Wouldn't You Really Rather? The 2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Buick Enclave
The 2018 Buick Enclave.
The headline for this review might need a bit of explanation for anyone younger than....well, me.

In the 60s, Buick had a very successful advertising campaign.  "Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?"  That one question covered a lot of ground for Buick, which was competing with Chrysler and Mercury directly, but also was part of the General Motors family, which was built on the idea of moving up from a Chevrolet, Oldsmobile or Pontiac to a Buick (and eventually, one hoped, to a Cadillac).

Fifty years hence, Buick's competition is more along the lines of Acura, maybe Infiniti, the lower end of Lexus and...this could spark debate...perhaps Volvo.  As far as GM, the old Alfred Sloan model of moving up the ladder of General Motors products is pretty well dead and buried.  But there's still a "wouldn't you really rather" within the family, since the 2018 Buick Enclave and the 2018 GMC Acadia are essentially the same machine.

Side rear view of 2018 Buick Enclave
2018 Buick Enclave.
The good news is after a loooong first generation (10 years!) with only a facelift in 2013, there is an all-new Enclave (and Acadia).  Much sleeker, with a longer wheelbase, three inches additional overall length, a shade more than an inch less tall at the roof and...here's the best part...between 400 and 600 pounds lighter than the 2017, depending on how that '17 was equipped.

Our tester was the Premium AWD.  Base price $50,315, but that comes with an exhaustive list of standard equipment:
  • A 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission (EPA fuel economy estimate 17 city/25 highway).
  • Keyless entry and start.
  • Intellibeam automatic high-beam control.
  • Front and rear parking assist.
  • Following distance indicator.
  • Forward collision alert.
  • Rear cross traffic alert.
  • Lane keep assist with lane departure warning.
  • Low speed forward auto braking.
  • Lane change alert with side blind zone alert.
  • Front pedestrian braking.
  • Leather-appointed seating.
  • Eight-way driver and six-way front passenger power seats, heated and ventilated.
  • Heated second-row seats.
  • Power-folding third row 60/40 split seat.
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control.
  • Universal home remote.
  • Bose premium audio system.
  • Heated steering wheel.
  • Ionizing air cleaner.
  • Power tilt/telescope steering column.
  • USB port and 120V power outlet.
  • Memory settings for seats.
  • LED daytime running lamps and headlamps.
  • 18-inch aluminum wheels.
  • Remote vehicle starter.
  • Power folding, auto-dimming heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal on the driver's side.
  • Automatic headlamp control.
  • Hands-free power liftgate with projected "BUICK" logo (yes, there's a lit-up logo underneath your car when you approach at night).
  • OnStar.
  • SiriusXM.
  • 4G LTE in-car wi-fi hotspot.
  • Buick infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All of which is a healthy batch of equipment for your $50,315.  But there are some odd little bugs in all of that.  See "following distance indicator" up there?  That's not the same thing as adaptive cruise control.  What the Enclave, even in Premium trim, has is regular old cruise control and an alert that tells you if you're about to get too close to, or God forbid, crash into, the car in front of you.  

Want adaptive cruise control?  You have to come up with an extra $2,185 for the new Avenir top-of-the-line trim.  It's not even available as an option in any other Enclave. In an age where we're seeing cars under $30,000 with what is not only a terrific safety feature but an essential building block toward autonomy,  that strikes us as an odd---no, make that bad----decision on Buick's part.

Other oddball stuff:  Why only have the turn signal embedded in the driver's side exterior mirror?  I'm trying to remember a car I've been in that ever only had it in one instead of both.  

And, as regular readers know, we're big fans of Apple CarPlay, and assume Android Auto is just as wonderful.  We spent the first day thinking it didn't work in our tester.  In every other car we've driven that has it, you connect your phone, the prompts begin and within 15 seconds, you're done.  But someone at Buick decided that to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you need to go into a menu, activate the feature and have it search for your phone.  And there's nothing telling you you need to do that.  You have to figure it out on your own.  At a time when industry-wide initial quality scores are being dragged down not by build quality, but by owner frustration with tech complexity, this was exactly the wrong way to set this up.

Interior view of 2018 Buick Enclave interior
2018 Buick Enclave interior.
Apart from those three things, though, the 2018 Buick Enclave Premium was about as pleasant a machine as you could ask for.  And ours had a little extra icing on the cake in the form of optional equipment:

  • Dual moonroof (power front and fixed rear), $1,400.
  • 20-inch aluminum wheels, $1,400.
  • Rearview camera with front, side, rear and birds-eye view, $825.
  • Trailering equipment, including heavy-duty cooling, $650.
  • Red Quartz tintcoat paint, $495.
  • Navigation, $425.
With $975 destination charge, the bottom line comes to $56,555.  

The 2018 Buick Enclave is a big step forward from the previous generation.  We'd really rather they make adaptive cruise control at the very least an option for the Premium, and lose the counter-intuitive, overly complicated setup for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but beyond that, there's a lot to like.