2018 Buick Enclave Premium Review

Beauty and substance in nearly equal measure


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Huge amounts of space for all occupants, handsome exterior, good driving manners, full of features.
Negatives: Diminutive steering wheel controls, adaptive cruise control issues, tiny fonts on controls, some cheap interior bits.
Bottom Line: The 2nd-gen Enclave is the rightful successor to the very popular 1st-generation large crossover. It looks and feels more upscale, and it also drives better than the original. We just wish Buick spent a little more time with the ergonomics that would benefit the driver.
Though we won't miss the last Enclave's awkward looks, there's no question that Buick's big boy was a huge success. That sucker lasted for ten years on the marketplace with good sales numbers, which is no small feat. But Buick can't rest on its laurels, so the new Enclave had to be better in just about every way. 7-passenger near-luxury crossovers are hot, and the Enclave has come at the right time. We drove it for a week to see if it would live up to our expectations. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.7

 

The new Enclave drives better than the outgoing model, and our AWD tester benefitted from an upgraded rear axle that manages torque between the wheels and aids in handling.

Ride Quality: Cushy and comfortable without totally disengaging you from the road. It managed all road surfaces well.

Acceleration: The V6 is strong and responsive, and the 9-speed automatic works well. 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds is more than respectable. Throttle response was good, too. Our tester's adaptive cruise control was wonky and accelerated hard when set and was abrupt with braking at the last minute. A bit harrowing. Probably a hiccup on our car and not endemic to the model as a whole.

Braking: Progressive braking that had no dead spots or sponginess. Braking distances are good and fall midpack in the segment.

Steering: The electrically assisted steering setup is a good one. Though there's little feedback, turn-in is pretty quick and effort has some heft.

Handling: The Enclave actually weighs a little less than its Chevy Traverse brother, and it manages body roll well.

Technology

6.6

 

Buick's technology isn't bad as far as visibility and total features are concerned, but some of the controls need work.

Infotainment System: There's an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Graphics are good but more visually attractive than functionally easy to use. There's also a 4.2-inch color display in the instrument cluster that provides helpful driving information.

Controls: We would've like larger buttons on the steering wheel (there's enough space), and the font on most of the buttons is just pointlessly small. Older customers with compromised sight will be frustrated.

Styling

8.8

 

With the Avenir concept car's styling elements used on the new SUV, the look is far more put together than the last Enclave. It's increased length (2.0 inches) is hidden by the sleek body that's no longer awkward like the first-generation model.

Front: The wide grille and tasteful use of chrome in the fascia results in a balanced look that's very attractive and upscale.

Rear: A well balanced tail prevents the Enclave from looking too thick. The long chrome bar that bisects the taillights is a nice touch.

Profile: The long sloping roofline gives it elegance, and though we hate faux front fender vents, these are done quite tastefully. The blackened C-pillar helps give the car a streamlined look, but to us it's a bit forced.

Cabin: Abandoning some of the suffocating feel of the LaCrosse sedan, the interior is more elegant and airy. There are some noticeably cheap components that look and feel plasticky, though.

Comfort

8.6

 

There's ample room in the Enclave, especially in the first two rows, and the overall comfort level is quite good.

Front Seats: Well-cushioned, but they could use better bolstering. Buick seats tend to be a bit lacking in this area.

Rear Seats: The captains chairs are very good and both slide and recline. Very well done. Two medium-sized adults can fit in the third row but not for too long. This isn't really a 7-passenger vehicle. More like six, unless the last row occupants are all kids.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Build quality feels very good, and the cabin is very quiet, even at high speeds. Very Buick-like.

Visibility: Overall visibility is good, but the rear sightlines are compromised because of the thick D-pillar and the uptick at the edges of the rear window.

Climate: The 3-zone climate control worked very well, and the system can cool and heat very quickly. Good heated seats, too.

Safety

8.5

 

The new Enclave hasn't been tested by the IIHS, but the NHTSA gave it a great score. In addition, our trim level offered a solid set of safety features.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: The new Enclave attained top marks in crash testing, earning it the five star rating.

Standard Tech: Our Premium tester came with a huge set of tech, including forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, low speed forward auto braking, and front pedestrian braking

Optional Tech: For a mere $825, our crossover was outfitted with a rear camera mirror with surround vision/bird's eye view, making parking a cinch.

Storage/Cargo

9.6

 

The cabin has good storage options in the center console and armrest, and the cargo section is more than respectable when it comes to gear hauling.

Storage Space: The compartment under the center stack is good for small items, and the armrest is huge, great for keeping daily gear out of sight.

Cargo Room: There's 23.6 cubic feet behind the third row and a big 97.6 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded flat. The load area is very flat, which is great for tall items. The cargo space is bigger than both the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.

Fuel Economy

7.6

 

The 310 horsepower V6 falls in the middle when it comes to fuel economy. The numbers are about what we expected for something with this level of power. Owners should be more than happy with the real world numbers. The EPA numbers pretty much mimic the ones from the V6 Audi Q7.

Observed: 18.3 mpg

Distance Driven: 173 miles

Driving Factors: We drove it in sport mode most of the time, and our miles were evenly split between local road and highway travel.

Audio

8.2

 

Our Bose premium audio system was very good and thankfully came as standard equipment on our Premium tester. The sound was clear and full with plenty of good bass and no distortion.



Final Thoughts

The Enclave in its second iteration should prove to be a huge success for the American near-luxury brand. It's a segment that's hot, and GM did things right. It's much better than the last Enclave, and that thing sold like hotcakes. The driving experience is much improved, as is the premium look and feel. If you want the best trim, upgrade to the Avenir that offers up more features and some tasty design tweaks, but then you're in the $60K range and in the German and Swedish ranks.

Buying Guides

Featuring Buick Enclave

2018 Best New Crossovers

Shopping for a new
Buick Enclave?

(844) 801-8526
Call our vehicle experts for
assistance with your research.