- What’s Best: Huge interior passenger/cargo volume, quiet ride and Buick luxury throughout.
- What’s Worst: Getting lost in a tsunami of SUV/CUVs, not just from outside automakers, but also within the GM family.
- What’s Interesting: Buick coming flat out stating they are transforming into a SUV company.
VERNON, BC: That Buick is transforming itself into a SUV maker is evidenced by the mid-size, 2018 Enclave.
At the Canadian introduction of the Enclave held in Vernon, B.C., the fifth slide of the media presentation made Buick’s intention clear ‑ that SUV/CUVs are a top priority for the brand.
Canadian Buick officials were quick to say sedans such as the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano are very much a part of the marketing syllabus, but there is no way it can ignore how customers are migrating in droves to trucks.
There are no shortages of Buick, or GM for that matter, SUV/CUVs to choose from.
Want something smaller? There’s the sub-compact Buick Encore or the compact Buick Envision.
Want something bigger? There is the GMC Yukon/Chev Tahoe, with the Yukon available in high luxury Denali trim that brings it up to Buick standards. And, finally there is the bigger-than-life Chevy Suburban LTZ.
Ergo, there are plenty of these vehicles from Buick and GM and just about every other manufacturer on the planet.
So what does Buick plan to do to attract attention to the Enclave?
Firstly, it will intensify its message of offering refined luxury in all its vehicles, which has served it well so far with year-to-date sales up 23 per cent.
The transition to SUVs is also working, with SUVs/CUVs now accounting for 80 per cent of Buick sales. Lease rates, a Buick target objective, are up from 25 per cent in 2016 to 35 per cent so far in 2017.
Another tool is pricing, made attractive and “stepped” with the Encore starting at under $30,000, the Envision under $40,000 and the Enclave at under $50,000.
And then there is styling.
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At more than five metres long (5,189 mm) and two metres wide (2,001.5) Enclave is a big vehicle no matter how you look at it and a challenge to fit in any single-car garage.
But it doesn’t look big and that’s because the stylists have kept front and rear overhangs to a minimum with bodyside character lines that make it look tightened up between the wheels.
But the real impact is the interior with gently flowing lines throughout the cabin with the generous use of leather and other hi-lux trim materials.
But Buick takes it up a notch from there, with the new Avenir sub-brand which represents the highest levels of fit and finish.
An Avenir highlight on the Enclave is a chestnut finish with ebony contrasting stitching on the seats, 20-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with pearl nickel finish, wood accented steering wheel and the list goes on and on.
The 2018 Enclave is 10 per cent bigger on the inside than the 2017 model with a maximum cargo volume of 2,764.5 litres and 668.2 litres behind the third row seat. There is even a 10-inch deep bin under the rear cargo floor.
Towing, when properly equipped, is 2,268 kg (5,000 lb).
The new Enclave is powered by a direct injection, 3.6-litre V6 (310 hp, 266 lb/ft) with nine-speed automatic transmission with a choice of front-/all-wheel-drive on the Essence model and AWD on the Premium and Avenir.
I drove the Enclave Essence version on a very short loop around Vernon, B.C., that gave me an opportunity to form a few impressions.
The quietness of the cabin is a result of Buick’s QuietTuning, which focuses on every way possible to eliminate noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and now includes active interior noise cancellation.
With a hefty base curb weight of 1,977 kg, the V6 was punchy at launch and the nine-speed was seamless in actuation.
The AWD system is interesting because it has an active twin-clutch rear differential. Operating normally in AWD, a button on the left side of the centre stack touchscreen lets the driver change to front-drive for better fuel economy. At start up, it defaults back to AWD.
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Besides the all-round camera system, an interesting feature is the available rear-view mirror that operates in the traditional manner. But when you flick a tab, it becomes a live screen showing the view from the back-up camera.
Another feature Buick is proud of is an air ionizer that eliminates odours and contaminants.
And with families a main focus of the demographics interested in the Enclave, passenger ingress/egress is made easy with the second row SmartSlide captains chairs or the rear programmable power liftgate with under bumper swipe function for when your hands are full.
There’s more, such as the third row power/folding seat with wireless charging.
But the only way for readers to experience the breadth of what the 2018 Buick Enclave has to offer is to take one for test drive.
2018 Buick Enclave
BODY STYLE: Intermediate luxury, three-row SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front/all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.6-litre direct injection V6 (310 hp, 288 lb/ft of torque)
FUEL RATING: (Regular) FWD, 12.9/9.0L/100 km city/highway; AWD, 13.8/9.4L/100 km
CARGO CAPACITY: 668.2 litres behind third row, 2,764.5 litres behind first row
TOW RATING: 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) properly equipped
PRICE: Essence FWD, $49,690; Essence AWD, $52,690; Premium AWD, $57,690; Avenir AWD, $63,690
WEB SITE: Buick.ca