2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD Review - A Roadmaster for the 21st Century

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.

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.

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.

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 66 comments
  • Phila_DLJ Phila_DLJ on Mar 08, 2018

    My folks' Caprice Classic wagon didn't have one, but the Roadmasters and Custom Cruisers did. I'm a Bubble Roof envy survivor.

  • Phila_DLJ Phila_DLJ on Mar 08, 2018

    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.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...