* Model: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD
* Exterior color: Dark Slate Metallic
* Interior color: Chestnut
* Engine: 3.6-liter, V-6
* Horsepower: 310
* Transmission: nine-speed automatic
* Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
* Local Dealer: Integrity Buick GMC Cadillac
* Price (as tested): $59,435
The Buick Enclave has always radiated upper-middle-class affluence. It's the official SUV of soccer grannies who pick up their kids' kids after sports practices in the suburbs.
To keep its market share, the Enclave has to maintain its near-luxury status with ever-improving technology and comfort features. It needs to be upscale, but not crazy plush. Technology needs to be advanced, but systems must be intuitive to operate. (It's a well-known fact in the automotive world: If you engineer an over-complicated touch-screen system, seniors will will do a U-turn and angle for a trade.)
GM refined the Enclave for 2018 with a spit-shined version called the Avenir. The Avenir line is to Buick what Denali trim is to GMC products. With the Avenir upgrades we think you'll be seeing more Enclaves at Chattanooga FC soccer games on weekends and in country club parking lots on weekdays.
Our tester from Buick this week is a Dark Slate Metallic 2018 Enclave Avenir AWD with a sticker price of $59,435. Consumers may cross-shop the mechanically similar Chevy Traverse. The price of a Base Enclave starts at $40,970, while the Essence trim starts at $45,190 and the Premium trim begins at $48,990.
Locally, Integrity Buick GMC Cadillac, at 6025 International Drive, has five 2018 Enclaves, including one Avenir, in its digital inventory this week.
STYLING AND FEATURES
At base, the 2018 Buick Enclave is a premium, three-row SUV with just enough styling panache to position it a cut above its Chevy cousin, the Traverse.
It features a stout, 310-horsepower, V-6 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Our tester is equipped with all-wheel-drive, a $2,000 upgrade that's well worth the price because of our sometimes-slippery mountain roads.
The second row features SmartSlide captain's chairs that offer easy access to the third row. The "way-back" seats are fully functional, although taller passengers — say, six-feet-tall and up — may find their hair brushing the head-liner.
A technology package ($2,095) is one of the few options on our tester, and includes adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking, a premium suspension package and heavy-duty cooling. Standard on the Avenir trim line are such features as Pearl Nickle wheels, an 8.0-inch telematics touchscreen and surround-vision.
The Dark Slate Metallic paint on our tester helps give the SUV an elegant silhouette. The chestnut leather interior looks contemporary, like the modern fashion pairing of a men's gray suit and brown dress shoes. The brown color carries onto an expansive padded dash.
The Avenir also has a sophisticated shifter that looks and feels nice, but takes awhile to learn. Hunting for neutral in a car wash proved to be panic-inducing. Shifters that ignore decades of directional muscle memory are in vogue throughout the automobile industry. Some of us old-timers would prefer that they keep it simple. But, enough sermonizing.
The Enclave's 310-horsepower V-6 has plenty of power for everyday driving and even modest hauling. Our tester included a $650 option package that bundles a premium suspension and trailering equipment.
As you might expect at this price point, the Enclave is quiet and ride-quality is smooth and compliant. We did experience a little anxiety driving up the W Road as the Enclave has very broad shoulders. Otherwise, it skips effortlessly up hilly terrain.
While riding to a soccer game up the road in Cleveland, Tenn., our fifth-grader decided to plop down in the third row, just because. For some reason, kids of a certain size are drawn to third-row seats. Maybe because they are often a perfect fit for elementary-school age passengers.
The government says the Enclave will get 25 mpg highway and 17 mpg city, respectable numbers for a vehicle this big.
SUV-buyers who want to travel in elegant comfort will find a perfect fit with the Enclave. Although the Avenir model feels a class-above in features and refinement, that's where the market is taking us. But if you live in a neighborhood that could reasonably be called an enclave, you already know that.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.