Review: 2018 Buick Enclave
  • Car Review

Review: 2018 Buick Enclave

By David Undercoffler | May 3, 2018

Autolist rating: 2/5
But would we buy it? Yes, if … (see Final Thoughts)
Price range: $41,385 - $56,795, including destination

Key takeaways

  • Buick’s largest crossover has three rows of seats.
  • Redesigned for 2018.
  • Comes with a V6 and front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.
  • Space is its strong suit, value isn’t.

What is it?

The Enclave is Buick’s largest crossover, sitting atop a lineup that also includes the bite-sized Encore and midsized Envision. It shares a platform and many of its components with Chevy’s Traverse (Chevy is Buick’s corporate cousin under the General Motors umbrella).

The Enclave is a three-row crossover that seats seven. There are two captain’s chairs in the middle row and a three-person bench seat in the third row. Its closest competitors are other three-row luxury crossovers aimed at hauling around the family: Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX 350L and Volvo XC90.

There are four trim lines in the Enclave lineup: the base model, Essence, Premium and Avenir.

They all have the same 3.6-liter, 310-horsepower V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.

All four models of the Enclave are front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on the Essence and a $2,300 option on the Premium and the Avenir; it’s not available on the base Enclave.

What’s good

TLDR: Roomy, zoomy and plush.

The space. A tale of the tape measure favors the Enclave over its competitors. Because it’s longer than its competitors on the outside, it has more room than its rivals on the inside. This means more legroom in the second and third rows of seats; adults will fit fine in the middle row, but it will be a little tight in the third row. Nevertheless, that’s better than they’d experience in models from Acura, Lexus, Infiniti or Volvo. Plus, there’s more than enough cargo room in the Enclave.

The suspension. The loaded Avenir model we tested came with the optional adaptive suspension system that continuously adjusts in real time to the road surface. Yes, it sounds like a gimmick, but in the real world, it worked like a charm to give the Enclave a remarkably smooth and refined ride quality.

The power. The V6 that’s standard across all models of the Enclave is excellent; it’s smooth, refined and plenty powerful.

What’s bad

TLDR: Transmission, visibility, safety tech.

The transmission. It’s a pity that such a smooth engine is paired with such an indecisive transmission. In stop-and-go traffic, it lurches from gear to gear, never sure which one it wants to use. Plus, the transmission shift knob is a hassle to use, especially to put the Enclave in reverse. These issues wouldn’t prevent us from buying an Enclave, but you should definitely test drive one to make sure these aren’t deal-breakers.

The safety tech. Or lack thereof. Despite a starting price a tick over $40,000, the Enclave doesn’t come standard with many of the safety technologies that it should -- or that its rivals offer. That includes pre-collision braking, blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert. Yes, those features are folded into higher-trim versions, but they should be standard throughout the lineup.

Looking back. The rear visibility out of the Enclave is far too limited; blame a very narrow rear window opening. This made it impossible to see the car behind you, which quickly became frustrating.

5 stars of execution

Safety? No

  • We neglected to give the Enclave a star here because it lacks standard safety gear that should be on all models, regardless of trim line. This includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, pre-collision alert and braking and rear cross-traffic alert.
  • The Enclave did get a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of this publication, it has yet to be crash tested by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Value? No

  • The base Enclave has an attractive starting price at $41,385, but it comes with cloth seats, no AWD option and none of the aforementioned safety tech that we’d like to see.
  • Next in the range is the $45,690 Essence, which adds the kinds of things all luxury crossovers should have, like leather seats and basic active safety tech. At that price point, there are a variety of other luxury crossovers from Acura, Lexus and Volvo that are more attractive choices.
  • If you tick every option box, an all-wheel-drive Enclave Avenir can top $60,000. That’s a little out of this Buick’s league.

Efficiency? No

  • The Enclave is at the bottom of the class for fuel efficiency when compared to its peers. The EPA rates it at 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. In our week of testing, we got 21.2 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
  • Not only is the Enclave’s efficiency subpar compared to its peers, but many of those rivals also offer a hybrid option. While it increases their cost, it also helps their fuel economy significantly. The Enclave has no such option.

Driving experience? Yes

  • Thanks to the stout engine, responsive steering and excellent (though only available on the Avenir trim) adaptive suspension system, the Enclave is an excellent drive.
  • It’s also remarkably quiet and comfortable inside, and it’s able to eat away at long road trips with ease.
  • These strengths overshadowed the fussy transmission’s poor performance in low-speed traffic.

Execution? Yes

  • Overall, we liked the Enclave for its livability: it’s a great drive, it has more than enough room for the whole family and all their gear and it’s handsomely designed inside and out.
  • We recommend it, despite the transmission issues, poor visibility out back and cheaper hard plastics used in some areas of the cabin.

Total Rating: 2 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Enclave starts at $41,385, including destination. It comes with LED headlights, Wi-Fi connectivity, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers, active noise cancellation, power front seats that are heated and captain’s chairs in the middle row (the right-side middle seat pitches forward for third-row access without folding, in case you have a child’s seat in it).

The Essence starts at $46,695, and it adds things like blind spot monitoring, Sirius satellite radio, rear cross-traffic alert and leather seats.

This would be the model Enclave we would buy -- in either front or all-wheel drive -- and then we’d add the $1,400 dual moonroof for a total of $46,695 in front-wheel-drive guise.

Next up is the Premium model, which adds a 10-speaker Bose stereo with subwoofer and amplifier, pre-collision alert, lane-keep assist, ventilated front seats, heated middle-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, heated steering wheel and 18-inch alloy wheels.

At the top of the heap is the Enclave Avenir. Avenir is Buick’s high-end sub-brand, and this model adds ultra-luxe features, like an adaptive suspension, a navigation system, an eight-inch digital instrument panel, a camera-based rearview mirror, dual moonroofs (only the front slides open though) and a 360-degree camera.

Also consider

The Enclave is in a competitive segment, so there really aren’t any bad vehicles here.

We love the Acura MDX, because it does everything well without any meaningful faults. Ditto for
Volvo’s XC90, particularly if you’re craving something European.

The Lexus RX 350L is another good choice, though it’s conspicuously smaller than the MDX, XC90 and especially the Enclave. Infiniti’s QX60 is nice, but it’s getting old at this point.

Final thoughts

Two out of five stars doesn’t sound great, yet we still liked the Enclave. What gives? Should you buy it? Much like the Chevy Traverse that it shares a platform with, the Enclave is a good choice if space -- for both people and cargo -- is a primary concern. It offers more room than any of its peers and does this in a stylish and comfortable way.

But if a third row of seats is really only necessary in a pinch, we’d also recommend looking at the Acura MDX -- our top pick in this segment -- or the Volvo XC90.