GMC created a cash machine with its luxury-oriented Denali trim line, with the truck brand’s Denali-badged models averaging transaction prices of almost $60,000 (eclipsing blue-chip brands such as Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar). So naturally, GMC is extending Denali variants to almost every one of its vehicles, save its ancient Savana van. No surprise, Buick desperately wants in on this action and it’s attempting to do so with its Avenir sub-brand. But with the demise of its sedans, Buick’s Avenir trim makes its way only to the compact 2021 Envision and the roomier 2021 Enclave SUVs. Does Avenir match Denali’s panache, pizazz, and value?
In our initial review of the Buick Enclave Avenir, we asserted that the $5,400 upgrade from Premier to Avenir was worth anteing for because it allowed buyers to get the $2,095 Avenir Technology package with its adaptive cruise control and suspension systems. So equipped, we concluded, the Enclave Avenir was America’s ultimate stigma-free luxury minivan. This time around we’ll assess how well its interior coddles occupants.
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: To Look and Touch
Our test subject featured a chestnut brown interior with ebony accents, the alternative being all ebony. This warm, almost cordovan hue adorned the seats, instrument panel, and door panel inserts, with everything else below the belt in black and everything above in off-white. Satin chrome and glossy wood-tone trim accents adorned the dash, center console, and door panels. The dashboard’s wood trim fades to black as it approaches the piano-black panel housing the knobs the infotainment controls. It’s an interesting look, but one that makes it look fake, which it is. That’s unfortunate, given the Enclave’s closest GMC cousin, the smaller three-row GMC Acadia Denali, which is $9,700 cheaper, gets genuine open-pore wood veneer. Genuine wood is featured on the top center section of the steering wheel, however.
The grain, gloss, and soft feel of the plastics used on the door uppers and the lower part of the dash is pleasing, and even harder plastics that are out of reach look identical to the soft stuff—at least in the first two rows; the third row is surrounded by shiny cheap plastic. The front seats feature perforated centers, contrast light gray piping, and French stitching. Embroidered logos on the headrests claw back some luxury points from the plasti-wood.
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: Screens and Connectivity
The Avenir’s instrument cluster includes a larger (8.0 inches, up from 4.2) driver information screen, which can be configured to display Touring or Sport modes. Sport mode features a large, round central speedometer; Touring places a digital speed readout at the top of the display. The two, round gauge clusters on either side feature conventional needles that complement a tachometer, temp, and fuel gauges. There are also analog-look digital gauges for oil temp and voltage. The climate control temperatures are presented as blurry-looking old-fashioned LCD segments that do not scream luxury. Our test vehicle lacked rear-seat entertainment screens, but you can get them with or without a DVD player ($1,750 or $1,995). That kind of dough buys a lot of tablets with screens way bigger than Buick’s 8.0-inch ones.
Naturally, the Enclave Avenir gets OnStar telematics, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and HD and SiriusXM radio, all of which play through a 10-speaker Bose audio system (which still offers a 1/8-inch auxiliary input jack—these are nearing the rarity of CD players). There’s a wireless charging pad, a 110-volt outlet, and a smattering of USB jacks, though none is of the new, faster-charging USB-C style.
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: Ergonomics
There is a comforting dearth of buttons on the dash of the Enclave Avenir. The touchscreen is flanked by six large buttons, controlling the traction control, all-wheel drive, drive modes, hazard lamps, parking distance warning, and lane-departure warning system. We should note that all-wheel-drive now retains your last setting when restarting, so it can be left off all summer for fuel economy and on all winter for additional peace of mind. The touchscreen gets a volume knob and four handy buttons, which make it easy to navigate through the infotainment system’s menus.
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: Passenger-Carrying Prowess
The front seats can easily be adjusted to provide excellent support, and they feature four-way lumbar adjustment with a massage function. Avenir models all get middle-row captain’s chairs, which are comfortable and offer fore/aft and backrest adjustment, inboard armrests, and leather trim. But only the passenger-side chair provides third-row access; the left seat merely folds flat for cargo. A handle midway up the right seatback tilts and slides that seat forward. Sadly, it doesn’t remember its last seat track setting, which could imperil third-row kneecaps. It would seem most passenger loading/unloading occurs in parking lots and driveways using both sides of the vehicle. Such penny-pinching is unbecoming of a brand with luxury aspirations.
The third row is reasonably roomy but optimized for kids. Three little loops are provided on the backrests for attaching those shoulder-belt relocators that improve comfort and safety for little kids using child seats. Adults will complain of insufficient thigh support and find less headroom than in the Buick’s less rakish Chevy Traverse cousin. At least this row gets a pair each of USB jacks, A/C vents, and reading lights.
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: Storage
The Enclave Avenir features a bin beneath the center console to hold a large purse. It’s accessible by either the driver or passenger. The glove box is roomy, and the center console has a deep bin with a removable two-compartment tray just under the lid. The rear door armrests incorporate both a cupholder and a cubby bin. In the way back of the Enclave Avenir, there’s a giant bin beneath the floor that provides two bag hooks. (There is none in the rest of the cargo hold.) The jack and mini-spare live under this bin. Third-row seats fold electrically via switches in the cargo area—provided the middle row seats aren’t reclined or in their aftmost positions, where they interfere with folding. There’s also a 12-volt socket to pump up air mattresses at the campsite, and it has four tie-down rings around the hatch opening for attaching the vertical cargo net (which is bundled with the retractable cargo shade for $195).
2021 Buick Enclave Avenir: Denali Good?
Although the ride and handling afforded by the Avenir’s Technology package are class-leading and that the Avenir’s interior makes a great first impression, these features can’t overcome the fact that this package needs some work if Buick seriously expects to lure and retain luxury clientele. To start, don’t nickel and dime buyers for must-haves such as the smoothest-riding suspension. Make the materials uniformly authentic—real wood in front, the best plastics throughout. And for Pete’s sake, make both captain’s chairs slide forward and stop where they were originally set.