The 2012 Buick Enclave shares its underlying architecture with the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia. It comes powered by a 3.6L V6, which makes 288 horsepower and has the responsiveness of a small V8, thanks to variable valve timing. The Enclave's good for an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway on regular gas. The only available transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Buyers have a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with either the base, Convenience, Leather and Premium trim.
Although carrying passengers is the Enclave's forte, it can tow up to 4,500 pounds when properly equipped, and the transmission has automatic grade braking to maintain control. The Enclave's intelligent all-wheel drive system is especially well-suited for driving in deep snow and on steep, icy driveways, as it works with the stability control system to send more power smoothly to the rear wheels when needed.
The Enclave is one of the new generation of more car-like crossover SUVs, but it combines some of the best attributes of cars and trucks, with a 4-wheel independent suspension combining MacPherson struts in front, an H-arm setup in back along with fluid-filled bushings to help isolate road harshness.
With a standard third-row seat and room for up to eight, the interior makes the most of the Enclave's available space, and passengers will likely be comfortable no matter where they sit. Second-row captain's chairs are standard across the trims, but a second-row split-folding bench is available and fits three across. Even the rearmost row, with a Smart Slide feature allowing easier entry/exit, has ample space for adults.
The Enclave is among the best-performing vehicles in its class in crash tests from the federal government and the insurance-funded IIHS, and comes with StabiliTrak stability control with rollover mitigation technology, plus anti-lock brakes and a total of six airbags standard.
The entry-level base trim comes with many typical luxury-brand features, such as HID xenon projector headlamps, fog lamps, heated mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control and steering wheel audio controls, with a 6-speaker sound system and XM Satellite Radio compatibility. Convenience and Leather models upgrade to heated power seats, memory seat settings and showier 19-inch machined aluminum wheels, while Premium adds an auxiliary power outlet, rear audio controls, a premium sound system, cooled front seats and power folding mirrors.
Even considering the extensive standard equipment, there's a very long list of options to choose from. They include a sunroof, 20-inch chromed wheels, trailer-towing package, a cargo net and chrome package. There are also several entertainment packages that bring 10-speaker Bose sound as well as a navigation system, backup camera and rear DVD entertainment system. Each of those packages includes an AC household-type outlet.
Buick's original Enclave lasted for eight years. While that's old in automotive terms, sales of the large crossover SUV stubbornly kept on rising. You'd think that General Motors wouldn't want to mess with success, but it has. Fortunately, that's good news, because this new model is pretty darn good.
The 2018 Enclave builds on Buick's popular three-row SUV in a smart way: It takes all the stuff that wasn't so great about the last one and takes steps to remedy it. After eight years, the Enclave's sheetmetal was looking a bit on the dowdy side. The new Enclave, though, borrows its design direction from Buick's 2017 Avista coupe concept, as well as everything that came after it, like the new Regal and LaCrosse models. As a result, the new Enclave is a handsome vehicle, even though I'm not entirely sold on its "floating" D-pillar look on the side.
The big Buick's interior is vastly improved, as well. Gone is the myriad of buttons and shapes littering the dashboard and center console. In its place is a far smoother design that makes good use of long, sweeping lines that emphasize the cabin's width. The materials -- on the top-tier Avenir model, at least — looks and feels expensive, especially the seat leather. I'll have to drive lower-spec models to know for sure, but at first blush, the Enclave doesn't feel like a carbon copy of the Chevrolet Traverse, even though both SUVs share the same platform.
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