Buick takes another big step in its transformation into a legitimate luxury brand with the 2018 Enclave Avenir, an elegant and advanced family-carrying SUV arriving in dealerships this fall. The Enclave (I give it four out of four stars) carries seven people in comfort and style. "Avenir" is Buick's new top-of -the-line trim, an analogue to GMC's high-end and highly profitable Denali line. The spacious seven-passenger Enclave is the first Buick to offer an Avenir trim level, a package that includes 20-inch wheels, a striking new grille badge and loads of standard features.
The original Enclave started Buick's rebirth in the U.S. when it went on sale 10 years ago. Roomy and very quiet inside, it inaugurated a generation of vehicles that reinvigorated Buick, which had lost all pizzazz and become a sleepy brand associated with retirees and boring sedans.
Buick's very different today, and the 2018 Enclave Avenir SUV is the flagship of a new lineup developed to redefine the brand upward again.
The 2018 Enclave is all new, bigger but also lighter and more maneuverable than the old model. At 204.3 inches, its 2.4 inches longer than the 2017 model, but about 300 pounds lighter. Rear legroom and cargo space increase thanks to the longer wheelbase and a compact new suspension.
Despite its greater length, the 2018 Enclave's longer wheelbase -- up 2.0 inches -- and new steering system contribute to a three-foot reduction in turning radius. That translates to more than tidy U-turns. The new Enclave felt small and light as I drove one through 60 miles of narrow, twisting roads in the Smoky Mountains.
Enclave prices start at $39,995 for a base front-wheel-drive model. All Enclaves come with a 301-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive Enclaves start at $46,215. Avenir models start at $53,415 for front-drive and $55,715 for AWD.
I tested a well-equipped Enclave Avenir with adaptive cruise control, automatic front braking, lane keeping assist, Bose audio, Bluetooth compatibility, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a power sunroof over the front seat and fixed sunroof over the rear seats, power tailgate and more.
It stickered at $58,460. All prices exclude destination charges.
The Enclave competes primarily with vehicles from lower luxury brands such as the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, along with customers moving up from mainstream brands such as Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota. The Enclave Avenir could also attract some attention from shoppers considering SUVs such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.