The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir may become as popular in its own way as its cousin, the GMC Yukon Denali. It may be that the Avenir name was chosen because it is the French word for “future.” And it represents Buick’s effort to push its three-row crossover sport utility even more upscale to mimic the Denali versions in its GMC sibling division at General Motors.
Denali models, named for a mountain and national park in Alaska, have been an unqualified success for GMC, which is primarily a manufacturer of trucks and SUVs. It seems that many of its customers desire luxurious surroundings so the Denali trim is available on six GMC models, including the Acadia Denali, a striver that is named for not one, but two U.S. National Parks, with Acadia located in Maine.
A luxury ambiance also is the purpose of the new Enclave Avenir, a new, upscale trim level of Buick’s seven-passenger crossover SUV.
It delivers stylish, flowing lines and is roughly the same size as the Chevrolet Traverse but a bit larger than the GMC Acadia.
The Avenir doesn’t directly compete with the three-row Yukon Denali, which comes in two lengths and is a fully realized SUV built like a burly pickup truck with a body-on-frame. But the Avenir, properly equipped like the one tested for this review, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and accommodate six adults in reasonable comfort. A seventh can squeeze into the third-row seat.
The immediate impression when first seated in the Enclave Avenir is the plush surroundings. These are the soft and supportive leather seats, heated and ventilated up front with heated second row seats; memory settings for the driver’s seat; pushbutton starting with remote locking; powered third-row seat that folds with the touch of a button; tri-zone automatic climate control; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; dual-pane panoramic sunroof; full infotainment functions including navigation, WiFi hotspot, inductive device charging; Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio.
The tested Avenir also came with 20-inch aluminum wheels and a $2,095 technology package that included adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking that augmented the standard safety equipment of lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, front pedestrian braking, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree surround-vision camera. However, the inside rear-view uses not a mirror but a camera, which makes for confusion because the driver’s eyes must constantly adjust for depth perception to see what’s going on. Better to stick with a standard mirror.
On the road, the Enclave Avenir feels like the big vehicle it is. At 17 feet long and weighing 4,565 pounds, it is more of an easy-riding rolling comfort zone than a frisky conveyance with quick moves. In that sense, it’s just the thing for a long family road trip, mostly on freeways. Though it doesn’t have the interior dimensions of a minivan, it comes close. Among its competitors are similar luxury crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX70 and the Volvo XC90.
There’s 24 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third-row seat. Press a button to fold it and the space expands to 58 cubic feet. If you have to move something big like a side table, folding the second row as well opens 98 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Avenir’s 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine with 266 lb.-ft. of torque is more than adequate to any motoring task, from merging onto freeways or passing on two-lane roads. It runs on regular grade gasoline.
The Avenir is available with standard front-wheel drive, or as on the version tested here, all-wheel drive. Power gets to the wheels through an easy-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It is controlled by a new shift lever that requires some attention before you learn to use it without thinking about it.
Overall, the Enclave Avenir would work for anyone with a minivan aversion and a desire for luxury. The tester started at $56,690 with a bottom-line sticker of $59,435.