- Expressive sheet metal
- Spare and elegant cockpit
- Good third-row space
- Much-improved handling
- Still rides smoothly
- Base seats are cloth
- All-wheel drive is part-time
- Fuel economy still just average
- Best safety features not pervasive
- Pricey Avenir trim level is more a feature-unlock code
The 2018 Buick Enclave hones its appeal with beautiful style, much-improved handling, and no-nonsense technology.
It took nearly a decade, but the world now can welcome a new Buick Enclave for the 2018 model year.
With its lovely silhouette and road manners and hugely comfortable cabin, the new Enclave rings the rating bell at 7.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Buick delivers its best shape yet with the 2018 Enclave. It relies on the oldest design trick in the book. That strip of metallic trim that so neatly defines the side view of the Enclave doesn’t quite close at the rear. It reads like a styling sketch, and focuses attention on the shape instead of the everyday family wagon mission. It’s beautiful, before you even consider the Enclave’s handsomely canted LED headlights, its expressive sweep of electronic gauges and screens, and the nearly edible color and trim that line its cabin.
The Enclave has a single powertrain with front- or all-wheel drive. The muscular 310-horsepower V-6 has a muted purr thanks to active noise cancellation, and strong 0-60 mph times as low as 6.4 seconds thanks to a swift-shifting 9-speed automatic and a little less curb weight at its haunches. The shifter comes with paddle controls and a semi-manual mode, but on shift quality alone it outpoints some other 9-speeds in its class. Fuel economy checks in at a middling 21 mpg combined on front-drive models.
The Enclave’s strut-and-multilink suspension delivers an admirably firm ride that’s never jittery, and Buick sells adaptive shocks that can handle an even wider range of unacceptable pavement. The Enclave steers smartly, too, though there’s not much sense of on-center accuracy.
The Enclave excels in coddling adults in the first and second rows. Base cloth seats wear handsome leather on almost every other version. On the passenger side, the second-row seat tilts out of the way for third-row access, where even adults will find good head and leg room, not to mention a USB port and a cupholder. How did we survive the ‘70s, again?
The Enclave's crash data is incomplete. If there’s a disappointment with the Enclave, it’s that forward-collision warnings are standard, but automatic emergency braking comes only at the higher trim levels. Adaptive cruise control can only be had on the very expensive Avenir, same as the adaptive dampers.
Base prices start at $41,365, including destination. All Enclaves have touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, power features, keyless ignition, and a power tailgate. Leather becomes standard on Essence models, with options for navigation, surround-view cameras, and a rear camera mirror. Premium versions cost nearly $50,000 but have Bose audio, a power third-row seat, and automatic emergency braking. The Avenir has its distinct style touches as well as wireless smartphone charging, navigation, and 20-inch wheels—adaptive dampers and adaptive cruise control still are options. All boxes checked, the 2018 Buick Enclave can cost more than $60,000, or roughly the price of an undergraduate degree.
2018 Buick Enclave
The restyled 2018 Enclave looks like the published version of the first-generation SUV’s early draft.
Designers penned a beautiful body for the 2018 Buick Enclave, and gave it a subtly rich cabin that marries technology with taste. We give it a 9 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
From nose to tail, the new Enclave loses the bottom-heavy look of the first-generation SUV. The nose is lower, sleeker, and the Buick logo splits the grille with wide, thin wings. The waterfall-style grille has vertical slats on most versions, but the Avenir trim level turns the slats into mesh. The LED headlights wear LED running lights like cufflinks.
The side view telegraphs a single expressive line better than any SUV we can name. A band of metallic trim arcs from the tail to the side mirrors, then sweeps up below the side windows only to stop short of connection to the roof. The slim separation of black trim gives it a cursive-letter signature that reads like a styling sketch. The tail of the Enclave wears its band of metallic trim like a tie bar. Some lovely SUVs have been unveiled in the past couple of years—CX-9, F-Pace. The Enclave is lovelier.
Avenir models get their own grille, nicely styled 20-inch wheels, and good-looking leather on the cabin’s dash, console, and door panels. It’s a handsome way to charge more for the basic shape, but we’re not convinced the Enclave needs the help.
Even in base trim, the Enclave’s interior is masterful and elegant. Spare lines sweep across the dash and envelop digital gauges, touchscreens, and a modicum of buttons and switches. Matte metallic frames on the side air vents overlap the doors, and stitch the interior together invisibly.
Base models come only in a handful of gray or black tones, but other Enclaves wear almost edible color palettes. The Exner-like shapes dress up as Avenirs with a black-gloss trim that transitions to woodgrain; with real open-pore wood, the Avenir cabin would be exceptional.
2018 Buick Enclave
The 2018 Buick Enclave has strong acceleration, and handles like it cares about the road ahead.
Give GM engineers a decade, and they’ll give you a new Buick Enclave that goes quicker, drives better, and sounds nicer.
The 2018 Enclave does all those things. It earns merit badges for its composed ride and its 9-speed automatic. It’s a 7 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Every Enclave gets GM’s latest 3.6-liter V-6, tuned here to deliver 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. That 22-hp bump contrasts with a 4-lb-ft decrease over last year's model. Peak torque arrives in the 2,000-rpm range, and the V-6 emits a lovely, low-key windup noise that’s admittedly filtered by active noise cancellation and lots of sound deadening.
Still, it can hustle the front-drive Enclave to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, by Buick estimates (7.1 seconds when it’s fitted with the optional twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system).
Buick pairs the engine with a 9-speed automatic. We’ve driven other 9-speeds with fidgety controls and juddery low-speed shifts; the Buick isn’t one of them. On first blush, it shifts imperceptibly, and even has a shift lever and paddle shift controls for semi-manual operation. Buick tried to eliminate the lever and fit the Enclave with pushbutton transmission controls, but ran out of space on the slim dash.
Most versions can tow 1,500 pounds, but with a spend-up tow package, the Enclave’s tow rating sits at 5,000 pounds, enough to pull a 21-foot sport boat.
One of two all-wheel-drive systems comes with some Enclaves; base models are front-drive only. Mid-grade models have a simple open differential system that uses anti-lock brakes to control wheelspin, while Premium and Avenir Enclaves have a rear differential that can clutch in rear wheels and tailor the power it delivers. The system requires drivers to activate the system.
Usually, the performance section of a crossover-SUV review is brief and brutal. Not here. The Enclave’s front-strut and rear five-link suspension, and its electric power steering, wed to bless the crossover with a taut ride and predictable steering. GM doesn’t program in copious heft off-center into the Enclave’s electric steering system. It’s not notchy, and it doesn’t tramline despite big wheels, but a whiff of torque steer aside in front-drive models, there’s not much sensation on center.
Without the optional adaptive dampers, the firmly sprung Enclave resists body lean well for such a tall, heavy wagon—the 4,300-pound curb weight helps, too. Because they’re wedded to a better body structure, the steering and base suspension give the Enclave a fluid, very well-controlled ride. Through the north Georgia mountains, the Enclave felt like a larger CX-9, even without the adaptive hydraulic dampers offered on the most expensive models, even when riding on optional 255/55R-20 wheels and tires (18s are standard).
2018 Buick Enclave
Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Buick Enclave doesn’t look the part, but it’s more minivan than SUV.
The Buick Enclave has plentiful space in all three rows of seats, great cargo space, and a very well-finished cabin. It’s a 9 out of 10 for comfort and utility. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Buick pits the Enclave against vehicles like the Acura MDX and Honda Pilot, the Infiniti QX60, and the Mazda CX-9. The Enclave rides on a 120.9-inch wheelbase, and is 204.3 inches long, and Buick says that nets it better third-row space than almost any rival. It should: those dimensions are more in line with the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Front-seat passengers have excellent head and leg room in the Enclave, and relatively firm, supportive front seats. We’ve yet to try out the base model’s cloth seats, but all models have power front seats, and most versions also heat and cool the front buckets.
A large console divides the driver and front passenger. The padding and height are ideal for the driver’s right arm, but the door armrest is low, and far away. The steering wheel telescopes, but could use a couple inches more stroke. The console is deep, and the door pockets are as well; the wireless smartphone charging pad lines a bin that’s blocked in part by the stubby shift lever.
Second-row accommodations are fine, with similarly firm bucket seats that slide to expand leg or cargo space. They occupy a space with lots of head room even with the dual-pane sunroof. An aisle permits step-through to the third row, but the right-side second-row seat pivots forward without folding, for even third-row access, even when a child safety seat is installed.
The third-row seat is the Enclave’s pleasant hideaway. Six-foot adults can sit comfortably on it. The bottom cushion is mounted low, and the sculpted headliner touches the back of tall passengers’ heads, but cupholders and dedicated USB ports on some models make up for the slight inconvenience.
In all, Buick says the Enclave has 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat, 58.0 cubic feet behind the second row, and 97.6 cubic feet behind the first row. The load floor isn’t perfectly flat, but that’s vast space to fill; only the Pacifica has a better solution. The Enclave also has a 3.1-cubic-foot storage well under the cargo floor, and available power folding for the third-row seat.
2018 Buick Enclave
We’ll score the new 2018 Enclave for safety once the crash-test results are in.
The 2018 Buick Enclave has incomplete crash-test ratings yet, but a raft of accident-prevention technology bodes well.
We’ll rate it for safety when the IIHS delivers their verdicts. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Federal testers have given the Enclave a five-star overall rating, including four stars for front and rollover crash protection.
The Enclave has standard forward-collision warnings, a rearview camera, and parking sensors, as well as a rear-seat reminder.
Automatic emergency braking is an option, as are adaptive cruise control, active lane control with lane departure warning, surround-view cameras, and LED headlights.
2018 Buick Enclave
A well-equipped 2018 Buick Enclave with the latest safety technology barely slides in under $50,000.
The 2018 Buick Enclave is well-equipped in base trim, and bundles its options in reasonable trims and packages. We like its infotainment options well enough, too. Despite a loaded sticker that pushes hard against $60,000 now, we give it an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2018 Enclave comes in four trim levels: base, Essence, Premium, and Avenir. All models come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; keyless ignition; a power handsfree tailgate; and three-zone automatic climate control.
Also standard: LED headlights, heated power front seats, 18-inch wheels, cloth seats, and remote start.
Base prices start at $41,365. All-wheel drive is not offered on the base model.
Enclave Essence models start at $45,585 and add leather and blind-spot monitors. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option; a trailer package, navigation, surround-view cameras, a rear camera mirror, a power sunroof, and 20-inch wheels are available.
The $49,385 Enclave Premium has front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive costs $2,300 on this version, with the upgraded twin-clutch system. Premiums add 10-speaker Bose audio, cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, front parking sensors, a power third-row seat, a power steering column, forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking. Options mirror those on the Essence.
At the $54,390 Avenir trim level ($56,690 with all-wheel drive), the Enclave adds navigation, wireless smartphone charging, surround-view cameras, 20-inch wheels, and digital gauges. Options include the trailer package and a package that includes the adaptive dampers and adaptive cruise control, which send the Enclave’s sticker price over the $60,000 wall.
Buick Enclave infotainment and technology
The Enclave sports an AM/FM/XM audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and six USB ports sprinkled generously around the cabin. In-car wireless data services are available through hardware that supports AT&T 4G LTE connectivity.
Buick’s IntelliLink remains one of the simpler, cleaner infotainment interfaces. We still prefer the alternative interfaces Buick provides for free: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2018 Buick Enclave
The 2018 Enclave boosts its gas-mileage game, though it’s still behind some rivals.
The 2018 Buick Enclave earns respectable fuel economy ratings.
We give it a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The EPA confirms the front-drive 2018 Enclave gets 18 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined.
All-wheel-drive models are rated at 17/25/20 mpg, according to the EPA.
Those are modest gains over last year's model, which scored an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The latest Enclave has stop/start, but does not have cylinder deactivation.
Those figures run close to those of the Honda Pilot, which posts 22 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, and the Acura MDX, rated the same 22 mpg combined.