Preview: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Buick is replacing their aging but still popular full-size Enclave SUV. The all-new Enclave is the last stage of a lineup refresh that saw all of Buick's lineup replaced in the last two years. The brand is also using the new vehicle to launch their new Avenir top trim level.

Think of it like Buick's version of GMC's Denali and you won't be far off, but with a more premium appearance

The new Avenir trim, with the name coming from the Avenir concept car from last year, is Buick's new high-end trim. It sits above anything they had before, and Avenir-trim Buicks will get unique styling cues and upgraded interiors compared with the model they are based on. Think of it like Buick's version of GMC's Denali and you won't be far off, but with a more premium appearance rather than the extra power GMCs get.

Buick says that 90 percent of Enclaves are currently the top two trims, so giving those buyers the opportunity to move upscale makes sense. The Enclave Avenir shows off some of the new features and styling that will be part of the brand's signature. That includes a 3D mesh grille based on the Avista concept. It also has 20-inch pearl-nickel wheels. Inside are more luxurious materials than on the last generation's Premium trim.

The Enclave Avenir will get Buick's first use of GM's Rear Camera Mirror. That feature uses a screen in the rear-view mirror glass that can either reflect like a normal mirror, or display a video feed from a camera mounted in the tailgate. Other unique features include continuously variable damping for better ride quality and an Evonik Acrylite lighting system that gives a unique light signature.

There will be five premium exterior colours available, and a chestnut and ebony interior will be Avenir exclusive. The seats get Avenir stitching in the headrest, and the steering wheel gets wood accents.

The new Enclave grows compared with the old model. It's about 50 mm longer in wheelbase and 61 mm longer in overall length, which gives it what Buick calls class-leading rear legroom at 76 mm more than an Infiniti QX60 and 114 mm more than the Audi Q7. It's big back there, with 988 mm in the second row and 855 mm in the third row. Your 190 cm tall author fits surprisingly well in that third row with good head and legroom.

The second and third row fold nearly flat to allow for a large 2,765 litre cargo area behind the front row. Even behind the third row, you'll find 668 litres. The passenger side middle row seat is available with a SmartSlide seat that can fold slightly and slide forward to allow access to the third row. It's unique in that it can fold and slide even with a forward-facing child seat installed. Empty, of course. Buick says that the feature is only on the passenger side as it's safer for passengers to enter on the curb side.

Every Enclave gets push-button start and keyless entry. A power tailgate is standard, but Buick has added an interesting feature to the hands-free operation of the tailgate. The Enclave projects a Buick tri-shield on the ground so that you can easily see where to wave to open it.

An all-new cabin air ionizer is standard on Essence, Premium, and Avenir trims. It works to remove contaminants and break them down to improve cabin air quality. The cabin has also been engineered with special shapes in the metal, sealing, and sound deadening, all working to improve interior noise levels.

All Enclaves get OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. It operates through an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. There are six USB ports, with the two rear rows getting two USB charge points each. All Enclaves get a new version of GM's rear seat reminder that helps to prevent passengers and items from being forgotten in the back rows.

Powering Enclave will be a new 3.6L V6 with stop-start technology. Buick estimates it will produce 302 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, sent to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic. That's 14 hp more than the current model, but 10 lb-ft less torque. The base model is 131 kg lighter than the outgoing SUV, so mileage and performance should be improved. Buick estimates highway economy to improve by nearly a full litre per 100 km, at 9.8 L/100 km. Buick's all-wheel drive system is available.

The 2018 Buick Enclave will go on sale this fall, with pricing to follow closer to that date.

First of its kind 4/13/2017 6:30:00 AM