Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wait, a Buick Wagon?  What year is this?

If you think of a ’96 Roadmaster when someone says Buick station wagons, think again.  While most of the U.S. has gone crazy over crossover/SUVs, Europe is ground zero for wagons—or as they say on the other side of the pond—avants, shooting brakes or tourers.  Thanks to the efforts of Volvo, Subaru, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW—and now Buick—there is a resurgence of wagons here. It’s great news for those who need the utility of an all-wheel-drive crossover, but want a vehicle with crisp handling and a sleek profile.  The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx is such a vehicle.  It’s a blend of value pricing and superb utility on a sporting chassis.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Buick brings back the wagon and kicks up some dust

The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx owes its heritage to the almost identical German Opel Insignia Country Tourer and the English Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, which come from the same assembly line in Germany. The main difference between the American Buick and its European cousins is its badge, an engine optimized for the American market and softer suspension settings. 

A Stylish Euro Shape

The Tourx is a very stylish, tight shape, that meets all the utility convenience needs you might have.  Even though it is not as tall as your typical crossover vehicle, it is still a long vehicle at 196.3 inches long.  That means that there is 32.7 cubic feet (cu. Ft.)of cargo room with the seats up and space for five adults.  Fold the rear seats down, and there is an incredible 75.3 cu. ft. of space. That is big SUV-size cargo space; more than any of the other wagons that are available in the U.S. today.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Looking top-down you can see the space available in the Tourx

Buick engineers took the Euro-spec vehicle and tuned it to American tastes in many ways. This Buick is whisper-quiet inside due to a generous helping of acoustic dampened glass and extra body dampening materials.  This Buick also includes active noise control and special Continental tires that have noise-absorbing foam inside the casing to dampen road noise.  The ride is firm, but supple and very BMW sedan-like. Station wagons are based on their sedan or hatchback counterparts and tend to drive and ride like a car.  The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx does just that, but does it in the tradition of an elegant European sedan.  The Tourx is not overweight either.  It comes in at a respectable 3,700 pounds, which is an average weight for a midsize car.

No performance slouch, the Tourx’s single engine choice is a 2.0-liter turbocharged, inline, aluminum four-cylinder DHOC Continuous Variable Valve Timing engine that produces 250 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. That provides a respectable 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds, and it will sail through the quarter mile at 14.7 seconds at 94.7 mph.  The Tourx is EPA rated at 21 city /29 highway /24 combined mpg on regular fuel.  Our observed mpg was 27, which means we were probably pulling more than 30 mpg on the highway.

Power is transmitted to the wheels by a full-time AWD system coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission.  The two-liter turbo four has plenty of torque, allowing good acceleration even when the gearbox is in one of its taller gears.  On the highway, the Tourx can loaf along at 1,800 rpm at 70 mph, which helps it deliver excellent fuel economy.  The transmission has a sports mode with manual shifting capability, but sadly no column-mounted paddle shifters.

Under the Wagon

Four-wheel single piston disc brakes provide the stopping power.  The Tourx’s 60-0 braking is in the middle of the pack at 118 ft.  More aggressive summer tires would have probably provided better stopping distances, but would have also given worse fuel economy.  All in all, the Continental all-season tires were a perfect combination for the Tourx.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

The wagon’s storage space is cavernous

The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx’s suspension is typical of a Euro-based vehicle, MacPherson struts up front with a five-link rear set-up in the rear.  This setup combined with compliant shock absorbers give the Tourx a well-planted feel with good feedback, but also a soft and compliant ride with minimal body roll. The suspension does not have a lot of travel, but the Tourx does a great job of dampening suspension noise. The Tourx includes automatic load leveling rear shock absorbers in case you fill its huge rear cargo area.

Not Quite Luxury

The interior quality of the Tourx is adequate, but with lots of hard plastic surfaces, it does not adequately convey the car’s sporting capabilities.  The interior is almost identical to its Regal sedan brother.  It’s a comfortable cabin with great seats, but it would have been nice if it was a bit more performance-oriented.   A 7.0-inch infotainment system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto is standard. A Bose system with a subwoofer and active noise cancelation along with an 8.0-inch infotainment display are standard on the top-level Essence package. 

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Buick’s interior is good, but not quite the level of luxury you might expect

The Tourx has a full suite of safety and security features available, but many of them are part of extra-cost packages. The Tourx includes 10 airbags, active pedestrian safety systems and, with the Driver Confidence Package 1, includes lane-change alert with side blind spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert and rear-park assist.  The more advanced Driver Confidence Package 2 package adds front pedestrian braking, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, forward collision alert and adaptive cruise control with forward automatic braking.

The 2018 Buick Regal Tourx has three trim levels available; the base Tourx starts at $29,995, the Preferred at $33,595 and the top-line Essence at $35,000. 

Our fully-loaded test vehicle included the Essence trim, high-end infotainment system, the Driver Confidence Package 1 and destination charge for a total of $39760. The only thing missing was Driver Confidence Package 2 and a panoramic sunroof.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Buick’s got a true competitive player in the resurging wagon segment

If a Volvo, Audi, BMW, Subaru or Volkswagen wagon is on your vehicle consideration list, by all means add the 2019 Buick Regal Tourx. The Tourx has quality European bones with excellent handling, and a compliant and comfortable ride.  It’s one of the quietest wagons on the market today, with SUV-like cargo capacity, but with the flair of a modern Euro-wagon.  The Tourx is competitively-priced, and it’s exclusive, one of the best-kept secrets in the GM lineup today.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

Gary Lieber is a Road Test & Technology editor at Smarticd. Gary is a Silicon Valley technology veteran, having spent more than 20 years as an executive at Apple and Microsoft. He is a life-long technologist, club racer and gearhead. He has written about cars for the last 10 years, focusing on battery electric cars, autonomous vehicles and the technologies behind them. He is an organizer of Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel, founder of the San Francisco Bay Leaf Owners Association, former Concours Chairman for the Porsche Club of America and currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Western Automotive Journalists.

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