Premium Delight: Buick Enclave Avenir


The Buick marque once represented a line of sedans, with names such as Electra 225, Roadmaster, and Lucerne among them. These days, however, the brand is down to the Regal car line with an assortment of tiny, small, and midsize crossovers dominating the product field.

At the top of the crossover spectrum is the Enclave, a three-row model with room for seven. It seems larger than it is, thanks to its roomy interior.

The first-generation Enclave rolled out in 2008 and stayed on the market for 10 years. The second-generation Enclave made its debut in 2018 and includes only minor package changes for its third year.


2020 Buick Enclave Review


Buick offers the 2020 Enclave in four trims: Preferred ($40,000), Essence ($42,000), Premium ($48,400), and Avenir ($53,800). Add $1,195 for the destination charge.

Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available on all but the base trim.



Exterior

It’s big and it’s beautiful. That’s the 2020 Enclave. When dressed in the top Avenir trim it receives numerous embellishments, including unique upper and lower grilles, 20-inch Pearl Nickel wheels, and unique Avenir badging details. A commanding, but elegant presence and beautifully flowing lines are features of note.

Among the standard features are LED headlamps, heated power outside mirrors, roof-mounted side rails, 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, and a power moonroof with a fixed rear skylight. The color palette is limited on the base trim, but then expands significantly with the Essence.

Interior

Most Buick interiors are a cut above the competition and the Enclave doesn’t disappoint, particularly in Avenir trim. The cabin is spacious with room for seven. Buick doesn’t try to wedge in an eighth seating position by filling out a bench seat in the second row. That’s always a good thing.

Buick makes proper use of soft-touch materials, layered surfaces, and handsome detailing. The Avenir elevates the experience with perforated leather-appointed seats in chestnut or ebony, a real wood-accented steering wheel, and an 8-inch diagonal configured digital instrument panel.

A long list of standard features make the Enclave a strong contender in the segment. These items include loads of tech, heated and power front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, full power accessories, and three-zone climate control.

The standard cloth seats in the base Preferred model upgrade to perforated-leather first- and second-row seats beginning with the Essence trim. At the Premium level, Buick adds such features as a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, and a power-folding third-row seat.

One feature that may be ideal for some shoppers is Buick’s “quiet tuning” technology, described as “In-cabin microphones distinguish unwanted powertrain noise and cancels it to help create a quiet interior cabin.”



Safety

It’s a mixed bag with Buick and its active driver-assist safety features. Unlike models that cost much less, you’ll pay extra for most of the advanced features or find them limited to certain trims. For instance, automatic emergency braking isn’t available on the Preferred and Essence trims, but it is standard with the Premium and Avenir. All models come with rear park assist and an HD rear vision camera.

Starting with the Essence trim, Buick adds lane-change alert with side blind zone alert. Rear cross-traffic alert is also included. At the Premium level, Buick adds forward collision alert, while lane-change alert is on the Avenir. To get the top safety features, such as advanced automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, you must opt for the Avenir Technology Package ($2,095). These features are then bundled with an updated four-wheel independent suspension system and continuously variable damping. Yes, you’ll notice the difference if you compare the trims as I have.

The extra cost for advanced safety features is hard to fathom. And that they’re only available on the Avenir drives the Enclave’s price to an eye-watering $60,000. In this department, it puts Buick at a distinct disadvantage to newer models, such as the Hyundai Palisade and Kia’s Telluride.



Technology

Even base Enclaves come with a stellar list of technologies. An 8-inch touch-screen display works with Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, and Bluetooth. Buick also includes six USB ports, an auxiliary jack, and an app suite.

The standard audio package is a six-speaker system. Buick includes 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability with OnStar.

Beginning with the Essence trim, Buick adds a 10-speaker Bose audio system. This is where satellite radio comes in. If you want HD Radio, then start with the Premium trim. Navigation is bundled within a $1,395 “Sites and Sounds Package” on the Essence trim. This package includes the Bose system and a 120-volt power outlet.



Performance

Powering every 2020 Enclave is a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. This engine works with a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The powertrain performs admirably, supplying robust off-the-mark acceleration and strong passing power. We’ve long appreciated the Enclave’s special tuning, which takes it up a notch in our test Avenir trim.

We’re not ready to say the Enclave performs in the same category as Europe’s finest SUVs, but it definitely has an improved feel over the usual mainstream models. The Enclave is closely related to the Chevrolet Traverse right down to the frame and powertrain. The Buick, though, offers a more comfortable ride and a quieter cabin. If there is a downside to this powertrain it’s with fuel economy: you’ll average about 20 mpg according to EPA and our own testing experience. Likely, we’ll see some sort of electrified version in the future. Perhaps a conventional hybrid.

Three-row crossover utility vehicles supply noteworthy pulling power. In standard configuration, the Enclave has a 1,500-pound towing capacity. With the available towing package, it pulls up to 5,000 pounds, which is right where it should be.



The Buick Enclave in historic downtown Rocky Mount, NC.


Competitive Set

The bench for three-row midsize crossovers runs long and deep. Besides the Traverse and Enclave, GM offers the GMC Acadia, but it is slightly smaller than these two.

Among the other models in this segment is the Volkswagen Atlas, Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Dodge Durango, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and the Subaru Ascent. We’ve driven them all and the competition is fierce. Most have a standard V6 engine. Some have a turbo four. The Durango is the lone model with V8 power available.


Our Recommendation

You could begin and end your search with the standard model and come away with a nicely equipped vehicle for about $40,000. That’s about the price you’ll pay for well-equipped trims from other models.

We’d opt for the towing package, but there isn’t else that’s a “must have” on the lower end of the trim level. Keep in mind if you want all-wheel drive, you’ll have to make the $2,000 jump to the next trim and pay another $2,000 for all-wheel drive.


2020 Buick Enclave Specifications


Buick 2020 Enclave
Segment Midsize SUV
Price Range $40,000 to $57,295
Destination Charge $1,195
Standard Engine 3.6-liter,
Horsepower 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 266 lb.-ft. @ 2,800 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Seating Up to 7
Curb Weight (pounds) 4,359 to 4,685
Wheelbase (inches) 120.9
Length (inches) 204.3
Width (inches) 78.8
Height (inches) 69.9
Headroom (f,r…inches) 42.6, 39.9, 37.6
Legroom (f,r…inches) 41.2, 38.9, 33.5
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 62.4, 61.7, 57.3
Hip room (f,r…inches) 59.1, 57.7, 48.5
Storage (cubic feet) 23.6, 58.0, 97.6
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) 5,000
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 19.4 (FWD); 21.7 (AWD)
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 18/26/21 (FWD); 17/25/20 (AWD)
Manufacturing Plant Lansing, Michigan

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.