Buick is in a weird spot. The fancier, sportier shadow of Cadillac looms large over this brand, so in order to deliver a product unique enough to earn its own badge, Buick chose to lean in hard on softness, especially with its higher-end Avenir trims. The recently redesigned 2022 Enclave best exemplifies how Buick is positioning itself in the US, and while it's pretty darn boring, it's also pretty darn comfortable and decently well equipped.
The three-row family crossover shape isn't the most daring from the outset, and while the 2022 Enclave's exterior redesign does look fresher than before, it's still not turning too many heads. Swapping out the single-piece headlights for a dual-layer getup does really sharpen things up in the front, but if you strip the badges from the rear end, people could easily confuse it for a Mazda or any other mass-market family machine. The Avenir badges and unique grill help set it apart a bit, but really only from other Enclaves.
The interior has a few more ups than downs. The Enclave Avenir's dashboard is nicely designed, offering some interesting angles without being intrusive. The leather feels nice, but I wish the Avenir's matte wood trim was offered on more than just the door panels and center console; instead, the dash wears a swath of piano-black plastic that picks up smudges and feels a little cheap. Half the controls are parts-bin GM bits. The ugly gear lever is gone, and in its place is a nicer set of buttons that doesn't take long to get used to. The rear windows lack auto-up capability, a signature Detroit cost-cut that shouldn't really happen on a $60,000 SUV.
But even with those warts, practicality and comfort ooze out of every corner. The Enclave's front seats, which pack ventilation and massaging on my tester, are seriously comfortable. The center console is high, but it has a honkin' hidey-hole under the gear lever, in addition to a capacious cubby under the armrest, and the sizable door pockets can pick up whatever's left lying around. The second-row captain's chairs are just as cushy as the front seats, and even with the rails ratcheted as far forward as possible, there's still a surprising amount of room for a 6-foot beanpole like me. Moving the captain's chairs even a little bit gives the power-folding third row an impressive amount of legroom, and headroom is plenty suitable for adults. With 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, there's enough room to shove a family's worth of groceries or a few weekender bags, and stowing the way-backs opens up an impressive 57.7 cubes of storage.
The 2022 Buick Enclave Avenir's on-road character is probably best described as slow and steady, like every input is being fed through David Gilmour's delay pedal, or a bowl of molasses. Turn into a corner and the body takes a second to react with some roll. Lean onto the gas pedal and it takes a second for the 3.6-liter V6 to convert throttle position to motive force, although once the nine-speed transmission finally settles on a gear, the engine's 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque will be enough for most drivers. Step on the brake pedal and expect a bit of squish before speed begins to shed.
My tester packs Buick's $1,595 Avenir Technology Package, which feels like a mandatory addition. Along with fancier headlights, the upgrade includes an adaptive suspension that really ramps up the comfort factor. Nasty bits of road disappear underfoot, and all that's left is a soft ride that feels properly luxurious. There's a Sport mode that firms things up, but… come on, it's a Buick, nobody's taking this thing out to the switchbacks unless it's on the way to the golf course.
The Buick Enclave can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive, but AWD doesn't really affect fuel economy. FWD models are rated at 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, with AWD variants coming in 1 mpg lower in each scenario. A combined average of 20 mpg isn't exactly praiseworthy in 2022, but it's about on par with competitors like the Acura MDX (21 mpg combined) and Lincoln Aviator (20). Maintaining a light right foot on the highway helped me see 30 mpg for several minutes at a time, which is nice, but even mild electrification would be better.
On the tech front, the 2022 Enclave has just about everything you could want, although it lacks any sort of real attention-getter. The standard 8-inch infotainment display runs a newer iteration of the Buick's interface, which is plenty fine and includes all the modern fripperies like a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the screen is a little small by modern standards (and based on the size of the dash surrounding it). All three rows offer a pair of USB ports, but only the front row gets a zippy USB-C. The Avenir also includes a head-up display that's nice and bright, in addition to a gauge cluster display that shows all the usual information about the vehicle and infotainment system.
Safety-wise, the Enclave Avenir comes with everything Buick can slap on its SUV, including automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, haptic seat feedback and a surround-view camera system. You know what it could use, though? Super Cruise. Too bad there isn't a single Buick that offers GM's limited handsfree tech, as its entire lineup predates the required electrical and data-processing upgrades to handle it.
For a marque that isn't even at the top of its conglomerate's food chain, the 2022 Buick Enclave Avenir can be a pricey proposition. My AWD tester's sole upgrade is a $1,595 package that brings the base price from $58,295 to $59,890, including $1,195 for the mandatory destination charge. Fully loading up this bad boy can send the price closer to $65,000 territory. That puts it on par with a well-equipped Acura MDX Advance or Lincoln Aviator Reserve, both of which feel far more modern, and the latter can even pack a plug-in hybrid powertrain for some additional scratch. If you'd rather save some simoleons, a fully loaded Mazda CX-9 offers three rows of Nappa leather seats for about $50,000, and its engine is more potent, but you'll have to make do with Mazda's middling infotainment. Hell, if you don't need the third row, you're sitting in Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class territory at this price point, and that is a tough act to top.
The 2022 Buick Enclave Avenir is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. While it's done a commendable job carving out its own niche in GM's hierarchy by focusing on smoothness above all else, efforts that pay off in on-road placidity, it lacks any sort of stand-out factor that brings new customers through dealership doors. That might be enough for legacy buyers, but it may be insufficient against a wave of ever-more-impressive large SUVs.