It’s actually pretty easy to paint a picture of the redesigned 2018 Buick Enclave with one word: more. As in more of everything. The mid-size luxury seven-seater SUV enters its second generation, packing in extra comfort, convenience, and features in an overall sleeker form. We dropped in on the rolling hills of Vernon, B.C., for the first Canadian drive of this modern Buick.
The outgoing model wasn’t exactly a boxy utility vehicle, but the domestic brand has further sculpted and refined the body, giving it a slimmer, more windswept look than before. The roofline is lower, the windshield angle sharper, and the wheelbase has been stretched out. Several design elements are clearly influenced by the Avista concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show two years ago, particularly the front end with the wing-shaped accents in the headlamps and front grille.
Speaking of lighting, the Enclave marks Buick’s first use of Evonik Acrylite technology. A mouthful for sure, but the innovative hardware found on all trims sees the application of 100 LED bulbs, not only giving the crossover a distinctive appearance but also providing significant improvements in the illumination department.
I mentioned comfort earlier, and after spending some time cruising through the Okanagan Valley, here are a few observations. The brand has managed to squeeze out 10 percent additional interior space compared to its predecessor, and it has third-row legroom that is refreshingly usable. And unlike other select SUVs—cue the Land Rover Discovery I recently tested—when carrying a full load of passengers, there’s still a healthy 668 litres of cargo space available behind the last bench. Nifty 10-inch-deep storage compartments hidden under the floor yield an additional 90.6 litres to stash various items.
Another addition to the Enclave is a new optional air ionizer. Built into the climate system, the ionizer produces negatively charged particles to attract and neutralize airborne contaminates in the cabin, helping to reduce unpleasant odours, bacteria, dust, and pollen, so occupants can breathe easier.
As with related Buick products in the lineup, QuietTuning is implemented. This is a combination of specially engineered body aero, high-grade sealing, sound deadening materials, and now active noise cancellation to cut down on unwanted exterior noise. I was indeed able to easily carry on a conversation with my driving partner. The only time I had to raise my voice was while on gravel roads where we could hear debris bouncing off the undercarriage.
The Enclave is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engine, paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission, making 310 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel saving start/stop functionality is standard, and the crossover has a maximum tow rating of 5,000 pounds.
Customers have the choice of three trim levels: Essence, Premium, and the grade-topping Avenir, the new Buick luxury sub-brand borrowing its name from the same concept. Active twin clutch all-wheel-drive is offered on all except the base front-drive Essence, which starts at $49,690. Stepping up to Premium ($57,690) bundles heated/cooled front seats, and heated second-row seats, a power-folding third row, and collision avoidance add-ons such as lane keep assist and front pedestrian detection.
At the top, Avenir ($63,690) includes a rear camera mirror (similar to the unit installed in the Cadillac XT5), sunroof, and Avenir-specific appearance package consisting of an exclusive three-dimension grille, 20-inch wheels, premium exterior colours, and exclusive interior accessories.
Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C., and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @b_yong