affordable price, it clearly has enough panache to lure even those shopping such models as the Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90. 

This is the first major redesign in the vehicle’s history. It rides on an all-new platform, has distinctive and fresh styling and offers a host of new features. The 3.6-liter V-6 engine puts out more power (310 hp) and is now mated to a buttery 9-speed automatic transmission. And for the first time, Buick is offering a factory-installed towing package that will allow the Enclave to pull up to 5,000 pounds.

The Enclave has four trim levels, Enclave, Essence, Premium and Avenir. All models feature keyless entry and push-button start, hands-free power-programmable rear liftgate, tri-zone automatic climate control, universal home remote, six USB ports, OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Standard safety equipment includes a rearview camera, rear park assist, seven airbags, Teen Driver tracking and rear-seat reminder. Our Avenir test model came with 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, dual moonroofs up above, and 360-surround-view camera/mirror. New technology allows the rearview mirror to function as a traditional mirror or a camera, eliminating obstructions such as heads and headrests while expanding the rear field of vision by 300 percent.

All-wheel drive is offered as an option on all trim levels except the base model. Options include navigation, upgraded Bose sound system, adaptive cruise control on higher-trim models with full-speed stop-and-go, forward automatic braking, a premium adaptive suspension, heavy-duty cooling, and a sport model.


Buick’s revamped Enclave Avenir rides on a 120.9-inch wheelbase and measures 204.3 inches from bumper to bumper.  In today’s “smaller is better” climate, the 2018 Buick Enclave is a virtual land yacht. But Buick performed some genuine styling magic and has disguised the Enclave’s bulk in a nice svelte exterior shape. The lower roofline, sharper windshield angle and longer wheelbase result in a more dramatic and sportier stance

Gone, too, is the wide waterfall grille design, a styling cue that looks better on some Buick models that it does on other. In its place is a more contemporary opening with wings extending on either side of the rather large Buick tri-shield logo. 

Our top-of-the-line Avenir model came with a really slick-looking 3D mesh grille. The roofline is sleeker and the overall look is more like a tall sport wagon rather than a boxy SUV. 

Inspired by Buick concept cars, the Avenir is available in five premium exterior colors, along with a handsome Chestnut interior with ebony piping on the seats and contrasting stitching.  The Avenir identity is carried through with embroidered first-row headrests, Avenir floor-mats, a wood-accented steering wheel, and bold Avenir-scripted sill plates on all four doors. 

There’s also a standard hands-free power-programmable liftgate with a Buick tri-shield logo that illuminates the ground below the hidden sensor.


The cabin of the new Enclave Avenir is distinctive in design, and flawless in execution.  Without question, you’re not likely to find a more luxurious or welcoming interior anywhere – with the possible of exception of the bespoke interiors of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. 

The Enclave features a clean, flowing design with a layered look to the dash that incorporates padded surfaces, set off by handsome chrome and wood accents.

The large 8-inch screen dominates the center of the dash, while electronic analog gauges are positioned in front of the driver. The comfortable front buckets are divided by a huge center console endowed with generous storage space. Controls are logically arrayed and easy to use in concert with the touch screen. As mentioned, the 2nd-row bench is no more, but there are two comfortable 2nd-row captain’s chairs and the third row has comfortable seating for two, and three in a pinch.

With a wheelbase that’s two inches longer and tidier packaging of its new independent rear suspension, the Enclave boasts 10 cu. ft. additional interior space. Even with the third row up, it has 23.6 cu. ft. of storage space behind those seatbacks. Both the second and third rows fold flat, turning the Enclave’s rear quarters into cavernous cargo bay.

Quiet Tuning is a Buick hallmark and what distinguished the previous model from the competition. The cabin is downright serene thanks to the attention to detail in controlling noise, vibration and harshness – the dreaded NVH. The laminated glass returns as does the extensive use of sound-deadening material. In addition, attention to stiffening the structure through the use of high-strength steel has paid real dividends.


The 2019 Buick Enclave has a revamped direct-injection 3.6-liter V06 mated to an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque @2,800 rpm. Buick estimates the average EPA fuel economy at 18-mpg city, 26-mpg highway and 21 mpg combined on FWD models.  Meanwhile, fuel economy on the AWD versions come in at an estimated 17-mpg city, 25-mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. 

By comparison, the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60 are rated slighter better, at 27 mpg for FWD and 26 mpg for AWD. To help bolster fuel economy, the Enclave is equipped with a stop/start technology that is much more seamless than the one found on the Acura. The powertrain has a base towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, but a new trailer-towing package that includes additional cooling and other tweaks enables the Enclave to have a tow rating of 5,000 pounds.


The Enclave has always been known for its smooth “Buick ride.”  But the 2019 model takes it to a whole new level, thanks to a longer wheelbase and a new 5-link independent rear and active twin-clutch rear differential that improves both the ride and shortens the turning radius. There’s excellent visibility all around and the powerful V-6 now provides all the torque and power you need to get around. 

The new suspension tuning also gives the Enclave sharper response to steering inputs and serves to minimize body roll in the corners. The electric power steering has an active return assist, which gives the steering a lighter touch when unwinding the wheel.

The Avenir note only provides drivers with a premium suspension, Buick add continuously variable real-time damping (CDC), which that delivers the most comfortable ride possible, with enhanced body control – especially in Sport mode.

Overall, the handling of the new Enclave is greatly improved with little or no sacrifice to ride comfort. Available in either front- or all-wheel-drive (FWD, AWD), there’s little to distinguish the two in the driving experience save that the FWD model is quicker off the line thanks to its lighter curb weight. While the Enclave doesn’t deliver the same kind of spirited handling as the Mazda CX-9, it makes up for it in spades by having a much more usable cabin. It certainly stands up well in terms of both price and performance when compared to comparable models from Acura, Infiniti, Lexus and even BMW.


The base FWD-only 2019 Enclave has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $39,995 plus $975 destination. The Essence, which includes leather seats, lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, is priced from $45,150 plus delivery. AWD is $2,000 extra. Premium models cost $48,990 and include the 10-speaker Bose audio system, while AWD Premium versions are $51,290 plus delivery.

The 2019 Enclave Avenir comes in at $54,390 plus destination, while our AWD version carried a sticker price of $56,690. The Enclave comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile limited bumper-to-bumper warranty. The 2018 Enclave starts $3,000-$4,000 below the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, but is priced higher than the Mazda CX-9. The Volvo XC90 starts around $46,500, while Audi’s Q7 is nearly $50,000.


The Buick Enclave new design architecture provides for a balanced, athletic appearance with new proportions that give it a sleek new look and aerodynamic profile that provides improved fuel efficiency.  

We genuinely enjoyed our week behind the wheel of the Enclave Avenir. And in all honestly, it surprised and impressed us more than any vehicle we have tested in quite some time.  What’s particularly remarkable is the fact it’s a GM product.

Given the bankruptcy 10 years ago, and difficulty the Detroit automaker has had in winning and keeping customers, the Buick Enclave should certainly help in that regard.  It impressed on virtually every level — exterior styling, interior design and comfort, ride and handling – and is very price competitive against other CUVs in its market segment.  Overall, it’s an outstanding value for the money. 

So if your family is in the market for a full-size 3-row crossover SUV that has understated luxury, plenty of room for people and cargo, great visibility, and amazing driving and handling traits, remember to put the Enclave at the top of your shopping list.  You won’t be disappointed.