First drive: The all-new 2018 Buick Enclave offers understated luxury with a responsive drive

The Buick Enclave shows off an updated look and improved capability.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir. –Buick

The all-new 2018 Buick Enclave is the second generation of the luxury, three-row SUV, and it comes with updated styling, new advanced safety features, and an even quieter cabin that’s designed to be a refuge from the outside world. The new model is also more versatile with better towing capability and more space for third-row passengers.

Styling updates include a lower body and redesigned front grille, which give the Enclave a more aggressive stance while keeping it looking like the luxury SUV that it is. The vehicle takes its design cues from the Avista and Avenir concept cars with unique lighting that marks Buick’s first use of Evonik Acrylite technology. This includes lots of LEDs with bi-function LED projector headlamps and LED tail lamps, which make the Enclave stand out from other SUVs.

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Power for the Enclave comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 302 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available across the trim lineup in all but the base model. The V6 provides a responsive drive experience with plenty of power and smooth shifts that, in keeping with its luxury roots, won’t disturb passengers even when you mash the gas pedal. It’s all about comfort and ease in the Enclave from its powertrain performance to its interior.

There’s room for up to seven passengers with spacious, comfortable seating and an 8-way power-adjustable seat for the driver and a 6-way power-adjustable seat for the front passenger. Those seats also include lumbar adjustment and come heated even on the base trim. The driver sits behind a tilt and telescopic steering wheel that’s leather-wrapped with wood accents on higher trims. It’s a welcoming space that makes long road trips an appealing proposition.

The second row is equally comfortable and the third row — a space notoriously uncomfortable in most SUVs — is suitable for adults and not just kids. It’s still best to put the largest adults in the second row, but the third row is genuinely accessible and comfortable for most adult passengers. The optional passenger side SmartSlide seat improves third-row access by easily pitching forward to provide wider entry even with an empty car seat installed.

When it comes time to carry cargo, the Enclave offers a 10-percent increase over the previous generation. There’s 23.6 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, 58 cubic feet behind the second row, and 97.6 cubic feet behind the first row. There’s even an extra 3.1 cubic feet hidden in an underfloor storage bin and up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity when properly equipped.

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Loading cargo is made easier thanks to a standard hands-free power lift gate. Hands-free is great, except for those moments when it’s difficult to actually find the sensor that makes it work. Buick takes care of that problem by projecting its logo on the ground right below the sensor, so it’s quick and easy to locate.

Safety also gets an upgrade. Every Enclave includes LED daytime running lamps, rear vision camera with guidelines, rear park assist, and OnStar 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot with a three-month trial. Rear Seat Reminder, which reminds the driver to double check the backseat, is standard across the lineup, too. Optional safety features include forward automatic braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane change alerts, blind spot alerts, and lane keep assist.

Also standard on the Enclave is an 8-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Teen Driver, which allows parents to set controls and review a teen’s driving habits.

There are four available trim levels starting with the base Enclave at $39,995 and moving up to the new and ultra-luxurious Enclave Avenir at $53,415. Those seeking the versatility of a three-row SUV with the refinement of a luxury car will find both in the all-new Enclave.

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