2018 Buick Avenir: Silent Sybaritic Ride

Photos by Chris Davies

It was January 16th and the late Sunday evening sky flashed suddenly. The flash was immediately followed by a concussive crack. My wife looked up at me wonderingly from the living room floor where she was watching TV.  Seeing no North Korean radioactive dust particles filling the living room, I went back to watching the flat screen without comment.  We awoke the next morning to learn that a meteor had hit the ground in the Detroit/Windsor area.  My first thought was “more potholes”!

I shouldn’t have worried. That morning Buick delivered their new ‘pothole-swallowing’ 2018 Enclave Avenir.  This quiet carriage was to soak up the Detroit area’s potholes without complaint over the next week.

It’s clear from the first look that the new Enclave’s handsome shape is slimmer: by 225kg, actually. Soaked in a handsome Dark Slate Metallic (so as to camouflage it amongst the larger meteor fragments) our example complimented that exterior color with an aromatic leather cockpit area in a chestnut-color.  This color was to be found in the perforated leather seating and the new leather dash surface, specific to the Avenir model.  This pleasing scent of upgrade leather did not cease to impress throughout its stay. The attractive cockpit area is easily up to the benchmark standards of Audi save for the instrument displays. Oddly, Buick chose to leave the outboard displays in front of the driver in a very legible white on black arrangement while making the center a digital configurable arrangement of a subtly different color and somewhat blurred gauges (when contrasted next to the aforementioned analog gauges on either side of it).

Avenir is a new model distinction within Buick’s product line.  This sub-brand stands “as the highest expression of Buick luxury”.  In the the Enclave model lineup it sits at the top with an MSRP of $63,131.  The AWD version gets you unique upper and lower grilles, wheels and front door badging; a unique Chestnut/Ebony interior color including seat stitching and piping; Avenir embroidered head rests and floor mats; bold script sill plates all four doors; premium film decor accents; a wood steering wheel; Buick Infotainment with Navigation; wireless mobile phone charging; power dual moonroof; (aforementioned) 8" reconfigurable driver information center; Surround Vision (a 360 degree view when backing up) Rear Camera Mirror, Hands Free power-programmable liftgate, an Air Ionizer, and Active Noise Cancelling. Very nice!

My fifteen-year-old let out a cry of surprise (and laughter) when asked to look at herself in the Rear Camera Mirror (impossible).  Sitting in place of the usual rear view mirror on the windshield, this “mirror” is actually a live feed from a camera located on the back of the vehicle.  The view it gives is much wider view (by 300%) than might be possible with a conventional mirror running through the cockpit, and with no blind spots.  Cadillac introduced this tech last year on the C6.  The mirror’s video streaming function can be disabled by flipping the toggle on the underside of the mirror. Doing so will revert the mirror to a traditional electrochromatic rearview mirror thus allowing said child to see herself.

Another source of amusement, and welcome assistance otherwise, is watching the 360 degree view back up camera when going through the car wash.  I laughed hard the first time as I watched the car wash brushes spring into action (from the top-view camera) while sliding along the car wash rails.  A very useful piece of kit though, when parking a vehicle this size. It enables you to watch for pedestrians and other vehicles on all sides as you move.

I took a trip through the winding roads in the area in which the meteor had fallen and discovered a very capable handling SUV.  The Avenir’s “continuously variable real-time damping (CDC) provides a smooth, comfortable ride, with enhanced body control in Sport mode”.  It worked as advertised. The CDC is a welcome addition especially when traversing Michigan’s third world roads. Touring mode makes highway cruising pain-free while keeping the driver involved enough so as not to doze off.

All seating is comfortable and accommodating – with people in the back seats stating that they did not feel in the least bit ‘second class’, especially when enjoying the spaciousness afforded by the dual moonroof.  While providing all-day comfort, I felt the front seats could have used a little more side bolstering to compliment the newfound alacrity in its handling.  Buick’s QuietTuning process to reduce, block and absorb noise and vibration while utilizing “ultra-dissipative acoustic materials” and Active Noise Cancellation is the standout feature of this vehicle!  It sets new standards in quieting the SUV’s interior cabin.  Buick has long chased Lexus in this regard and in my opinion has caught up and surpassed.  It adds to the genteel, elegant ambiance within the cabin.

Interestingly, Buick is removing its brand name from its 2019 model-year vehicle line, starting with the refreshed Envision crossover this spring.  They are counting on the recognition power of the red, white and blue tri-shield logo, which will still be displayed on the front grille and on the back of vehicles. They will be dropping the Buick name from its usual spot near the left taillight.  Perhaps they believe that the “Buick” name is somewhat 20th century.  Just speculating here.

The Enclave is powered by a 3.6L VVT V6 with 310 hp at 6800 rpm and 266 lb-ft at 2800 rpm.  It has an unobtrusive stop/start system and provides very adequate and smooth power through a new 9-speed automatic transmission.  Any fault with the engine might be found in a minor droning sound under full acceleration.

It was well into the week before I sorted out a slight whining sound: that of the Twin-clutch AWD system.  The sound was quite subdued, but there.  I did not know if it was unique to our early production press car example so I called Buick to find out.  They stated that my example was an early build and that they were aware of, and had corrected this anomaly.  In order to assure me they sent me another, later-build test car to compare.  As expected, the low whining sound was no longer present.  At one time this fine attention to detail was only found in Asian vehicles.  Consumers can now assume that this attention to detail is part of the price of entry for all automakers.

The new Enclave comes in with a 5-Star Safety Rating from the American NHTSA. As far safety goes, I cannot say enough good things about the Enclave’s bi-functional LED projector headlamps: they are the best I have driven in the past year, and I have driven with some I thought were quite nice.

Pricing starts a $50,327 MSRP for the Essence model with FWD.  The FWD Premium sits between the Essence and the Avenir with an MSRP of $59,700.

If you’re looking for a three-row crossover with the interior space of a minivan and one which swaddles your guests and/or clients in luxury, then look no further than the Enclave.  You will not be disappointed. Potholes be damned!

BASE PRICE (FWD Essence): CA$52,663
POWERTRAIN: 3.6-liter V6, AWD, nine-speed automatic
OUTPUT: 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm; 266 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,977 kg
FUEL ECONOMY (FWD): 12.9 city/9.0 hwy L/100 km
FUEL ECONOMY (AWD): 13.8 city/9.4 hwy L/100 km
Towing Capacity: 2,268 kg (with Trailer Towing Package)
PROS: Hushed interior, handsome exterior with new “floating roof”; headlights!
CONS: Finicky shifter, fuel economy unimpressive; need Premium or Avenir trim to obtain important safety features like forward-collision warning and low-speed automatic emergency braking.