By on March 7, 2018

2018 Buick Enclave

2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD

3.6-liter V6 (310 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm; 266 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm)

Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

17 city / 25 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

13.8 city, 9.4 highway, 11.8 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $50,315 (U.S) / $55,900 (Canada)

As Tested: $56,455 (U.S.) / $61,093 (Canada)

Prices include $975 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

When I was a teen in the ‘90s, the big Buicks roaming suburban streets were mostly LeSabres, with the occasional Roadmaster or Park Avenue thrown into the mix. Now, Buick (along with everyone else) seems to be crossover central, thanks to the Envision, Encore, and Enclave.

Yeah, I know. It’s a crossover world and we’re just living in it.

The “big” Buick sedan still exists in the form of the LaCrosse, and the Regal has been recently re-done in wagon and hatchback guise. Yet your father’s (or mother’s) Buick is almost certainly a crossover at this point.

No longer on the Lambda platform, the redesigned Enclave nevertheless remains a luxury three-row crossover. It also retains a lot of the “feel” of the old model, despite new duds and a new underpinnings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The egg shape is gone, as the Enclave looks a little sleeker – or at least as sleek as something its size can be. That’s sleek compared to the previous generation, to be clear.

Overall, it’s a look that’s clean but a tad anonymous – something that can be said of most current Buicks not in possession of Regal badging. It’s not a bad look by any means, but it’s not going to stick in your memory.

It’s a similar story inside – the dash has stylish elements like a line that swoops down as it moves from driver side to passenger side, with an infotainment screen sitting high, front and center. The main radio knob sits right there in the middle, and the HVAC buttons are easily reachable below. It makes for a nice look that doesn’t leave a mark.

2018 Buick Enclave

Gauges are simple and clear, and Buick’s version of the GM infotainment system is just as easy to use as all the rest. The MyLink/IntelliLink system remains one of the better ones.

The shifter is a bit wonky, eschewing the straightforward PRNDL pattern for one of those “flick one way for drive, and use a button and flick another for reverse” patterns. Needless complication, it is.

Under hood is a 3.6-liter V6 making 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque – the latter of which isn’t a good match for the Enclave’s 5,000 lb (with trailering package) curb weight.

[Get new and used Buick Enclave pricing here!]

While “slow” is too harsh a descriptor, as there is just enough punch for merging and passing, you won’t win many a drag race anytime soon with this thing. It’s best suited to leisurely suburban strolls, as well as gentle freeway cruises.

Handling is also what one would expect from a large three-row crossover: Adequate but not fun. At least the steering is weighted well.

2018 Buick Enclave

Ride-wise, the Enclave feels a little firmer than one would expect – this is no soft-roader. You get some float, though Buick keeps it to a minimum. Overall, the ride is firm but gentle, not sloppy and soft.

I noticed a panel gap (but forgot to snap a pic) in the center stack that was unbecoming of a vehicle of this price point, but otherwise build quality seemed good. The Enclave feels stout.

Speaking of price, my test vehicle wandered into territory typically occupied by five-seat premium crossovers sold by import brands with a cachet that’s a level above Buick.

A $50K base price is one thing, but two options help bump the price into the mid-$50K range. One of those is the $1,400 dual power moonroof, which is power in front and fixed in the rear. The other is the 20-inch wheel set, which adds another $1,400.

2018 Buick Enclave

Other options – rearview camera/rearview mirror camera with surround view ($825), navigation ($495), heavy-duty cooling for towing ($650), and the satin steel metallic paint job ($395) were more reasonable in price.

Pricey as it may seem, the standard features available on my Premium-trim test vehicle are nothing to sneeze at. They include infotainment with an 8.0-inch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in-car 4G LTE wi-fi, satellite radio, OnStar, USB, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, leather seats, remote start, tri-zone climate control, front and rear park assist, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert.

Packaged together, you get the modern interpretation of the big Buicks of yore, only with firmer ride and handling and a crossover bodystyle. As well, an interior that’s much nicer, relative to the competition, than anything that exist on those ‘90s Buicks.

You may miss the Roadmaster and lament the loss of the LeSabre, but if you need three rows, the modern version of Buick has you nicely covered.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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66 Comments on “2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD Review – A Roadmaster for the 21st Century...”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    No waterfall grille, no ventiports?

    Not a real Buick!

  • avatar

    I just optioned up an Avinir trim on the Buick build and price to nearly $60,000!!! But when Lincoln Navigators are flying off dealer lots at a $100,000 a pop, this looks like a bargain. Lol.

    • 0 avatar

      The delineation is often accentuated between the haves and have nots by trim levels.

      Most often the lowest trim level version of these vehicles will retain value longer than the upper trim level.

      A buddy of mine has a 2012 Grand Cherokee Laredo V6 4X4 which according to the dealer is worth today roughly 50% of what he paid for it in 2012.

      A lady friend of the family owns a 2012 Grand Cherokee 5.7L 4×4 Limited which is only worth 43% of what she paid for it.

      One reason we gave our 2012 Grand Cherokee V6 to our grand daughter for her wedding is because the Overland Summit version didn’t return even 50% in retained value when she got married. It had more miles left in it than dollars.

      • 0 avatar

        Never buy the lowest or highest trim. The sweet spot is on the midlevel (or lower mid and upper mid)! Really goes for just about any consumer good, doesn’t it? Things are built to a price, and will be stripped to make a cheapo model!

  • avatar

    Now this is the size that I had wanted Mazda to make the current CX9 but instead they went with extra medium.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda is perfectly willing to give you the Miata you want, and every other car in their line must lack size, power, or both.

      • 0 avatar

        GM Twin clutch wouldn’t overload like a CX-9. It is truly under engineered for a urging but soccer practice hauler and trips to the mall.

        • 0 avatar


          …oh, forget it.

        • 0 avatar

          That test is nothing that a real owner would actually conduct. As a 08 CX9 owner I have never tried nor do I want to do this to my car.

          • 0 avatar

            Then don’t read the current Motor Trend longterm complaining about the non-existent AWD on the CX-9.

          • 0 avatar

            i am the owner of an ’11 CX-9. the awd system leaves a lot to be desired. it is slow to react in the snow and there is no awd lock function.

            were it up to me and had i to do it over again i would go FWD. my wife insists on awd, which will kick in, eventually…

            we also got the PTU replaced under an extended warranty offered by mazda because it started to leak. known issue, in mazda’s defense, a ford-supplied part.

            still love the vehicle though.

  • avatar

    What an incredibly boring, grey appliance. There’s not a touch of color anywhere in the interior – even the trim (wood-like?) is the same grey. Couple that with medium performance and middling ride quality, and I’m struggling to see the value proposition here.

    • 0 avatar

      It needs some Roadmaster faux wood panels.

      • 0 avatar

        That would give it SOME color.

        • 0 avatar

          Corey, I have no beef in this game… but didn’t you buy an Outback? It sounds like an excellent tool for the right job… but you don’t get to complain about boring!

        • 0 avatar

          I looked at some other pictures online of this interior. Those pictures look much better. The door panels and center console are different colors. Also, in the other pictures the wood trim coloring sticks out more. I am guessing this looks much better in person.

          • 0 avatar

            I was thinking the whole time, whomever at GM approved this color combination for a press fleet vehicle should be demoted, if not fired. The interior is the worst, photographing like a ten year old Cobalt interior in thus hue. I know what the previous Enclave interior felt and looked like, and what most newer and cheaper GM interiors feel and look like, and this is a very poor showing for what is probably a decent feeling interior. On top of that, the gray exterior downplays the chrome garnishes and (black?) plastic lower bodysides and bumpers, while appearing flat and cheap on the tall bumper skins. The lighting looks less than ideal, but they could have done much better.

    • 0 avatar

      Other interior colors are available that liven things up considerably. I just sat in one yesterday with Havana metallic exterior paint with brandy interior seats that looked really nice.

  • avatar

    This has always been an appliance, but the original had style and presence. This one doesn’t. I’d say it actually looks like a base version, which it isn’t, of course.

    In fairness, though, I’ve seen these on the street in brighter colors, and it looks a lot better than these pictures suggest. The interior also looks a lot more luxe in light beige.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    This is on the shortlist for my wife in our post-minivan era, as is the MDX, which has a dated infotainment system and a less than ideal transmission (both of which are remedied in the new Odyssey).

    Buick would be a winner if I wasn’t sure I’d take it in the shorts on depreciation compared to the Acura.

    • 0 avatar

      We just bought a Traverse Premier (the Enclave’s platform-mate) two days ago to replace our Sienna. I’ve historically been a huge Toyota fan, due to reliability and the limited depreciation, but we didn’t think the Highlander was quite big enough for our needs, and we were both really impressed with the new Traverse. Two days in and no buyers remorse yet, check back with me in 12 months!

  • avatar

    I guess by Crossover they mean half way between a station wagon and a minivan?

  • avatar

    With the exception of some of the interior details of this new model, I feel like your description of ride and handling could easily be a review of the last generation model. Its a nice comfortable place to be in and drive in but really not much else.

    Agree that the new model totally lacks the presence of the last generation model. As I recall, when the last generation model was first introduced at the autoshow, the reaction was a collective praise and wows at the styling. This is vanilla in comparison to the 2017 version. Handsome, but not distinctive in the least.

    I have leased 2 of the last generation models for my wife over the years. I think it is a modern interpretation of the family station wagon. The Achilles heal of the old model though was fuel economy. Curious to see if this model does any better (at 5000lbs I’m guessing not). Thinking of jumping the GM 3 row crossover ship just to save a money on gas every week. The fuel consumption is not pretty for the last generation loaded AWD model.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Yeah — if it were safe to do a blind “drive test” in an open, empty parking lot, I am not sure I’d be able to tell the difference. I think that’s intentional — no one found the Lambdas “fun” to drive but they work well for highway and around-town driving.

  • avatar

    5,000lb, Holy sh..! There has got to be a way to get the weight down on modern cars. If Trump is going to jack up the price of steel and aluminum, then Carbon fibre looks more appealing.

  • avatar

    “this is no soft-roader”

    Aren’t all AWD CUVs “soft-roaders” by definition?

    “a look that’s clean but a tad anonymous”

    To me, the tasteful understated styling makes Buick CUVs much more recognizable, and much more attractive, than the typical garish and tacky over-the-top styling of most other CUVs. I have a hard time telling all the others apart.

  • avatar

    “you won’t win many a drag race anytime soon with this thing”

    Who would, in their right mind, want to drag race with this car?

    It in nonsense to claim that the car is slow with this engine.
    Can we finally get over the requirements for unreasonable performance?

    This car is going to be driven 55-75 MPH, at most, by a middle aged man or woman, with a typical acceleration rate of 30 seconds from 0 to 60.

    The horsepower obsession in the US with such low speed limits is just ridiculous.

    I would like to remind everyone, that in Germany you can by a brand new BMW 3-series with a 116 horsepower engine that goes from 0 to 100 KPH in 10.9 seconds. And BMW still considers it just fine for the Autobahn.

    • 0 avatar

      “Who would, in their right mind, want to drag race with this car?” You’ve never been to Utica, New York, have you?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Germany differs from the US in what it defines as “unreasonable performance”.

      But I don’t think so. I would bet that if you removed Germany’s engine displacement tax that it’s citizens would also choose larger and more powerful engines.

    • 0 avatar

      “The horsepower obsession in the US with such low speed limits is just ridiculous.”

      But as long as you aren’t doing a wild “exhibition of speed” burnout there aren’t acceleration limits.

      I might only be able to go a maximum of around 85mph most places but I enjoy being able to reach all the speeds between stopped and 85 as easily as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      Most reports have these in the 0-60 realm of 6.5 seconds or less and the 9 speed really gets a lot of power out the 3.6, especially as the revs climb. It is well over a second quicker than the old model.

  • avatar

    Is that Montrose Ave. beach?

  • avatar

    So it’s a CX-9 that had someone sand off all the sharp edges into an assortment of blobs, and swap the interior for GM blasé.

  • avatar

    I saw this new version at the local (small) auto show and compared it to my old man’s current ride, a 2015 Enclave. The newer version interior certainly looks less busy. but stark. Maybe it was the model(?) my dad selected but his current enclave has plenty of (faux) wood and the leather seats look well-stitched.

    The Enclave is definitely not “my kind of car” and, except for the smooth ride, dislike just about everything about it.

  • avatar

    Made in China
    Just say no !

  • avatar

    Buick = American Lexus

    Everything they do should be interpreted through that lens, in my mind. Therefore, the Enclave is comparable to an RX350L AWD, which has a similar price tag and features.

    The Buick has less offensive exterior styling and better utility. However, the interior is quite poor at this price point, and the interior/exterior vibe is that of a $35,000 vehicle. The reliability probably won’t be comparable to a Lexus, either.

    Mission failed. Reboot.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Not “Mission failure at all, not a bit. Buick gets legions of buyers who know that Buicks are by and far better than any vehicle made on the planet. Just ask the most zealous of Buick fans; they’ll quote prices from AutoTrader Ads to prove that Buicks depreciate the least of any vehicle made on the planet. Ever. Of all time. Japanese quaility control? The Germans ability make cars that run 140mph all day long. Totally irrelevant, if not down right irritating details; to those who proudly loft the tri-colored shield. Now if you’re a truly in the Buick, or GM drive; you’ll get mysterious, often spoke of but never seen “tunes” downloaded from space. This all happens via your secret built-in wifi; from space. You can tell who has the special “tunes”; look at their key fob. These 3 part “tunes” quadruple your horsepower and triple your gas mileage too! Or it may be the other way around, Buick fans are sneaky that way. Then again, they’ve been know to compare a 12 year old Lexus with 189,000 and a three year old Buick with 3800 miles and go “look how the Buick retained its value”. Besides, if you’re in in the know Buick owner; the dealer will give you more than you owe when you trade it in. When you drive a three way tuned Buick, your taste would make a fashion designer jealous and Morgan Stanley eager to hire you.

  • avatar

    The Enclave can’t be a credible successor to the Roadmaster for one simple reason: it can’t haul 4×8 sheet goods.

  • avatar

    Somehow this one lacks either the garishness or the presence of the original. It looks like a very average large CUV, albeit with one of the better interiors in the segment.

    I think I’d rather have a MDX, 9-speed and all.

  • avatar

    I think the thing looks like a Jeep. Very bland. Nice floating roof too.

  • avatar

    The old one in premium guise looks better. Buick really needs to do something about those wheels. They’re hideous.

  • avatar

    We have 80,000 miles on our 2008 Enclave CXL. We spent some time at the auto show last month sitting in a new Enclave Avenir. Honestly I was let down. I truly didn’t think it looked nearly as nice on the outside and the interior was a huge let down. Given a choice I would choose a “new” 2008 over a new 2018. Overall we have been very happy with our Enclave but we did have to have the transmission rebuilt (covered by GM at no cost to us) at 60,000 miles.

  • avatar

    This review doesn’t touch on the real competitive advantage for this vehicle and that’s the utility of the interior for people and cargo. The Enclave, like the Traverse, was among the largest in the class and they remain so in the current generation. (Oddly, GM decided to downsize the Acadia by a half size.) If you need seating for 8 in your crossover, there aren’t many options and GM has you covered. I’d say that the interior is more comfortable for more passengers than the Navigator/Expedition or the Tahoe/Yukon/Escalade. Those vehicles have the Enclave beat in some areas but in day-to-day suburban use, the Enclave is a good bet.

  • avatar

    My folks’ Caprice Classic wagon didn’t have one, but the Roadmasters and Custom Cruisers did.

    I’m a Bubble Roof envy survivor.

  • avatar

    I’ll add that while the Chevy didn’t have a bubble roof it did have a passenger airbag in the newly-designed dash…though considering it was a first-gen airbag it’s probably for the best it never had to deploy.

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