2018 Buick Enclave vs. 2018 Acura MDX: Compare Cars

October 10, 2017
2018 Buick Enclave

2018 Buick Enclave

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Which modifier is more important in your next three-row luxury crossover SUV–the three-row part, or the luxury part?

If it's a choice between the 2018 Buick Enclave and the 2018 Acura MDX, don't fret. One of them does a better job at both.

Before safety scores even factor into the equation, we think the Buick Enclave's the winner in this face-off. The MDX scores a 7.5 on our scale with excellent room and safety scores, while its conservative looks leave it hidden in plain sight. The Enclave? It earns a 7.8 with its lovely styling, its very capable handling, and exceptional third-row space, even before it's crash-tested. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

2018 Buick Enclave

2018 Buick Enclave

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2018 Buick Enclave

2018 Buick Enclave

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2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

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2018 Buick Enclave

2018 Buick Enclave

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With the MDX, Acura avoids the flashy overtures of its NSX sports car. It's cleaned up the shape considerable since it was new in 2014, and the recently restyled grille and LED headlights finally give it the presence it deserves. The cockpit has wood trim, sweeping curves, and big touchscreen displays–but the Enclave does all that in a more radical, sensuous way. Even shy of the Enclave Avenir's lush brown leather dash trim, its sculpted interior reaches for drama, and nails it. The sheet metal could hardly be more attractive. The prior Enclave wore a handsome shape with durable appeal. This one puts its parent SUV away in a home.

The Enclave powers along with a 310-hp V-6, its power channeled through a 9-speed automatic and front- or all-wheel drive. It's the equivalent to the MDX's 290-hp V-6 and 9-speed, but the Buick feels gutsier and its transmission shifts more sweetly. Both have semi-manual shift action through a set of shift paddles. Buick extracts more maximum tow from its combination: 5,000 pounds versus 3,500 pounds for the Acura.

Acura's philosophy is to smother road bumps with lots of shock travel, big 20-inch wheels, and a bit of body lean. Buick takes a fresh approach: it cruises with more finesse and a much stiffer set of springs. Neither crossover has much in the way of steering feel, but the Enclave imparts more information from the road, and responds with more zest to it.

What the Enclave doesn't have is the Acura's Sport Hybrid all-wheel-drive system. It lets the MDX split torque between the rear wheels, as does the Enclave's optional AWD system. The Acura also sandwiches in batteries and motors that lift fuel economy to 27 mpg combined, far above the Enclave's best 22-mpg rating.

2018 Acura MDX

2018 Acura MDX

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2018 Acura MDX

2018 Acura MDX

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2018 Acura MDX

2018 Acura MDX

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2018 Acura MDX

2018 Acura MDX

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With the Enclave, Buick coddles passengers in the first two rows, so long as they're not in the base cloth-seat model. Acura's base seats give way to better sport seats with optional packages, too. The second-row chairs in the Enclave surround adults with ample space, feed their smartphones with easily reached USB ports, and slide out of the way to open up access to the third row. Adults can fit there, too, with more space and comfort and accoutrements than they can in the MDX third row. Both crossovers have plenty of space, but the bigger Enclave does more inside its footprint; there's even a bin under the cargo floor that's perfect for dirty boots or sandy beach chairs.

The Enclave hasn't been crash-tested yet, but the MDX has earned stellar ratings across the board. Buick only offers adaptive cruise control on the most expensive Avenir trim level, which lifts the price to the mid-$50,000 range.

At the same price Acura sells an MDX Sport Hybrid with surround-view cameras, cooled front seats, lots of USB ports, and premium audio. The similar Enclave Avenir has wireless smartphone charging, adaptive shocks, a power-fold third-row seat, and a rear camera mirror. The smart money equips either SUV closer to $50,000 including all the advanced safety gear.

In its favor, the Acura MDX has very good hybrid fuel economy, and can be significantly less expensive than the Enclave. But the Buick has real luxury-car presence, and handles the road with more aplomb than its crossover rival. Before all the safety ballots are in, we're calling the 2018 Buick Enclave the winner here.

Summary

7.8
Expert Rating
The 2018 Buick Enclave hones its appeal with beautiful style, much-improved handling, and no-nonsense technology.
7.5
Expert Rating
The 2018 Acura MDX should be atop many lists for luxury buyers looking for spacious family crossovers. Others may do bits and pieces better, but the MDX offers a complete—and well-considered package.

Styling

9.0
Expert Rating
The restyled 2018 Enclave looks like the published version of the first-generation SUV’s early draft.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
We say the Acura MDX looks more like a sport wagon to our eyes than an SUV. Is that a bad thing?
Read More

Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2018 Buick Enclave has strong acceleration, and handles like it cares about the road ahead.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2018 Acura MDX is a winner on the road thanks to its calm demeanor—even better when equipped with a hybrid powertrain.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2018 Buick Enclave doesn’t look the part, but it’s more minivan than SUV.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
Comfortable, quiet, and clever, the Acura MDX is a luxurious pick for a family hauler.
Read More

Safety

We’ll score the new 2018 Enclave for safety once the crash-test results are in.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
The 2018 Acura MDX has a stellar safety report card that few cars on the road today can rival.
Read More

Features

8.0
Expert Rating
A well-equipped 2018 Buick Enclave with the latest safety technology barely slides in under $50,000.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
Every MDX is well-equipped, but all-wheel drive, rear-seat entertainment, and luxury features can add nearly $15,000 to the bottom line.
Read More

Fuel Economy

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2018 Enclave boosts its gas-mileage game, though it’s still behind some rivals.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The Acura MDX is on par with many in its class and better than average when equipped with a hybrid powertrain.
Read More

MSRP

from $39,995
from $44,200

Invoice

from $39,795
from $41,492

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

21
22

Engine

Gas V6, 3.6L
Premium Unleaded V-6, 3.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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