SAN DIEGO — Some people are extremely adventurous eaters. I joke that the only food I won’t eat is bugs that look like bugs. I’ll do Indian, Thai, Korean and Ethiopian, sweetbreads, frog legs and endless servings of sushi. French Laundry. Angus Barn. Second Empire.
Others are into tamer fare: vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, grilled cheese (with Kraft American Singles) on Wonder bread, steak with ketchup. Cracker Barrel. Dairy Queen. Olive Garden, if you’re feeling fancy.
Though the fancy food folks might look down on the Red Lobster-crowd, if you’re a carmaker looking to sell big SUVs in Peoria, you best remember they exist — and what sorts of stuff they’re into. Culinary adventures are all about trying new and exciting things, which not everyone likes.
Some people — a lot of them, actually — are thrilled with unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. And for them, GM has come up with the Buick Enclave Avenir, the Olive Garden of seven-passenger premium SUVs.
Though Buick might not carry the brand cachet of Volvo or Acura or its up-market sibling Cadillac, the marque’s SUVs (that’s all it makes now, sadly) are remarkably popular. The Enclave is the three-rowed big boy, and the Avenir is the top-tier luxury trim. My test unit landed at $59,390 including the Avenir Technology Package which includes adaptive cruise control and improved automatic emergency braking. Both of those should be standard GM, it’s 2020. Come on now.
It feels almost like a minivan but with the look of an SUV. Entry and exit is easy and the front and rear captain’s chairs are supremely comfortable. The Technology Package adds an improved suspension which is gentle on aging backs and keeps things nicely stable. There are two sunroofs, one in the front that opens and one in the back that does not.
A lot of people are thrilled with unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks
The 20-inch rims are sharp and, while the Enclave does not have the most exciting design in the world, it is inoffensive and soothing. It would look good in grandma’s driveway on Thanksgiving Day.
The Buick infotainment system is excellent, with support for CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hotspot from AT&T and GM’s unmatched OnStar service. The hotspot means that the litany of iPads and iPhones from the passengers in the back (and front) seats will always be able to connect and OnStar means if anything goes wrong, help is just a button press away — unless the airbags deploy, in which case help calls you instead. The Bose Premium audio system does its job well, with active noise cancellation and something called “Buick QuietTuning” to keep outside noise where it belongs.
The front seats are heated and ventilated, and both include a massage function which is a gift from the road trip gods. In my version, the second row seats were heated, but no cooling. The touch surfaces are all lovely and the cabin is light and airy thanks to large windows and those dual sunroofs. Visibility is excellent, and there’s a 360-degree camera system to help you park in tight spaces.
The 3.6-liter V6 makes 310 horsepower but stays out of the way, as does the 9-speed automatic transmission. The Buick gearshift is mildly annoying to get used to, but after a week or two, you won’t notice it anymore. There are a host of safety features, including rear cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot warning with alert feature if you’re going to move into another car on the interstate. Fuel economy is 17/25/20 city/highway/combined.
There’s a remote start system, which is great for both hot and cold days, a power liftgate at the back and power-folding 60/40 third row if you want to haul more stuff than people. It’ll even tow up to 5,000 pounds if you want to haul a camper or small boat. But an off-roader this isn’t. It’s an unpretentious people and stuff hauler that won’t draw too much attention to itself.
Unpretentious is probably a fair description for most Buick buyers. They don’t need to show off. They just value comfort and roominess and want a car that will take care of them.
That’s the Buick Enclave Avenir.