First drive: 2018 Buick Regal TourX [Review]by Byron Hurd
Buick's midsizer, stretched.
When is a sedan not a sedan? When it's a Sportback. When is a wagon not a wagon? When it's a TourX. When is a "new" model not really a new model? When it's this one. How's that, you ask? Simple. We've driven the Buick Regal TourX before, and not on some super-exclusive, limited-exposure media junket, either. No. We drove it in Europe, when it was called the Opel Insignia Country Tourer.
Yes, that's a previous-generation model, and one that really has little in common with the Buick model we drove in Arizona. Not only is it outdated, but it was offered in powertrain combinations that would not have passed muster with U.S. buyers. Be still your hearts; you'll find no manuals here.
But fundamentally, the concept is the same. It's a lifted
wagon (even Opel doesn't deign to call it such), designed to appeal to those who want the practicality without the stigma (or are simply clueless as to how their needs are most efficiently met).
After all, some of the most successful vehicles in the practical SUV segment are essentially wagons (see: Subaru Outback); unfortunately, so are some of its most memorable flops ( Honda Crosstour/ Toyota Venza, anyone?). We'll note, however, that while Subaru did little to disguise the Outback's not-so-sexy classification, Honda and Toyota went in the opposite direction. Hmm.
We were going to lead off with "That's a Buick?" yet again, but we're as tired of making the joke as you are of seeing it. And yes, it's a damned wagon, even if Buick avoids using what one of its PR people actually called "the 'w' word." Between us, precisely 100% of those privy to the conversation immediately asked if Buick would instead refer to it by the "c" word. There are no mature automotive journalists; we are simply children of many different generations.
Look over Buick's product information and you'll find the term "wagon" conspicuously absent except in reference to its competition (and then only when it is being called out for a lack of cargo space). That ain't no coincidence, you can be assured of it. The dirty word we alluded to above? Oh yeah, it's in there. Giggity.
We won't deny that the TourX is a looker. It's much easier on the eyes than the Sportback (which itself looks fine, but maybe not excessively attractive), especially when viewed from the rear. It's clean and elegant (let's face it: European) and the nods to ruggedness are understated enough that they don't detract much from its visual statement. Yes, the cladding accentuates its wheel gap and the extra ride height is obvious due at least in part to the 18-inch wheels, but it's not objectionable.
Inside, there's really nothing to differentiate it from the Sportback. It has the same ho-hum base seats and slightly nicer leather buckets. We only had an Essence for evaluation, so there's no direct comparison photos above, but the leather-wrapped seats appear to have slightly more aggressive bolsters.
Our consensus was that the interior is good, not great. It's obvious that this is essentially a mainstream European car. Its size automatically positions it a bit higher than your typical American offering in the segment, much the same way the Passat's does. In fact, the two are fairly comparable when it comes to materials and execution. We noted the same hard plastic on the center console which greeted our knees in the Sportback, but other than that, very little jumped out at us--good or bad.
Where it really counts inside, though, is in the back. With the seats down, you get 73.5 cubic feet of very usable cargo room. That's about as good as your average three-row CUV (though both are functionally one-row vehicles for the sake of this comparison). Leave the rear bench up, and you still get a respectable 32.7 cubic feet.
The naughty bits
Underneath the TourX's smallclothes you'll find the same two-liter turbo-four that powered the Sportback we drove late last year. Unlike its smaller sibling, however, the TourX is available exclusively with Buick's twin-clutch all-wheel-drive. Figuring in the extra body weight (it's not just taller in the back, but 3.4 inches longer as well) and standard all-wheel drive, the 250-horsepower four-pot is stuck hauling around about 300 pounds more in the TourX.
That ain't nothin'. It's also rides roughly 2/3 of an inch higher than the Sportback, so that extra mass is a bit farther from where you'd ideally want it. Unfortunately, the ride height and weight aren't the only numbers that have gone up. Unlike the Sportback, the TourX isn't looking to scavenge any leftover Verano customers, so your cost of entry climbs roughly $4,000 to $29,995 (plus $925 for destination, putting it over the top into $30k-plus territory).
The other curves
So, it's heavier, longer and taller. Those are all recipes for dynamic compromises. In that sense, our expectations were met. The TourX drives much like a Sportback--competently, that is to say--with some extra heft around its midsection.
Logically, the TourX should have a little less of an edge to it, but the Sportback's dynamics aren't that finely honed to begin with. It'll hustle through tight corners and it behaves nicely both on and off the throttle, but it's not a sport
sedan in the strictest sense of the term.
Our drive time took us from the straight (though hilly) stretches of I-17 north of Phoenix into the hills and canyons around Sedona. Eventually, Buick even sent us on some off-pavement (and some may say off-brand) excursions. The TourX acquitted itself well enough on unmaintained roads, though it was apparent that gravel and washboard surfaces are not its natural habitat. It's possible our pre-production test model even picked up a few rattles after those excursions.
Where the TourX shines is in its practicality and comfort. It never once put a foot wrong, but it didn't really excite us either. In other words, it performed exactly as expected. That's not such a bad thing. After all, some people like reliability.
Leftlane's bottom line
If your tastes run more to wagons than crossovers and you're shopping in the midsize space, the 2018 Buick Regal TourX should be on your list. It lacks the style of the Swede and the cachet of the Germans, but it's every bit as practical for a lot less money.
2018 Buick Regal TourX Essence base price $35,070; as-tested, $39,210
Smoked Pearl exterior color, $395; Driver Confidence Package I, $1,725; Sights and Sounds package, $1,095, Destination, $925
Exterior photos by Byron Hurd. Interior photos courtesy of Buick.