By on May 24, 2018

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.

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.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.

Image: Steph Willems

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).

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.)

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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]

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69 Comments on “2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD Review – Peeling Back a Veneer of Luxury...”

  • avatar

    I sat in a standard Enclave at the auto show, and it felt good inside, better than the Lacrosse (to me). I think it’s a nice looking cruiser, and while I personally would never need one, I hope it does well because it feels like a solid effort.

  • avatar

    I’ve a seen a few in person. Nice looking vehicle. $59,000 ? Not that nice.

  • avatar

    The summary box says “nine speed manual” … might wanna fix that?

  • avatar

    Those are 20″ wheels? They don’t even come close to looking premium. Try harder Buick.

  • avatar

    Though GM’s premium white color works on many other things (Regal, Sierra), it does not work on this blob. It just makes it so elephantine. I can hardly evaluate its looks in this color!

  • avatar

    $5400 for a few meaningless badges (what the Hell is an Avenir?), $5 bucks worth of tech (cost to GM), and some painfully big wheels with frightfully expensive tires (for the consumer) – so about $5375 worth of extra profit for GM if anyone actually buys them.

    • 0 avatar

      It exists only as an experiment in corporate profit generation.
      “A Venir” in Spanish means “to come” (same meanings as in English).

      *”Avenir” as one word is a verb, meaning “to bring together” or “to reconcile”. It means as much in this context as Asuna, which was GM’s attempt at creating a faux Asian brand in Canada, or any other nonsensical car label.

  • avatar

    I’m clearly not the target for this vehicle, but if I were to drop over $50K on a vehicle it should look like something special. I just don’t see it here.

  • avatar

    More disposable f**king Guangzhou Motors garbage…

    …If you are a masochist, and want to/insist upon buy/buying GM garbage, just buy the same thing for $35k or so in a Chevy Traverse.

    Be forewarned, as always, with GM sh*tpiles, check out many forums and talk to techs about how monstrously trouble-prone these rolling dumpster fires are even over the intermediate term, before handing over good money to agree to be flogged daily post-purchase/lease.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis


      Buicks are very popular in Chicagoland. They seem to be designed to better withstand the temperature extremes and harsh winters of the midwest. Probably the same reason they do well in mainland China.

    • 0 avatar

      Buick, or should I say the Enclave, is more popular among the monied than one would think.

      See a decent # of Enclaves in areas filled with Range Rovers, Cayennes, the GLS, X5, etc. (with even more Yukons Denalis), including a pretty good showing of G-wagons and the Bentayga.

      There just aren’t many CUVs as roomy as the Enclave and these buyers would have no issue ponying another $5k for the Avenir trim (or more for the upcoming Cadillac XT6).

  • avatar

    This review reads like a combination of a specifications list and Car and Driver at its worst. Could you cover things that matter like for example how bad or good was the non defeatable start stop system in stop and go traffic. And spare us the Whole Foods, Clint Eastwood, Lada Samara (really) auto reviewer cliche snark. Your not a Poet Laureate. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      I found the use of quotation marks around the word chestnut a bit obnoxious. It’s completely standard within the industry, and has been for decades, to give exterior and interior colors such appellations. The quotations came off as an attempt by the author to make Buick look weird or lame for calling this color brown “Chestnut.” So, it’s OK for a German manufacturer to use the descriptor “coffee” or “cognac,” but it’s lame if Detroit uses “chestnut”?

  • avatar

    Why does DW hate GM so much?

    I hate them because: I was VP of Sales at an Auto Supplier. The crush downs and beat downs were so bad. I / we decided to no quote all GM work. I had plenty of work from professional fair – firms.

    Mercedes Benz

    No quoted the scum bags. Ha ha.

    • 0 avatar

      You may or may not be surprised by the # of suppliers that outright refuse to even entertain submitting bids and/or bothering in any way with General Motors, but they are VOLUMINOUS in both absolute and % terms.

      GM is an incompetently run company, that has a diametrically opposed attitude towards its suppliers as Honda, Toyota, or successful, competently run automakers.

      • 0 avatar

        Wife’s 2016 Terrain (Dec 2016 purchase) is in the shop NOW 22,000 approximate miles as Mom’s taxi. Grease pit guys doing her oil change on Monday reported “seeping” from axle shaft seals at transmission…

        GM Kwality!

        I was really hoping they had changed for the better post bankruptcy.

        • 0 avatar

          “I was really hoping they had changed for the better post bankruptcy.”

          I can with 100% certainty guarantee you that they’re back to their old ways, and in many ways worse (lowest-bid suppliers welcome as long as they can match lowest-bid suppliers from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, etc.).

          Jack’s Silverado has way more Chinese-sourced Chabadadadaou parts, gaskets, bolts, linkages, and much, much, more, than any Proud MAGA hat wearing person could stomach.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I feel like youve taken it up a notch lately DeadWeight and you are hitting all of the crap equally. Carry On.

        • 0 avatar

          @Principal Dan- Sorry, but HOPE is not a plan. Never was.

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Gazis


          Axles & Transmissions are big heavy parts of the car. Made entirely out of metal. Not a lot of give there. Problems in the manufacturing process usually show up right away (within the first 1000 miles)

          Are you sure your wife didn’t run over something that may have caused damage to the bottom of the vehicle?

          • 0 avatar

            @PrincipalDan glad it was just a screw up like that and not an actual leak. And yes it seems that one cannot trust dealership techs at certain places to even do oil changes competently.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s genuinely disappointing, PD. I know two families with first-gen Enclaves. Family #1 has had a good experience; family #2 has had some issues. (I don’t have details, but I think they’ve been a bad transmission plus some ankle biters on top of that.) It’s too bad, as these are exactly the type of customer Buick wants. Both bought their Enclaves when the parents were in their 30s; father in family #2 recently made CFO of his company.

          FWIW, another person I know has had a good experience with a ’10-’16 LaCrosse, purchased used. Huge disclaimer, as he’s a mechanic, but I don’t think he’s any issues.

          • 0 avatar

            (Update from yesterday) So in the interests of fair and balanced we’ll chalk this false alarm up to incompetent grease monkeys.

            Service department had the car for a day. Looked at the undercarriage and thought “there’s no way she had a leak this massive and didn’t know it.”

            They cleaned things up and ran some tests and figured out that the oil change boys had spilled that much new and old oil in the process of the change and were trying to call it a leak. The detailed her car inside and out and gave it back to her (with a service loaner during the inconvenience.)

            Now I’m more worried about incompetent oil change guys at the dealer quick lube than the integrity of the vehicle. (Plus that they apparently can’t tell engine oil from transmission fluid!)

          • 0 avatar

            Listen, different color and viscosity fluids are hard to tell apart.

        • 0 avatar

          Uh, if that was my car, I wouldn’t assume that the dealership techs are correct or telling the truth. Why choose to believe one set over the other? I would definitely keep an eye out for any fluid leaks, specifically in this remainder of the warranty period.

          • 0 avatar

            Working at one of their major suppliers, I saw (and examined) one that their visiting engineers was driving. Absolutely no way I’d fork 50K – even less 60K – for that level of quality, or Fit and Finish. The Buick is all bling without the improved quality over GMC or Chevy to back it up.

  • avatar

    Amazing how much more finished a midsize SUV looks when you remember to paint the lower third of it.

    • 0 avatar

      “Forgetting” to paint the lower third is usually how you get customers to avoid the base trim and pay $2,000 more for the next rung up. Instant profit!

  • avatar

    They lost me at first look…Camry “lookalike” grill bar and insignia is just ugly…as is the price…

  • avatar

    I’ve been watching online video reviews of Buick products (Lacrosse, Regal Sportback GS, TourX) and the takeaway has generally been

    -chassis tuning
    -some interior details (like 40/20/40 seat back on TourX)

    -most of the rest of it

  • avatar

    The only problem I have with this article. Is what the quoting of the Lexus RX 350. This is its base price that you’re quoting. If you’re going to call out the Buick on pricing you should at least look up how much the Lexus RX 350 is fully loaded which is about $57,000

  • avatar

    That might be the worst implementation of the floating roof yet. It might as well be a decal sold on Ebay and shipped out of Guangzhou.

    GM may need to take another crack at minivans. The Pacifica looks downright Italian compared to this.

  • avatar

    I generally like the idea of a three row crossover for family duty that has three actual usable rows and is a realistic alternative to a minivan.

    The previous generation Enclave, despite its 10 years on the market was a pretty attractive design for a Tylenol pill. Even ten years on, they look pretty good. I hate to say it, probably better than this current version.

    This version may have a ton more content, updated mechanicals, but it is so painfully nondescript next to the good looks (or at least distinctive looks) of the outgoing model. The Traverse is better looking than this and has most of the same goodies if properly equipped Im sure. I think I would stop at a Chevy dealership first. Save some coin in the process.

  • avatar

    White is very wrong for this car. As others have commented it looks hugely bulky.

    I sure hope C1XX proves less troublesome than Lambda. The packaging is great and non-Avenir versions would be good values if only they would be reliable.

  • avatar

    Wait 2 yrs get it for 30K or less.

  • avatar

    I’m more interested in the backgrounds, especially the picture with the early and late Corvairs and VW Transporter.

  • avatar

    Who at Buick is picking test car colors and options? Or do they just not have any decent looking colors? The first reviews was that ultra awkward gray/gray/gray base model in caster wheels, and this is no improvement in white on the fussy 20″ wheels. They designed a car with some fairly subdued but interesting surface details, and their fleet manager specs cars to hide every detail he/she can.

    Same comments apply to the interiors of both cars.

  • avatar

    The previous generation in premium trim and white frost tricoat looked far better than the current generation Avenir trim. Perhaps this is intentional and GM will improve the look when they refresh it.

    I’m surprised it’s selling as well as it is considering how it looks. I see Avenir models fairly often. But It’s not pretty. Give me a 2017 with the 2018 interior.

    • 0 avatar

      Either that or they are leaving room for Cadillac XT7. I like the previous generation but the overall shape is too close to our Envision.

      • 0 avatar

        I think we’re both right. OAN, the Envision looks great. The proportions are perfect for a midsize SUV.

        This Enclave just looks off to me.

      • 0 avatar

        “I like the previous generation but the overall shape is too close to OUR Envision.”

        “The Buick Envision is a compact crossover SUV made in China. Final assembly is in Yantai ETDZ, China.

        The Buick Envision has 88% of its parts and components fabricated in China, also.

        The Envision was first introduced publicly in China on July 1, 2014, with a photo of the car under a cover and placed between a Buick Encore and a Buick Enclave.[5] On July 21, some specifications and the first official photos, as well as its Chinese name “Ang Ke Wei” (昂科威), were made public. The car is produced in China by Shanghai GM and went on sale in late 2014.

        The Envision went on sale in the United States in the summer of 2016, making it the first Chinese-built GM vehicle to be sold in America.”


        “That’s not a Buick! You’re right, it’s a BRUICK!!!”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Sadly, I find myself less and less impressed by Buick. The interiors are consistently let down by chintzy materials, in an effort to keep Cadillac afloat.

    For the money, the MDX and QX60 feel much more premium.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the bean-counters at RenCen for ya.

      For what GM is charging for the Denali trim (and now for the Avenir trim), buyers should be a getting more.

  • avatar

    $60K for this station wagon/minivan crossover thing?

    I haven’t seen such optimism since Cadillac put a $75K price tag on the ELR.

    At that price point nearly every other competitor delivers a more compelling offering.

  • avatar

    After my service at a GM dealership today, I would never recommend buying a GM junker! Service completed and car (out of warranty) immediately had a problem (on their premises). “Not our fault”. So my repair cost will be tripled. It was 6 inches from where they were working?!

    Several months ago I had same vehicle at another GM dealership and they too returned it with a problem—they did the “Huh? I don’t hear it? I can’t hear it, can you Other Tech?”. I was stunned that I was being victim to GM’s “unable to replicate problem” arrogance.

    I’m leaving the problems vague because I’m writing a letter to GM about this garbage service.

    I will be buying a made-in-America “foreign” car soon! I can’t stomach the thought of even spending one more cent in a GM service center! I normally use an independent shop and never once have had an issue with them.

    3 new GM vehicles in my family within the past 2 months, be sure I will let the word out. Enclave being one of them!

    I am so p!ssed, and I don’t ever swear!!!

    DW, keep on preaching! DW, keep on preaching!!

    (Posted this comment again because the one from 15 hours ago hasn’t been approved.)

  • avatar

    Save yourself $15,000, and buy a 2018 Mazda CX-9 in Signature trim.

    • 0 avatar

      People sometimes hate on Mazda for what it costs once you load it up but I honestly think that some of the trim levels are a bargain given what you get for the money. If you don’t need real wood inside you can get a turbo Mazda 6 for roughly $30K.

    • 0 avatar

      The Enclave gives buyers something that the CX-9 does not – interior space.

      Personally, much prefer the CX-9, but interior space is a major consideration for most buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazdas are revered only by journalists. IRL, they’re probably the worst rustbuckets available in North America, parts are very expensive. As well, maintenance and repairs are extremely and uselessly complicated – as well as very costly.

  • avatar

    a more pronounced waterfall grill is needed.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      “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.

  • avatar

    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.

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