For about a decade now, Buick has been working to move itself into the modern luxury mainstream. Looking to erase its long-held reputation for dull, soft-riding sedans. That effort has included a short-lived compact car called the Verano, two small SUVs called the Encore and Envision, and the return of the Regal sport sedan.
Buick Enclave Overview
However the vehicle that began Buick’s transformation way back in 2008 is the Enclave. It’s a mid-size luxury SUV that verges on full-size. The Enclave has three rows of seating and a footprint nearly as large as the Tahoe sold by its corporate cousins at Chevrolet.
Last year, Buick introduced the redesigned, second-generation Enclave. It adopted a new platform wrapped in handsome styling and added a new Avenir trim level, conceived to elevate this big utility vehicle to luxury status.
The Enclave Avenir was the model Buick sent us to sample. Key differences compared to the lesser Essence and Premium trim levels include an 8.0-inch customizable digital gauge-cluster display, real wood interior trim, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, and a high-tech rearview mirror that displays images captured by a camera mounted on the tailgate. There are also 20-inch wheels and a dual-panel sunroof.
The Avenir package
The Avenir package is also the only trim optioned with an adjustable suspension that alters ride comfort and handling based on the driver’s preference.
- 3.6L V6 engine:
We’ll talk more about a few of those items shortly. First, here’s what the Avenir package doesn’t change: All Buick Enclave SUV models use a 3.6L V6 engine that makes 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque and works with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is a smooth, strong engine that is reasonably well suited to the Enclave. All it lacks is the more generous low-end torque offered by the turbocharged engines found in most of its European competitors.
Also, unlike its purported competitors, the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, the Enclave’s ride leans toward comfort rather than sharp handling. That’s where the high-tech suspension included in the Avenir’s optional Technology Package comes in. It firms up the ride when you select sport-driving mode. That change makes the Enclave feel more nimble without making the car uncomfortable on rough roads.
Regardless of suspension setting, the Enclave is very quiet inside. You’ll hear little engine or road noise to distract from the upscale feel of the Avenir trim’s interior.
The cabin is spacious for four, with second-row seating comprising two bucket seats. As mentioned above, the Enclave is a seven-seater, thanks to a three-place third row that’s functional but tight for average-sized adults. If you want a more spacious third row in an SUV, you have to move up to a full-size model like the Chevrolet Tahoe.
Our test vehicle’s other neat high-tech feature was the camera-equipped rearview mirror. One of two cameras on the tailgate (the other is the backup camera, activated with the transmission in reverse) transmits a continuous feed to a screen in the rearview mirror housing. The idea is to eliminate the blind spots created by the vehicle’s body. It’s an imperfect solution: it works well in daylight, but picture quality is poor at night when glare from following vehicles’ headlights can wash out the view. It’s worse still when the camera lens is wet or dirty.
Buick is clearly aware of the system’s shortcomings. They provide a lever below the screen, which turns the camera off, leaving you with a traditional mirror. That’s not great either, however, because the small rear window restricts your view of what’s behind the car.
- Fuel economy:
Buick’s fuel consumption estimates for the Enclave with AWD are 13.8/9.5 L/100 km (city/highway), and our test vehicle averaged 13.5 L/100 km in a week of city driving. The base Essence trim comes in a front-drive version that promises slightly better fuel economy.
- Safety features :
Advanced safety features included at the Enclave’s starting price of just under $50,000 are limited to blind-spot monitoring with lane-change alert. Lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and a pedestrian sensing system with low-speed automatic braking are included in the $56,000 Premium trim.
- Automatic braking:
Surprisingly, the $62,000-plus Avenir includes neither full-speed automatic braking to help avoid collisions with other vehicles nor adaptive cruise control. Those features are part of the same $2,500 Technology Package that adds the adjustable suspension system.
If we’re being fair, that’s the only notable option in the Enclave Avenir, and the resulting sub-$65,000 price compares well with $67,000 for the similarly-equipped Acura MDX Elite. The Lexus RX 350L costs a little more than $66,000 with most of the same items, and a $6,000 Executive package adds the missing pieces and a few extras.
- Price comparison
From Germany, a 2019 BMW X5 SUV starts at $71,500, the Audi Q7 is almost $75,000 when comparably equipped, and the Mercedes-Benz GLS is in another league at $88,000. Finally, Sweden’s Volvo XC90 just about matches the Enclave Avenir’s standard equipment list for a bit less than $71,000.
If we were to name what the Enclave SUV most obviously lacks next to those competitors, it’s the luxury pedigree those brands can boast. As pleasant as the Enclave is to drive, it also lacks the cohesive driving feel that defines the way those Japanese and European models perform.
- Price value:
Where the Enclave Avenir wins is in the value department: It may not be the most compelling luxury SUV in the market, but it does most things well enough to justify its attractive price tag.
2019 Buick Enclave features
- Vehicle category: Mid-size luxury SUV/crossover
- Engine: 3.6L V6;310 hp, 266 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Notable standard features (base model; MSRP: $48,200): Rear park assist; blind spot monitor; lane change alert; three-zone climate control; passive keyless entry; heated front seats; active noise cancellation; hands-free power tailgate.
- Notable standard features (Avenir trim with optional Technology Package, as tested; MSRP: $64,575): Adjustable suspension; auto-dimming side mirrors; rear camera mirror system; forward collision warning with front pedestrian braking; automatic high-beams; rear heated seats; navigation; 10-speaker stereo; wireless smartphone charging.
- Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 13.8/9.5