Wheel Life

By Steve Siler Turning Buick’s biggest models into Buick’s best models. Founded in 1899, Buick is the eldest of American car marques still making cars, a “premium” brand that’s been around even longer than GM’s true luxury brand, Cadil­lac, which was born in 1902. Lately, Cadillac has been competing more directly with products from established European brands with dynamic, rear­ wheel-drive products, while Buick, with no Euro­centric bogeys to chase, has continued producing tasteful-looking, smooth-riding and whisper-quiet sedans and crossovers. And for 2018, Buick’s most spacious and comfortable products, the LaCrosse sedan and Enclave three-row crossover, each have new “Avenir”-branded flagship models that the brand hopes will do for Buick what the Denali models have done for GMC. I don’t know if that will come to pass, but I can say that, at the very least, the qualities people love most in Buicks are taken to the next level in the Avenirs. 2019 Buick LaCrosse Avenir Base Price: $45,795 •Traditional luxury sedan, Buick’s specialty • Dark chrome exterior trim, unique wheels • Fewer color/trim choices than standard LaCrosse; front- or all-wheel drive • Sole powertrain, 310-hp V-6/9-speed automatic; front· or all-wheel drive [caption id="attachment_13875" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2019 Buick LaCrosse Avenir[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13874" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir[/caption] Buick’s largest sedan, the LaCrosse, is reasonably comfortable and looks stylish enough in its base $30,490 form. The interior gets downright cush in its $39,595 Premium grade, though even the nicest among them leaves room for some razzle­-dazzle in the styling department, room that new $45,795 Avenir trim level fills with its “Black Ice” (i.e., dark chrome) mesh grille and lower bum-per intake as well as unique 19-inch wheels-or 20-inchers, should you spend another $1,300 for the Dynamic Drive package with its active shocks that add even more creaminess to the ride. Anoth­er worthwhile option package includes the $1,690 Driver Confidence Package #2 that brings radar cruise control and automatic parking assist with steering, plus some collision avoidance features. But the best stuff in the LaCrosse Avenir comes standard-super-soft perforated leather trim, panoramic sunroof, rear-window sun shade, an 11-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, and standard navigation, the latter of which can receive directions beamed down to the car by OnStar representatives that answer calls made by pressing the OnStar button on the ceiling. The LaCrosse’s most powerful engine, a 310-hp V-6, is the only engine available for the Avenir trim level, with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive a $2,200 option. Interestingly, Buick limits the Avenir’s exterior color choices to just five, and two available decor treatments versus nine exterior and three interior color choices on lesser LaCrosses- shouldn’t customers willing to shell out more money have more choices available, not fewer? At least one of the two interiors- dark brown Chestnut with brown woodgrain trim- is unique to the Avenir, while both it and the black interior feature dressier dark headliners. 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir Base Price: $54,495 •Essentially the same upgrades as LaCrosse Avenir •Only one interior scheme, but uses real wood •Sole powertrain, a 310-hp V-6/9-speed automatic; front- or all-wheel drive [caption id="attachment_13880" align="alignnone" width="3600"] 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13879" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13878" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir[/caption] The first Buick model to boast the extra niceties of the Avenir trim level was its all-new-for-2018, redesigned three-row Enclave crossover, which arrived late last year sporting elegant new styling and weighing less. Inside and out, the Enclave Avenir mirrors the character and content of its sedan counterpart, the LaCrosse Avenir, with respect to its suite of upgrades over their non-­Avenir counterparts. In other words, it is the nicest crossover Buick has ever offered. Also, at a base price of $54,495, with another $10K worth of available options including all-wheel drive, a technology package with radar cruise and adap­tive shocks, rear seat entertainment systems, and various cargo- and towing-related options, the Enclave Avenir is the most potentially expensive Buick ever offered. Like the 2019 LaCrosse Avenir, the 2019 En­clave Avenir also features the same standard V-6/nine-speed automatic combo with one’s choice of front- or all-wheel drive; the latter option costing $2,300 in the Enclave Avenir’s case. It is also of­fered in the same limited five-color palette as the sedan with the same Chestnut or Ebony interior color schemes, with the Ebony just added for ’19. If the Enclave Avenir feels a bit more premium inside than the LaCrosse Avenir- and I believe it does- it’s probably on account of its use of real wood (mahogany; in this case) versus the Lacrosse’s sharing the same fake wood found in lesser models, as well as spacious separate second ­row thrones with their available heated cushions and entertainment systems and a pass-through to the snug third-row split bench. Like the LaCrosse Avenir, the Enclave version features a standard panoramic moonroof and perforated leather trim, though the Enclave Avenir’s gauges are unique screen-based dials with more sophisticated graph­ics than lesser models. [caption id="attachment_13876" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir[/caption]

As with many flagship products, especially those with their trim level’s name rendered in shiny chrome on the doors, the price walk from lesser models can be a bit steeper than the sum of their extras- let’s call it a “transcendence fee”- and that, I feel, may be better justified if either one featured, say; genuine wood trim in place of the same fake wood used in lesser models on LaCrosse, and/or a truly special paint and upholstery treatments if customers are going to be limited to fewer rather than offered more of them. Still, inarguable is the fact that these are the best and most advanced Buicks ever made during its very, very long history. To test drive a Buick, including the La Crosse Avenir and Enclave Avenir, visit Vera Buick, 300 South University Dr., Pembroke Pines; verabuickgmc.com.

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