2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD Review - Peeling Back a Veneer of Luxury

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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Fast Facts

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD

3.6-liter DOHC 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, U.S. MPG)
13.8 city / 9.4 highway / 11.8 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
20.8 mpg [11.3 L/100 km] (Observed)
Base Price
$56,795 (U.S) / $63,795 (Canada)
As Tested
$59,490 (U.S.) / $66,970 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada.
2018 buick enclave avenir awd review peeling back a veneer of luxury

I could have told the guy “71 extra pounds.” Then again, maybe “$5,400 more” would have been a better response. Both of these figures are correct, but it’s the latter that best answers the question, “What’s an Avenir?”

The passer-by who accosted me — in a friendly manner, thankfully — outside my residence hadn’t seen the word “Enclave” on the back of the big, white Buick I had parked outside, but I assume he knew the model and wondered what the hell an Avenir nameplate was doing on both front doors.

“Okay, you know Denali…?” I answered. The rest isn’t hard to imagine.

Basically, like GMC’s luxury sub-brand, “Avenir” is a great way to squeeze extra cash out of an existing model, I told the guy. Had I consulted Buick’s website before tailoring my response, I could have said it’s “the highest expression of Buick luxury.” I like my answer better.

In Canada, where the two of us stood chatting next to this blinding, three-row crossover, it’s a $6,000 walk up from the formerly top-end Premium trim to Avenir, which stickers for $61,900 before delivery. Americans get theirs for $54,495 before a $995 destination and freight charge. (Tack on an extra $2,300 if all-wheel drive — standard on Canadian Enclave Avenirs — helps you sleep at night.)

[Get new and used Buick Enclave pricing here!]

I should add that White Frost Tricoat, which elicits a Clint Eastwood-like squint from all who venture near the Avenir’s gleaming bulk, is an extra $600 (USD).

Random human interactions aren’t all that common with the fairly pedestrian vehicles I test, but what made this convo odd is that it wasn’t the first that week. After parking on a side street few days earlier, a guy jumped off his porch to enthusiastically inquire about the largest vehicle in Avenirdom. He also tried to sell me on a detailing job, the crafty bugger.

So, what does this “expression of luxury” actually bring to the table, besides strange men? In raising the price and content ceiling on the redesigned-for-2018 Enclave, Buick saw fit to visually differentiate the Avenir from lesser trims, adding a black honeycomb mesh to the grille and lower opening, glueing the aforementioned script to the front doors, and shodding it with chrome 20-inch wheels. These are subtle differences, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a five-bucks-under-$40k base Enclave across the parking lot.

Inside, rich, “Chestnut” leather abounds, perforated on the front seats, with Avenir stitching found on the headrests and floor mats. The word also migrates to the sill plates. To instill that drawing room feel, little bit of what once used to be a tree appears on the steering wheel.

One flaw I noticed right away was three loose threads on the leather-wrapped wheel, all located between the 2 and 4 o’clock position. Let’s hope a previous driver had long nails and a nervous habit, as it’s not an encouraging sight in a top-end vehicle with less than 5,000 miles on the odometer.

Above the Avenir’s occupants, two moonroofs admit light into the seven-passenger cabin (only one admits air, sorry), and second row passengers have full access to climate functions and seat heaters. Credit where it’s due: I squeezed my 6’4″ frame into every seat in the vehicle I nicknamed Moby Dick — even the rearmost row is surprisingly liveable. A friend and I consumed an entire large, three topping pizza in various seats while chatting about politics one night.

Tech content gets an upgrade, too. Ticking the box next to Avenir brings navigation to the 8-inch touchscreen, an 8 inch driver information center for the gauge cluster, rearview mirror with video display, bird’s eye surround view, and wireless phone charging. Oh, and there’s a foot-operated power liftgate I forgot to waggle my size 12 under.

On the safety front, this tester’s available Avenir Technology Package added full-speed adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, plus forward automatic braking. That’s in addition to the usual driver’s aid suspects (lane keeping assist, forward collision alert, pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring).

While the cabin pleases with its uncluttered dash, comfy seats, and generous legroom, there’s no mechanical upgrades to differentiate this ride from its Chevrolet Traverse platform mate. Under the hood lies the same 3.6-liter V6, good for 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. A nine-speed automatic comes standard. Mercifully smooth and less prone to gear hunting than other multi-cog autoboxes, the transmission nonetheless loses points for its monostable-type shifter.

I found that the raised console edges made grasping the shifter an awkward affair, as a side-mounted button must be pressed to affect certain gear changes. A minor gripe, sure. Still, this doesn’t happen in the LaCrosse, where the shifter stands free and clear on a clean-sided, upward-sweeping console.

There’s steering wheel-mounted paddles on hand if boredom sets in, though you’ll need to select Low first, and pressing the Sport button is highly recommended. Actually, Sport mode was my preferred setting for day-to-day driving. It firms up the precise, but almost too effortless steering and ever so slightly reduces the sensation of wallow in tight turns. (Not that the Enclave rolls like a corvette in the North Atlantic — it doesn’t.)

I certainly didn’t need a backwoods trip to a friend’s cottage to discover that piss-poor pavement disrupts the cabin’s tranquility. Try as it might, the adaptive suspension (an option on Avenir) can only do so much to dampen those jolts. On the highway, though, it’s a pretty placid cruiser. As always, when the going gets rough (which seems to be the default setting on every road around here), I find myself wishing I could pray away those 20-inch donuts.

Too bad I couldn’t pray away rising oil prices and taxation. Near-record high gas prices meant the all-wheel drive button remained largely ignored, and only when sand sullied the twisty blacktop on the cottage route did I engage the rear wheels, thus ending the reign of the Plow King. The blacktop soon disappeared altogether. We (the Buick and I) powered through soft sand with aplomb.

Yes, the cottage. That’s about as far afield as you’re likely to find any Avenir-badged vehicle, even an AWD model like this. More likely than not, you’ll see this particular Avenir on city streets, in the Whole Foods parking lot, or perhaps hauling a light camper out of town.

The folks at Buick would love the Avenir sub-brand to become a sought-after status symbol, much in the way Denali tempts 25 percent of GMC buyers. Time will tell if customers feel the price premium is worth it. For a three-row, 4,600 pound crossover, the basic Enclave is pretty competent. You won’t want for safety aids on high-end trims (Buick’s lane-holding feature is among the most aggressive I’ve encountered), and there’s a smooth, if not overly powerful powertrain on tap (fuel economy averaged 20.8 mpg over the week, 1 mpg better than the EPA’s combined figure), but the distance between an Enclave Premium AWD and an Avenir AWD amounts to a not unsubstantial $5,400.

On the Premium model, you’ll still find a USB port for every outboard passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, a generous suite of driver assist features, Active Noise Control, an excellent 10-speaker Bose audio system, heated front and second-row seats, rear A/C, 8-inch touchscreen, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, 4.2-inch driver information center, keyless open, and leather-wrapped everything. Of course, you’ll “suffer” with 18-inch wheels. Or will you?

You’ll have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to shell out more than the retail price of a late ’90s Lada Samara to gain those minor interior and exterior differences, plus a scoop of added tech. You’ll also need to ask whether the Avenir name makes you feel special. Usually, these things depend — at least partially — on just how well versed the general population is in the automotive language. Avenir is not, at this early point, Denali, nor is it AMG or M, which at least promises the presence of added power.

It’s not an unattractive vehicle, both inside and out. Flowing fender bulges, an appealing grille, floating roof, and LEDs all around could easily draw more to the Enclave fold. However, a new rival exists in the form of the long-wheelbase Lexus RX 350L, which stickers for $47,670 before delivery. The crossover market remains all-you-can-eat buffet, and it’s only growing in selection.

There’s another question to ask. Is the Enclave even capable of raising its status with the addition of a higher trim? That’s a tough one. We’ve discussed Buick fairly frequently on these pages over the past few months, and while some feel the brand is too disorganized, too far from its past to resonate with the 2018 buyer, and too incapable of raising eyebrows or pulse rates, it really comes down to the individual.

In my experience, at least a couple of people looked on with something approaching envy. Maybe they were just blinded by the light.

[Images: ©2018 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

Steph Willems
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3 of 69 comments
  • Hummer Hummer on May 26, 2018

    Doesn't make sense at the price point, at the end of the day these still sell to the same women that want a Yukon/Suburban but "settle" for these minivans. Once you price it past the comparable Denali Yukon it just becomes a less useful minivan more than anything else. In reality this and the Envision are the biggest reason to kill off the Buick brand in America. Bring over Holden as a sporty brand (only RWD, all models with available affordable V8s)-(since no one knows they sell the general global GM trash in Aus) and they'll have a better plate; basically GM needs a new brand that hasn't already been trashed in America.

    • Ernest Ernest on May 26, 2018

      "Doesn’t make sense at the price point, at the end of the day these still sell to the same women that want a Yukon/Suburban but “settle” for these minivans. Once you price it past the comparable Denali Yukon it just becomes a less useful minivan more than anything else." Excellent point. Saw two Denali's and an Escalade at the local Applebee's tonight. One Buick- a Red LaCrosse in the disabled section.

  • Coolcar2 Coolcar2 on May 31, 2018

    I have recently only seen white and gold Avenir models around town and I think they made a mistake with this new models design. The previous model had a bit more glitz to the exterior design that presented more road presence when seen in suburban parking lots and school pick-up lines. This new design, especially in Avenir trim, is too understated in appearance. The Denali sub-brand includes visual gravitas that makes it appear worth the extra dough for the upgrade, the Avenir not so much.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.