Buick's Enclave is a unique crossover that marries the latest in technology with the latest in design
Over the past couple of years, Buick has been working on redesigning basically its entire lineup. Looking to get away from the look that labeled them as cars for older people. And instead looking to sell their vehicles to younger, millennials. And the 2018 Buick Enclave is just the latest to get a massive redesign. The 2018 model was actually released last fall, but it's still one of the newer models in Buick's lineup and does show where the company is headed in the near future. The Enclave is one of the more "premium" SUV's in Buick's lineup and it definitely shows. We've been driving the 2018 Enclave for about a week now, and it has a lot of good stuff going for it. But is it worth the cash? Let's find out.
The Buick Enclave is not the cheapest SUV in its lineup, it's actually one of the more expensive with a starting price of $39,995. But remember this is a more premium SUV than something like the Encore. The Essence trim for the Enclave includes leather seats, lane change alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alerts, brings the bill to $45,190. The Premium trim will set you back $48,990 and that includes a 10-speaker Bose setup, with second row heated seats, heated steering and front row heated and ventilated seats. There is also an AWD Premium model, which costs $51,290 (this is the model that we have, and are talking about throughout this review. Finally, there is the Avenir model, which begins with a price tag of $54,390. There is an AWD model of the Avenir trim, which is $56,690. And finally, if you want the technology package on the Avenir, that brings the total price to $59,435. So as you can see, you can really spend a lot on the 2018 Enclave.
The Buick Enclave was fully redesigned for the 2018 model year, but it did keep its overall look. With it's flowing sheetmetal sides, which sets it apart from other SUV's in its class - which usually look much more boxy. The biggest change on the exterior is actually the grille. Buick decided to get rid of that waterfall grille on the Enclave for the 2018 model year, and stick with a more conventional looking grille with a wing look and of course the Buick logo in the center. It's good looking grille that doesn't really draw a lot of attention but still looks good.
The sides of the Enclave are really striking. You'll see that there are some silver accents around the windows and on the door handles, which give this red color Enclave a really nice look. The backside of the Enclave has plenty of curves, but it is still functional. It allows you to have a bit more extra space for cargo in the back. Speaking of cargo, it does have a hands-free liftgate. Something we've seen with a lot of mini vans in the past few years, and now it's started making it to SUV's. However the biggest issue here was not knowing where to kick to open the liftgate. Buick has fixed that. it illuminates the Buick logo on the group, so you know where to kick and it never fails to open hands-free. It's a small, subtle feature, that really works well.
Buick also changed up the headlights on the Enclave this year, they are now shorter and wider, instead of taller like in the 2017 model. You have your standard headlight there, with LED's around it. So it can really do a good job at lighting the road in front of you at night, but also not to bright to distract other drivers. The lights actually look really good on the front of the Enclave, and fit in well with the new grille look here.
The 2018 Buick Enclave is a great looking vehicle from Buick. It is a redesign, but not a complete redesign. Buick basically took what worked and what customers loved about the 2017 and earlier models and built on it. Giving us a new grille, a better liftgate, and overall, a better car. Which is what a car maker should be doing with each iteration of its vehicle lineup.
The Buick Enclave is the company's "luxury" SUV, but it's not quite as luxurious as something from BMW, Audi or even its sister-brand Cadillac. The Buick Enclave is the right amount of luxury in my opinion. It sports leather seats, as one would expect, with a bit of wood work here and there. It looks very classy, but still similar to other vehicles. The front seat - where we spent the majority of our time, obviously - is very comfortable to sit in. There's plenty of support all around you, whether you are in the driver's seat or in the passenger seat. In the center console, you'll find all of the usual elements that are found in every Buick these days. That includes the 8-inch touchscreen in the center for infotainment. Below that you'll find the climate controls as well as two USB ports for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.
Moving to the middle row, there are two captain's chairs in the second row (the Enclave has three rows and seats 7 people). These captain's chairs have all of the same functionality as the front two seats in the Enclave. That includes heated seats, and those seats can also adjust the temperature back there. Of course the driver can also opt to sync the temperature throughout the entire car. There are a couple of USB ports in the second row as well, so that passengers are able to charge their devices while riding in the Enclave. Then the final row is just a bench seat, which can ideally seat 3 people, but it'll be more comfortable with just two people back there.
There is a decent amount of cargo space available in the Enclave, but you also have the ability to fold down the second and third row seats for even more storage. The third row can be electronically folded. So instead of needing to press a button then fold it down yourself, you can fold it down using the buttons in the cargo area of the vehicle. Which is a great feature to have, instead of having to climb in and fold it down yourself. Folding down both rows of seats will give you 97.6 cubic feet of cargo space. The area behind the third row gives you 23.6 cubic-feet. Which is actually pretty good, even with all three rows full of people, you still have a ton of space for items.
One of the important aspects to the cabin of any vehicle is the amount of space in the cabin. Whether that be legroom or headroom. It's a much better experience to have extra space available than to be crammed into the vehicle. Luckily, with the Enclave, there is plenty of space available, even in the back rows of the vehicle. In the second row, there is a ton of space available. Typically you'd only want to place kids or teenagers in those seats, but in the Enclave, you can seat adults back there, even tall ones (over 6-feet tall) without much of an issue. Buick says that there is 41 inches of headroom in the front row, 39.9 inches in the second row and 37.6 inches in the third row. While legroom is 41.2 inches, 38.9 inches and 33.5 inches respectively.
The most important aspect of the Enclave, though, is the heated steering wheel. If you live somewhere that does actually get cold, a heated steering wheel makes a big difference. There were a couple of really cold days while we were driving the Enclave. And having the steering wheel heated made the driving experience much better. It's perhaps one of the best technological advances in the automotive industry, that no one talks about.
Driving the 2018 Enclave
During our time with the 2018 Enclave, the weather was, not good. So we did get a chance to drive it on snowy and ice-filled streets in Michigan. And the Enclave handled it well. Of course, this model does have AWD, but it's still good to see that it worked well on the slippery roads. Now being winter, there are also pothole-filled streets here, and it took those roads about the same as other vehicles. The tires didn't blow out or anything like that, but it was still a bumpy ride. That's not Buick's fault, but still worth mentioning.
The Enclave is rated at 17MPG in the city and 25MPG on the highway for the AWD model (the FWD model is slightly better, by a mile in each city and highway measurements). During the week that we were driving the Enclave, it was pretty similar. Although the hybrid gas mileage we got on the full tank was pretty good. Around 350-375 miles, with an average of around 23MPG. That included plenty of driving in traffic, as well as driving on highways. That's not too bad, considering this is a 21.7 gallon tank (the FWD model has a slightly smaller tank at 19.4 gallons). But remember that when you go to fill it up, it's going to cost a pretty penny. And that's normal with SUV's anyways, so nothing new here really.
There are a couple of features on the Enclave that may sound gimmicky, but do work really well. One is the "Rear Seat Reminder". When you park somewhere and turn off the car, the Enclave will alert you that there is something in the backseat, so you can pick up what you put in the car and take it with you. This is actually a really good feature, even though many won't talk about it. However, we noticed when driving this, that the Rear Seat Reminder works for items, but also for people. When others were in the car, the Rear Seat Reminder would go off when there was someone sitting in the back seat. Another "gimmicky" feature is the lift gate. We did talk about this already, but it's a really nifty feature, even though illuminating the Buick logo on the ground seems really gimmicky, it makes it easier to open the back hands-free.
When it comes to safety, the Enclave has you covered. Now it has cameras all around the car, which gives you a birds eye view when you are pulling in or out of a parking space. But it also has Rear Cross Traffic Alert. So not only can you tell when someone is behind you, but you can also tell when there is a car or a person coming towards the vehicle. So you don't hit anything or anyone, when backing out. Buick also has Forward Collision Alert, where if it thinks that there is a collision imminent it'll alert you and then hit the brakes, to avoid an accident or a collision. And of course, with On-Star available, the Buick Enclave has you covered if you do actually get into an accident. With Automatic Crash Response and Emergency Roadside Assistance available. So if something happens, On-Star is there to help you out. Now, none of these features are new to the Enclave or to Buick. These have been available on other vehicles, even other vehicles from Buick. But it's still good that these are here, as they are really helpful in preventing accidents.
When you're driving, you have to have some music, right? Buick knows this, which is why it has Bose speakers in all of its vehicles. And that's no different with the Enclave. Though, Buick did introduce QuietTuning in the Enclave, which works alongside the Bose Active Noise Cancellation. These two technologies work to reduce, block and absorb unwanted sounds. So it's a quieter experience in the vehicle, and you hear your music, or those in the car with you. Buick also has triple door seals, acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass, to help keep the unwanted sound to a minimum. And this really does make a difference in the sound quality of the speakers in the car. It is using Bose' premium 10-speaker system, and it sounds great. The mids and highs are really clear, but the one issue I had while driving the Enclave was the lack of bass from the Bose speaker system here. The bass was here, but it wasn't as strong as we've seen in other vehicles with Bose' speakers. There's also no way to adjust the equalizer in the settings of the car. Which would be nice to have, but not an absolute need, since the majority of people won't even notice the difference.
Buick also has dual moonroofs in the Enclave, with one in the front and one in the back for the second and third row of passengers. The front moonroof can be tilted or opened completely. Which is great to have when it's nice and sunny out. The rear moonroof works more as a skylight, to help bring in more light to the car. Which is also a nice feature to have, but it would be nicer if it could be opened or at least tilted. The dual moonroofs isn't quite the same thing as the panoramic sunroof that you'd find on something like the Audi Q7 - which spans almost the entire top of the Q7 - but it does work really nicely with the Enclave.
Driving the 2018 Enclave was a great experience. There's very little to complain about. But the one thing I do miss is the heads up display Buick had on the 2017 LaCrosse. It doesn't mean that the 2018 Enclave isn't worth buying, it's just a feature that I did miss on this vehicle. However, one thing I really like about the Enclave (and this isn't exclusive to the Enclave, as it was also on the Encore), is the rear view mirror. This sounds like nothing to exciting right? But it actually is. You can flip the switch on the mirror and switch to a video feed of the back of your vehicle. Which makes it easier to see what's behind you, especially when its dark out. It's a really nice feature to have, and likely something we'll see on more vehicles in the near future. It does take a bit of getting used to though, since it shows vehicles are further away than they actually are.
Infotainment & Connectivity
The Buick Enclave has all of the usual Infotainment options you'd expect. With the 8-inch touchscreen in the center console, you'll find a slew of options available. For audio, you have the standard AM/FM radio as expected, but there is also Sirius XM satellite radio as well as Bluetooth for streaming from your smartphone. Next to music, you'll find a shortcut to your smartphone so you can make calls, answer messages and so forth. Then there's a Projection icon which will change to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, depending on what you have plugged in. Then there's navigation, which is part of On-Star. We found navigation to be pretty good, just a tad below the level of Google Maps on Android Auto. So it's a good alternative if you don't want to plug in your smartphone every time you jump in the car. You can also get the weather and respond to texts through the interface, which is nice to have.
Enclave, like many other Buick models, has AT&T integration. So you have 4G LTE built into the vehicle, which you can connect to whenever you get in the vehicle. We've used this with other vehicles we've reviewed from Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac (these all work with AT&T, along with many other car makers), and the experience was rather mediocre. AT&T's speeds in our area is not the best, typically getting around 5Mbps and sometimes even less. We did connect to AT&T and then start streaming music on Spotify through Android Auto, and it had trouble loading the album art. But when you switched back to your carrier's 4G LTE (in our case, T-Mobile or Verizon), it worked without any issues. Now we aren't sure if AT&T is throttling speeds for vehicles or not, but the speeds are not good enough to stream video and such. Buick and others do give you a short trial period for AT&T's OnStar 4G LTE - about 3 months. After which you can opt to add it to your AT&T account for $10/month, or pick up any of three plans: 200MB, 1GB, or 3GB. Obviously none of these are going to be great for long road trips when you want your kids to be occupied watching videos and such, but it is good to have in a pinch.
The Android Auto experience on the Enclave is pretty much what you'd expect. There's no real surprises here. The Enclave doesn't yet support wireless Android Auto (and the car maker has made no public announcements in regards to plans for it). So you do still need to plug in your phone when you get into the car to start up Android Auto. Not a big deal, it's what we've been doing for the past few years already. Luckily, there is two USB ports right in the center console, along with a place to put your phone when it's plugged in (and charging). For this purpose, you'll likely want a shorter cable, otherwise it'll be drapped across the front area of the car, and not look to nice.
Setting up Android Auto is pretty simple. Just follow all of the directions on your smartphone, and it'll automatically connect via Bluetooth to the car. From there you'll need to tap on the Android Auto icon on the touchscreen, and you're all set. Now, one thing that the Enclave has over previous cars we've reviewed, is Waze. Waze launched for Android Auto just a few months ago, and it works great on Android Auto. We did use it with the Enclave quite extensively and it works just as you'd expect. Alerting you to slowdowns, accidents and more. And this comes in handy when traveling during rush hour and during a snow storm. As you can see where accidents are, which usually indicate that those roads are a bit more treacherous.
Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Support
Plenty of Cargo Space
No Heads Up Display
No Qi Wireless Charging Available
The Buick Enclave is not a cheap crossover. Starting at $39,995, it's definitely up there, especially once you add in features and upgrade the trim. But the main question here is whether it is worth it, and it definitely is. There's a lot to like about the Buick Enclave, and not much to not like about the vehicle. The addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is definitely a good thing for those that are heavy into technology, as it will allow you to use either smartphone platform and still use it with your vehicle. The ability to seat 7 people, comfortably is definitely a good thing, and all of that extra cargo space is equally good. Making the Enclave perfect for road trips. Buick is selling the Enclave in a few different trims, all with the option of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. You would do better to get an AWD model over a FWD model, even though it is a bit more.