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- Beautiful exterior design
- Plenty of cargo space
- Impressive standard equipment roster
- 5,000-lb tow rating is solid
- Disappointing fuel economy
- Range-topping Enclave Avenir will get pricey
- Big V-6 engine feels old fashioned in a world of efficient turbos
A handsome exterior and a spacious interior bring the 2018 Buick Enclave up to speed, but its powertrain still is thirsty.
After what feels like forever, General Motors has finally replaced the last vehicle on its ancient Lambda platform. Following on the heels of the trimmer GMC Acadia and the more SUV-like Chevrolet Traverse is the second-generation 2018 Buick Enclave.
The new Enclave is first of Buick's Avenir models. Designed in the same vein as GMC's Denali vehicles, the Enclave Avenir dons a unique mesh grille, rather than the standard Enclave's waterfall design. Special 20-inch alloys look smallish, but are better than the base Enclave's 18-inch wheels, while the special badging is pleasantly subtle. In the cabin, there's lovely leather upholstery on the seats, dash, center console, and door panels. While Buick hasn't announced pricing, we expect the top-of-the-line Buick to easily crest the starting price of today's range-topping Enclave, which runs around $50,000.
Like most new vehicles today, the Enclave is available with an extensive suite of active safety equipment. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with auto emergency braking, active lane control with lane departure warning, and surround-view cameras are all available. Also available are a new set of LED headlights that the IIHS is sure to love. All Enclaves get a rearview camera with parking sensors.
Regardless of the trim level, all 2018 Enclave models use a 3.6-liter V-6 with 302 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That 14-hp bump contrasts with a 10-lb-ft decrease over last year's model. Still, the new Enclave's tow rating jumps up 500 pounds, to an even 5,000—Buick claims that's enough to tow a 21-foot sport boat. And not that anyone cares about such a stat in a three-row family crossover SUV, but Buick says the sprint to 60 miles per hour takes 7.2 seconds (or 7.5 seconds with the optional twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system).
While Buick paired the V-6 with a 9-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain isn't very efficient. Buick estimates that both front- and all-wheel-drive Enclave models will return 17 miles per gallon in the city, while the front-drive model scores 25 mpg on the highway, one point ahead of its all-wheel-drive sibling. Those are modest gains over last year's model, which scored an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Underpinning this 4,300-pound affair is a five-link independent rear suspension with MacPherson struts in front. Enclave Avenir customers will get adaptive dampers. Not as extreme a solution as GM's magnetic ride control, the adaptive suspension should give the range-topping Enclave a pleasant balance between ride and handling.
No matter what kind of suspension is on duty, the Enclave should be a very quiet thing. The combination of extra sound deadening and active noise cancellation should quash all but the most intrusive noises. Considering how good the last Enclave was at eliminating road, wind, and tire noise, the new model should be even better.
Beyond simple equipment, the Enclave remains a spacious entry in a hotly contested segment. Buick claims the model, which is slightly longer than the 2017 Enclave, has a higher maximum cargo volume than its main competitors, the Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX, and Audi Q7. With all three rows up, the Buick still has 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space, as well as a 3.1 cubic foot cubby under the main cargo floor. Finally, Buick says the Enclave will have a “nearly-flat” load floor.
The 2018 Enclave will hit dealers this fall, with pricing and EPA fuel economy coming shortly ahead of the launch.