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DRIVEN: 2018 Buick Enclave Essence AWD (used vehicle review)


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DRIVEN: 2018 Buick Enclave Essence AWD original MSRP about 49,000

HIGHS:

-Stylish, understated looks, particularly for a rather large CUV.

-Room and space, OMG what so many are looking for.  And it has it a plenty.  Simply put, leg room, hips and shoulders, head room.  Easy to ingress and egress; just perfect for that!  This is why people buy these kind of vehicles.  OH I LOVE THE GIRTH.  So comfortable is this vehicle.  Nice driving position, for a CUV.

-A very interesting interior design, consistent with recent Buick theming, with all the swooping and flowing curves and trim.....but probably best executed overall in this vehicle.  The interior on this rig was 'dark galvanized', but if I were shopping hard on the Enclave, I would go for the tan / brown interior.  Either way, a nice mix of softer touch and textured materials.  A lot of nice touch points all over, the armrests, dash, doors.  Nice layout and gauges / climate control.

-Optional sunroofs were on this vehicle, and its just another nice feature that really makes the cabin grand.

-Good trunk space, seats up or folded.  The back cargo cover behind the third row flips up and sits in its detent to make the cargo floor a little deeper.  Great for those Costco runs when you might run into the evil Mitt, and you share a conversation about how much toilet paper you can buy in one trip.

-GM's 3.6 v6 powertrain has always been a complete Jekyll and Hyde performance to me on all the different vehicles I have driven with it in the last 2-3 years.  In a recent 2017 Cadillac XT5 test drive, I found the powertrain to less satisfying than i thought it ought to be.  Also, same with a Regal GS and LaCrosse.  I must say however, the powertrain is spot on in the Enclave.  Smooth, responsive, the transmission shifts wonderfully.  And a nice, throaty (and not coarse at all) sound.  The AWD system did not bring added heft or friction to the drive of the vehicle.  I must say, GM engineered the Traverse and Enclave very well.  I will say the v6 is still a bit shy of smoothness and noise vs. the Pentastar v6 in my Pacifica, but the difference is so minute, not really worth mentioning much.

-Rather shocked....i really liked the quick direct steering and handling.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a sedan or sporting vehicle.  But it felt nimbler than something like this should.  Again, not as carlike as my Pacifica....but not far off.  And the suspension was not a rollover.  This vehicle had the 18" wheels too. Well tuned vehicle dynamically.

-Simply put, this is a classic Buick wagon for today's age.  This is the perfect vehicle to eat thousands and thousands of miles.

LOWS:

-While the interior is quite good overall, there is actually plenty of spots where typical GM cheapness is evident.  Seat leather could be higher grade and no so much looking like fine vinyl.  Lots of plastic aft of the front row looks quite cheap in places you don't touch a lot but still do see, especially in the trunk.  Even the lowers of the dash and doors, if they had nicer plastics it would really complement what is done so well on the other parts of the dash.  We all know GM really hates to do a full knock it out of the park interior.

-Well, ok, you want this vehicle for the room and space, and how big it is.  But i will say, it's size can also be too much.  It's of course your choice, and GM has the bases covered with smaller offerings like the Acadia and the soon to be XT6.  The large size, and even with plenty of windows to see out of.... others in traffic can get hidden pretty easy in your blind spots and you had better spend time adjusting your mirrors.  You just may not be seeing all you wish to see around and behind you in this large, high riding chariot.  And it may be just large enough to challenge for space in your garage.

-Latch for the sunroof cover up front is a bit testy to use and seems like down the road...will probably break.

-not much else, as usual with GM, I assume pricing on leasing or buying a GM vehicle at any given day in the space time continuum can have a wildly varying influence on whether the Enclave is a good value in the market or not.  With the eye popping crazy prices of well equipped CUV's in general these days, I tend to think the Enclave fits into a nice pocket...'near premium' perhaps.... where it is a better buy than the more prestigious marques.

-At the end of the day, Buick still has an old person rep.  This vehicle doesn't change it, it maybe continues to help that rep along.  And the interior as nice as it is, can be perceived as dull, or 'old styled' in comparison to some of the crazy overdone CUV interiors out there nowadays.  But hey, older buyers who like restraint and less crazy designs buy cars too?  No shame in making elegant less flashy vehicles for those folks....even if others think its dull and for old people.

SUMMARY:

The vehicle will deliver as intended, you will get what you are seeking, and it's not far outside the realm of value.  Along with the Traverse, one of GM's best executed vehicles.  It's good that GM didn't fuck up this segment of vehicles because I am sure this is where GM makes a lot of profits from.  If you want one, be sure to understand for yourself whether you really want a vehicle quite this big.  A solid "A" for this thing.  I sure hope the XT6 is somehow an amazing vehicle because I am not sure why you would spend the extra money on the XT6 over the Enclave.

Edited by regfootball
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  • 1 year later...

Here are some photos of my in showroom investigation of a brand new 2021 Buick Enclave premium last week....

I feel the Enclave has one of the better CUV interiors out there (once price reductions are considered).

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Edited by regfootball
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  • 2 weeks later...

This Buick's MSRP would immediately send me running.  It's priced to be the top of their line and is equipped as such.  The closest to anything like this I've driven is the Traverse, with a 3.6 V6, and I was impressed with how it handled and how quiet it was.  That means that those qualities would be found in this Enclave, and then some, since we're going upward in GM branding.

I still can't warm up to this segment.  It's not my niche.  I get that people like this niche and/or require it.  With that, I will say that a simply equipped Buick Envision (2020 and prior) with the N.A. four banger, and its price point, are more suitable for me, while Buick's Encore is too small.

When I see these on the road, they seem big and bulbous, and have from the beginning.  The one time that this would come in handy is when moving.  BTDT ... yikes.

You covered all the bases in your write-up.  Nice.

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On 1/5/2021 at 7:43 PM, trinacriabob said:

This Buick's MSRP would immediately send me running.  It's priced to be the top of their line and is equipped as such.  The closest to anything like this I've driven is the Traverse, with a 3.6 V6, and I was impressed with how it handled and how quiet it was.  That means that those qualities would be found in this Enclave, and then some, since we're going upward in GM branding.

I still can't warm up to this segment.  It's not my niche.  I get that people like this niche and/or require it.  With that, I will say that a simply equipped Buick Envision (2020 and prior) with the N.A. four banger, and its price point, are more suitable for me, while Buick's Encore is too small.

When I see these on the road, they seem big and bulbous, and have from the beginning.  The one time that this would come in handy is when moving.  BTDT ... yikes.

You covered all the bases in your write-up.  Nice.

you know, i actually have a pretty high opinion of the Envision.  If you get the 2.0.  And right now as the model is changing and the new Envision is coming in, there are big discounts on the current 2020 Envision.

My big gripe on the Enclave and Buick /GM in general is the option packaging.  You can't get heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise or really even the surround view monitor as an option on the Essence trim.  I understand they want to upgrade you to the premium trim to get those things and its a huge price jump.  It really shoots the price way out of the league and is silly when vehicles like a lowly Hyundai Santa Fe have adaptive cruise at almost 1/2 price.  

Our van is coming due asap and now I have to actually start to decide what's going to happen.  I even started looking at the Cadillac XT6 which when taken at face value is kind of a joke but there are some unique incentives right now with Cadillac and the XT6 that might actually for leasing anyways put it in a position to compete with other vehicles I am looking at....and my wife kind of wants a smaller vehicle....XT6 might fit the spirit of a smaller vehicle like the Acadia or Blazer but certainly be nicer than those two and really more comparable interiors wise to this Enclave.

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My father is talking about shopping soon. He'd like a mid-sized CUV this time around, and he's had Buicks for decades. Envision is the perfect size he's looking for but he will NOT consider a built-in-China vehicle... so he's angling toward the Equinox (Encore too small, Enclave too large).

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I took a 2021 Enclave for a spin again this past weekend.  It's nice but with my Chrysler van lease ending soon, I would prefer to stay with the Chrysler van, it drives better.  Not to say the Enclave is bad, just has less good driving dynamics.

And yeah, it is large.  Blazer is nice if you can love the styling and the Chevy basic interior.  I've never been able to warm to the Acadia.  The Equinox is good if you manage to find one with the 2.0.  And more wallet friendly.

I've still got some others on the list to go drive again.  Atlas (Cross Sport this time), CX-9, Explorer.  The 2022 MDX is out early Feb so i may be lucky enough to see that.  There may be some on the drive list shortly I had never considered before.

Wife probably doesn't want minivan again but they are so handy and useful.  May lean on her for us to consider just buying the vehicle at lease end.

I totally understand the Envision thing too.  It's actually really nice but i would get pause on it for same reasons.  

Edited by regfootball
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