2018 Buick Enclave First Drive Review

The 2018 Enclave is part of Buick’s effort to reinvigorate its brand, positioning itself as a maker of “attainable luxury” vehicles. That means a total redesign, a number of safety and technology upgrades, and the introduction of the Avenir sub-brand (think of that last one as sort of the Denali of Buick). It also means more space and more luxury. With this in mind, we traveled to Atlanta to get to know the new Enclave, both in the city and on a long drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains into North Carolina.

2018 Buick Enclave

Our first impressions of the new Enclave came not from the driver’s seat, but from a captain’s chair in the second row (which is the traditional seating arrangement for a true captain, of course). We were riding from the Atlanta airport to a studio to learn more about the vehicle. That very first impression was, “Wow, this interior is really nice.” The leather upon which we sat was soft, smooth to the touch, and interesting in its shapeliness. Looking around the cabin, we saw a lot of gentle curves and thoughtful accents that made the inside of the Enclave feel downright premium. It was a fresh and airy sense of taste though, and definitely not the seasoned wood-and-whiskey stodginess one might expect from the Buick name.

The new Enclave has a wheelbase two inches longer than the previous generation, which translates to more room for third-row passengers. The packaging of the suspension – MacPehrson front and five-link rear – is more compact than previous generations, allowing Buick to take advantage of the added space. The “Magic Slide” second-row captain’s chair on the passenger side can kneel forward to allow rear egress even with a child seat strapped on. There’s a good amount of room for stuff, too. The floor of the rear cargo area lifts up to reveal a deep well with hooks to keep your groceries in place. The spare tire is located even further below that, thanks to some spatial miracle on the part of Buick.

The Enclave is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 producing 310 horsepower and 266 pound feet of torque. That power goes to the wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. While it’s not underpowered, it’s not exactly what we’d call quick, either – 0-60 miles per hour comes in 6.4 seconds in the front-wheel drive version, while the all-wheel drive Enclave makes the same sprint in 7.1 seconds. There’s enough get-up to merge at highway speeds on a short onramp. The V6 mostly makes itself unheard, but on the occasions it does pipe up, it produces a pleasant note.

Unless it’s a fluke, the 2018 Enclave demonstrates a renewed savviness on the part of the brand in terms of technology, design, attention to detail, and that hard-to-quantify but perhaps most important quality, charisma. If this CUV is evidence of the brand’s new tack, (and Buick has basically said as much) we won’t be as surprised with Buick’s success as we were about how much this new Enclave resonates with us. In fact, this new Buick is something we could really get used to.

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