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2018 Buick Enclave First Drive Review

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Old 10-06-17, 12:18 PM   #1
Hoovey2411
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Default 2018 Buick Enclave First Drive Review



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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.

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.

Our second impression: "Boy, it's quiet in here." Heading toward downtown Atlanta on the freeway, we were unable to pick up wind noise, and only just a smidge of road noise as the Enclave trundled over the occasional rough patch of pavement. This is, of course, completely intentional on the part of Buick. The windshield and front windows use acoustic glass. The doors are triple sealed for a tighter, quieter fit when closed. Buick has insulated the Enclave with more sound deadening and included active noise cancellation. "Our goal is to make it as social as possible," said Dean Perelli, chief engineer for the Enclave. And social it is. It is easy to carry on conversation across the Enclave's three roomy rows.


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When we got out of the Enclave, we had a chance to take it in from the outside. It features attractive, wing-like lighting front and rear. The front signature lighting uses technology called "Evonik Acrylite," (a mouthful, even for the engineers) which is a polycarbonate material arranged in a dazzling, faceted and delicate array. The paint finishes we saw were attractive, with depth. The Enclave features a floating-style roof that extends into a rear spoiler, and it makes the rear three-quarter view our favorite angle from which to view the car. We really enjoyed the contrast of the painted rear bumper, a classier look than plastic cladding, which would have looked too rough for this refined Enclave. Its large aluminum alloy wheels look sporty, and offer nice finishes as well, our favorite being a just slightly less-than-glossy almost-chrome.

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.

Before we got behind the wheel, we learned a bit about the air quality system. Not only does the Enclave feature tri-zone automatic climate control, it also has an ionizer for air purification. Located in the ductwork, it produces negative ions that capture finer pollutants and allergens like dust, pollen, smoke, bacteria, viruses and odors, and clumps them together to make them either fall out of the air or become more easily caught in the air filter. If you're someone who suffers from seasonal allergies or lives in a smoggy city, you might appreciate this technology.


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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.

The really impressive thing about this powertrain is its smoothness, and the transmission is truly the highlight of the new Enclave's refined drive experience. This CUV is already quiet, but its buttery shifts make acceleration a completely drama-free activity, and almost CVT-like in its linearity (without the awful droning that often accompanies continuously variable transmissions). While we could hear the shifts happening under full throttle, we couldn't really feel them. We didn't find much value or engagement using the paddles on the back of the steering wheel, and preferred to let this exceptional transmission sort the gears on its own.

The Enclave's ride is just as isolating as the rest of the driving experience. Our car also had the upgraded suspension with continuous damping control. "We tied it down more than other vehicles," Perelli told us ahead of our drive. This all translated to a calm ride up front, with the bumps largely unfelt and body roll quite well managed, even in the hairpin corners on the rural highways of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sitting in the third row, though, we felt more motion through the suspension, but it was still comfortable through the corners.

Make no mistake about it, though: This is a big vehicle. On Atlanta's city streets, it was difficult to be confident about placing the Enclave in its lane, mostly because the corners of the vehicle are hidden from view. While it might be a little tricky on a tight city street, the Enclave offers a number of features to help ensure safety and make the drive easier. It has a rear-view camera (with a spray nozzle), which displays in the mirror to provide a wider view ŕ la the Cadillac CT6. A 360-degree camera view is extremely helpful when parking. Lane-keep assist is subtle, and helps keep it steady on the highway, where the lines are generally more defined. The adaptive cruise control works well, bringing the car to a full stop.

The Enclave is also a connected vehicle. In addition to OnStar, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it offers 4G LTE Wi-Fi running on AT&T's cellular service. In all but the most remote parts of our trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, it worked quite well with a number of people using it simultaneously. There's enough room, even in the third row, to whip out a laptop and work online, assuming you're not prone to motion sickness. Our vehicle also had a couple of USB ports in every row, allowing us to charge a phone from any seat in the vehicle.

For years, Buick was a bit of a punching bag, and while some of the shade tossed its way has been unfair or cliché, much of it was deserved. It's rare for a product from the brand to stir up much emotion either way. Frankly, we were caught off guard by the way the 2018 Enclave — not just a Buick, but a crossover — made us feel, and it has us rethinking the brand. The price tag might still be a deterrent for some buyers, but if you're looking at an Acura MDX or an Infiniti QX60, you ought to take a look at the Enclave, too. You might be just as surprised by it as we were. Furthermore, you might find some GM dealer incentives to sweeten the deal.
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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Old 10-06-17, 12:46 PM   #2
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Hard to interpret the numbers (dunno if the standards changed), but does the new one have 7 cu. ft. more cargo than the old one? The old one had 115 cu. ft., only 4 cu. ft. less than a brand new Suburban.

This says 7 cu ft more, but seems to say 97 cu ft

The wheelbase is 2" longer

http://gmauthority.com/blog/gm/buick...pecifications/
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Old 10-06-17, 02:38 PM   #3
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Had an Encore rental recently. The interior materials certainly felt "premium" overall but definitely not luxurious. The interior design was a mess as well. This Enclave appears to have the same issues.
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Old 10-06-17, 02:43 PM   #4
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Reading the review. Well done. Is it me or is Buick now becoming the Lexus of yesteryear?
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Old 10-06-17, 02:59 PM   #5
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Yep......comfort is the name of the game with big Buicks. It was one of the a main reasons (though not the only one, by any means) why I recently chose a Lacrosse.

Not surprisingly, besides the 3.6L V6 engine, new 9-speed transmission, and Active Twin-Clutch AWD system, this latest Enclave seems to borrow a number of interior design-cues / parts and basic grille-design from the Lacrosse. The grille is Buick's latest exterior styling theme...out with the old waterfall grilles, and in with the chrome-bar and colored triple-shield. We also see that on the latest Encores and the upcoming 2018 Regal next year. The horizontally-themed dash, as opposed to the earlier themes that accentuated the center-dash buttons, also seems to be a new styling direction for Buick.

This new Enclave interior, though, nice in many ways (especially in the Avenir trim) is not necessarily my favorite among Enclaves. I liked the super-plush look of the original one in 2008, with its large swathes of ligher-color wood-panelling and real-wood steering wheel.
A lot of that, of course, at the time, except for the steering wheel, was just cheap GM plastic coated to look expensive.....but, if that was the case, they certainly succeeded.




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Old 10-06-17, 03:03 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by LexsCTJill View Post
Reading the review. Well done. Is it me or is Buick now becoming the Lexus of yesteryear?
It's not you.
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Old 10-06-17, 03:37 PM   #7
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I agree with mmarshal, the previous interior design looked nicer and more upscale.
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Old 10-07-17, 01:30 PM   #8
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I cannot agree that the previous gen looks nicer. I have not sat in the new one, but the design looks much better. The last gen model never really did it for me.
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Old 10-07-17, 02:16 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by LexsCTJill View Post
I cannot agree that the previous gen looks nicer. I have not sat in the new one, but the design looks much better. The last gen model never really did it for me.
Agreed, new one looks better. All I see with the 2008 is a sea of gray plastic on the dash.
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Old 10-07-17, 02:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Hoovey2411 View Post
Agreed, new one looks better. All I see with the 2008 is a sea of gray plastic.
It's been a while since I sat in an older Enclave, but, from what I remember, not all of that gray trim material is actually hard plastic. Some of it is soft to the touch.

Most of the light-colored wood-tone trim on the 2008 (and there's sure a lot of it) is also GM plastic, but finished in a way to make it look very rich.

One thing is DEFINITELY cheaper on the new Enclave...the steering wheel. The old Enclave had a polished-wood steering wheel that was as nice as the ones you get with Lexus....on the new one, it is the same wheel as on the base-level Lacrosse. You have to move up to the top-grade Avenir to get the wood rim. I assume it will be the same on the Lacrosse, if and then the Avenir option becomes available (and if GM doesn't drop the slow-selling Lacrosse altogether)

Buick's quality-control, BTW, has improved significantly since then. That first-generation 2008 Enclave, IMO, when I did a test-drive, while admittedly plush-looking with all that chrome and wood-tone, did not feel particularly well-screwed together. I noted the same loose-assembly feeling on both today's Lincoln MKZ and MKC...less so on the MKX and Continental. So, Lincoln has some work to do in that department, too.

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Old 10-07-17, 03:44 PM   #11
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The old Enclave was so crappy inside. All that fake wood, poor switchgear, and poor materials.

I’d give this Enclave a look.
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Old 10-07-17, 03:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by SW15LS View Post
The old Enclave was so crappy inside. All that fake wood, poor switchgear, and poor
materials.
Agreed on the questionable materials....though the chrome and wood, I thought, at least looked rich on the surface...until you felt it and saw that it was mostly plastic. The steering wheel, BTW, unlike the dash, was real polished wood.....not the fake stuff.

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I’d give this Enclave a look.

If you're going to test-drive a new Enclave, while you're at it, also test-drive a V6 Lacrosse with the 18" wheels. Since you're a regular poster here, I'd like to see what you think of them both. Might take you a little while, though, to get used to the E-shifter (it took me about a week or so). In fact, Buick hired a perky blonde to do a video on just how to do that (and some other new Buick-function videos). She demonstrated it on the Lacrosse, but the new Enclave (and a few other GM products) use the same hardware. One thing she forgot to mention, though...the shift-paddles work even if you have it in D...you don't necessarily have to put it in M (manual) mode.


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Old 10-08-17, 08:20 PM   #13
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New enclave looks great in and out. Great feature set. I think it will do very well.
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Old 10-08-17, 08:34 PM   #14
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I think it will do very well.
Nowadays, what SUV doesn't?

Yes, you can find one or two if you look hard enough, but certainly not a pattern.
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Old 10-08-17, 08:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SW15LS
The old Enclave was so crappy inside. All that fake wood, poor switchgear, and poor materials.

IÂ’d give this Enclave a look.
Agreed. I’ve had two as rentals in the past 6 months and I just wasn’t happy. The interior was lower rate than I liked and the transmission felt like it was lubricated with molasses. The only plus for me was the remote start that worked how God intended, the engine stayed running lol.


Now with this new generation Enclave, why bother with a floating roof design that small? It looks out of place so small on an SUV this large. I like this new gen much more though.
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