Buick occupies an odd place in General Motors’ North American lineup. The brand can’t be mainstream because that’s Chevrolet’s job, and it can’t be the automaker’s luxury arm because that role is played by Cadillac. That leaves Buick to focus on the ill-defined premium segment—think upscale mainstream or downmarket luxe. American buyers haven’t exactly taken the bait. After driving the new 2018 Buick Regal TourX, it’s safe to say the brand would be far more successful if it breaks out of the narrow white space between Chevy and Cadillac and follows the lead of its new wagon.
Yeah, yeah, I know—“but Americans hate station wagons! How could this be a step in the right direction?” To that I say look at the Subaru Outback. Not only was it Subaru’s best-seller last year, but it’s also not that far from matching sales of Buick’s entire lineup.
The Regal TourX, Buick’s first wagon since the now cult classic Roadmaster Estate went out of production in 1996, follows the mold set by Subaru. Starting life as an Opel Insignia Sports Tourer, the Regal TourX gets a minor suspension lift (good for 5.7 inches of ground clearance), the requisite lower body cladding, and a Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system. (The TourX modifications also make their way back to Europe in the form of the Insignia Country Tourer). The Regal TourX package is rounded out by a 2.0-liter turbo-four making a healthy 250 hp and 295 lb-ft paired with an eight-speed automatic.
Despite a design language that hints crossover, the Regal TourX’s performance was more sport wagon at our test track. The Buick’s 0–60-mph run takes just 6.3 seconds, and it’ll blast through the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 94.7 mph. Its braking and cornering performances are impressive, too. The TourX laps our figure-eight course in a respectable 26.2 seconds, averaging 0.69 g in the process, and it aces our 60–0-mph braking test, stopping in 118 feet. We suspect a higher-grip all-season or a summer tire would drastically improve both of those figures. A stickier tire would probably hurt fuel economy, though. The Regal TourX is rated at of 21/29/24 city/highway/combined by the EPA. In our Real MPG testing, we netted 18.2/32.3/22.6 Real MPG, a slight dip in the combined city/highway figure versus the EPA’s rating.
On the road, the Regal TourX is the most well-rounded car Buick has put on the road in years. The car just does so much so well. The Buick’s 2.0-liter engine is gutsy and powerful, yet it’s also smooth and quiet. The eight-speed, despite lacking any sport programing, shifts smartly and isn’t afraid to kick down a gear or two if need be.
Despite its modest lift, the Regal also goes around a corner wonderfully. The wagon feels more European than that boatlike Roadmaster of yesteryear, which makes sense given its origins. The new Buick wagon is planted with a good amount of feel coming through the wheel. The TourX’s ride is soft and compliant without excessive body roll. The suspension doesn’t have a ton of travel, so it will bottom out, but the Buick does a good job at not letting those impacts enter the cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, the interior is the Regal TourX’s sole weak spot. Materials are hit and miss, leaning far more to the mainstream side of the spectrum than luxury. Those cross-shopping the Regal TourX with, say, an Audi A4 Allroad or Volvo V60 will likely be disappointed to find unattractive grainy, albeit soft-touch plastics and cheaper GM switchgear shared with Chevy products. The Regal TourX’s interior materials are likely more in line with what Outback or Volkswagen Golf Alltrack buyers expect.
It’s not all bad, though. The Regal TourX’s cabin is surprisingly roomy. Most will find the front seats to be comfortable and supportive, though wider bodies might have some issues with the seat bolsters. The Buick’s back seat is spacious, too, with plenty of room for a 6-foot-tall passenger to sit behind a driver of the same height. Back-seat passengers get A/C vents and two USB outlets. The cargo area is wide and deep with movable tie-downs and bag holders on the sides. The Regal TourX also includes a neat Volvo-style cargo cover that can retract back toward the rear seats or up along the D-pillar, though it does tend to rattle a bit while driving around.
Pricing for the Regal TourX starts at $29,995 for a bare-bones 1SV model, and the midlevel Preferred, which adds a power driver’s seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel, goes for $33,595. Our 2018 Buick Regal Essence, the top trim level available, starts at $35,995 and includes leather, heated front seats and steering wheel, and split-folding rear seats. Our tester stickered for $39,760 and was loaded with almost every option except for the driver-assist tech in the $1,190 Driver Confidence package II and the $1,200 panoramic sunroof.
Although Buick has found success in China, in the U.S., the brand has long looked like a brand searching for a spark to return it to greatness. The Regal TourX has something that the brand has been missing for some time—authenticity. Despite its few flaws, there’s a sense of quality and uniqueness in the Regal TourX. Although it will never be the brand’s top-seller, the Regal TourX represents a solid step in the right direction for the wayward brand.
|2018 Buick Regal TourX (Essence)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,760|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.0L/250-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,726 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||196.3 x 73.3 x 58.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 94.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||118 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.2 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||18.2/32.3/22.6 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/29/24 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||160/116 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.81 lb/mile|