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2018 Buick Regal TourX Test Drive Review
The new 2018 Buick Regal TourX targets the Subaru Outback as a prime competitor, but General Motors forgot a crucial ingredient for success.
Designed, engineered, and built in Germany (by former General Motors brand Opel), the 2018 Buick Regal TourX is an all-wheel-drive station wagon styled to resemble an SUV. Appealing design, a turbocharged engine, enjoyable driving dynamics, advanced technology, and scads of utility characterize the TourX. But something is missing.
Look and Feel
Equipped with gray lower body cladding, silver plastic front and rear lower bumper trim, and blistered fender flares, the new 2018 Buick Regal TourX attempts to convince you that it isn’t a station wagon.
But it is. And frankly, I’d prefer it if it were more conservatively adorned and simply owned that fact.
Yet, like the Regal TourX, the Subaru Outback is a station wagon wearing an SUV costume, and the Subaru Outback is one of my favorite vehicles. So why do I give it a pass?
For one: ground clearance. The Outback has 8.7 inches of it, nearly as much as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. This, in combination with its X-Mode traction system, allows it to go places cars can’t. And that talent lends the Subaru authenticity.
Buick’s new crossover-SUV-wagon thingamabob has the right look and it has all-wheel drive (AWD), but it supplies just 5.75 inches of ground clearance. While that's about half an inch more than you get from a Regal Sportback, it's substantially less than the Subaru offers. And that makes a big difference in terms of capability when the snow flies or the streets flood or the dirt road becomes a two-track trail.
At least the TourX’s visual extras are grafted onto a fundamentally handsome automobile. The new Regals are beautifully designed, blending simple and clean lines with deft detailing and balanced symmetry. And if I’m not getting SUV-style ground clearance, I’d rather the TourX just dropped the whole SUV routine already.
Pricing starts at $29,070 (plus a destination charge of $925). That’s $3,175 more than the Outback 2.5i. At the other end of the spectrum, a loaded Regal TourX Essence with every factory option costs $42,690, which is $1,810 less than an Audi A4 Allroad without a single upgrade.
Buick has positioned the TourX as a step up from a Subaru and as a value-laden alternative to an Audi. If it were equipped with higher-quality interior materials, the TourX would make a convincing argument either way.
Part of the Buick TourX's price tag pays for its excellent turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Exactly what the Outback has needed for a long time, this smooth and refined engine generates 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission feeds the power to all four wheels through GM’s dual-clutch AWD system.
Acceleration is impressive, though I’d be willing to live with less torque if Buick were willing to spread it out across a broader portion of the engine’s rev range. As it stands, the TourX's 295 lb-ft of twist is available from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm, whereas the Audi A4’s 273 lb-ft is ready to rock between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm.
The EPA says a TourX should get 24 mpg in combined driving. I got 21.7 on my test loop, but hot weather and Southern California tourist season had turned Malibu into a mob scene. So I’ll cut Buick some slack on this front.
Thanks to its Germanic origins, the Regal TourX’s ride and handling qualities are sublime. This car is soft and supple when you want it to be and a secure handler when you need it to be. Plus, the brakes withstood abuse in 90-degree heat—always an important consideration with vehicles designed for family hauling and maximum utility.
As a result, the Regal TourX is both quick and confidence inspiring. It is easy to exceed the speed limit in this car, and it effortlessly slices and dices through traffic. When you toss it around a turn, the TourX composes itself and whips right around. The P235/50R18 Continental all-seasons are the only restriction on handling.
Given its scant 5.75 inches of ground clearance, I did not take the TourX off-roading. After scraping the bottom of the front bumper on a parking block at a local shopping center, I figured that would be a bad idea.
Form and Function
Another liability related to the TourX’s meager ground clearance is the difficulty associated with getting into and out of the car. Whether I was trying to open the doors without scraping them on a curb or lifting my aging body out on increasingly sore knees, I found the Regal harder to live with on a daily basis than a Subaru Outback.
Once you’ve plopped your butt into the Buick, though, the front seats are comfortable enough. You need to upgrade to Essence trim if you want 8-way power adjustment, leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. No versions of the car provide ventilated front seats.
The rear seat is downright roomy and supplies air-conditioning vents and USB charging ports. If you live where it’s cold and gray, you may be dismayed to learn that heated rear seats are unavailable. And if you live where it’s hot and sunny, you may be dismayed to discover that the TourX offers neither dark tinted rear privacy glass nor rear window sunshades.
The week I had the Regal, the Los Angeles area experienced record-breaking heat. The panoramic sunroof, lack of tinted rear windows, lack of sunshades, and the black leather upholstery transformed the car into an oven—one that even legendary General Motors air conditioning could not cool fast enough.
Because the Regal TourX sits low to the ground, loading the cargo area requires more bending than an Outback, too. Cargo volume measures 32.7 cubic feet, and because of the car’s lack of rear privacy glass, the robust cargo cover is a necessity if you plan to keep anything of value in the trunk.
Buick installs a 40/20/40-split-folding rear seat in the TourX Essence, making it possible to carry longer items like skis and snowboards while also bringing two extra people along for the adventure. That way, you might be able to avoid getting the roof-rack crossbars that were installed on my test car and which create plenty of wind noise on the freeway.
Maximum cargo volume measures 73.5 cubic feet with the rear seats dropped. All told, the Regal TourX is comparable to the Subaru Outback in terms of cargo space, and it significantly exceeds what Audi provides in the A4 Allroad.
When it comes to technology, the Regal TourX doesn’t overwhelm its owner, which is a good thing. This is a straightforward car that is exceptionally user-friendly.
For example, I love the TourX's version of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system. It has large menu tiles, a responsive 8-inch touchscreen, and smartphone-style operations to make it perfectly intuitive. Plus, stereo controls for volume and tuning are right below the display, flanked by “Home” and “Back” buttons that make it easy to start over if you get too far down a rabbit hole.
IntelliLink also offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and OnStar subscription services. Previously, Buick offered a free OnStar trial period of three months. Now it’s just one month. After that, you need to pay $25 per month for Safety & Security features, and if you want to keep the Wi-Fi active, that will be extra.
My test car also had a navigation system and a Bose 8-speaker sound system. Audio quality was decent, and the navigation system’s voice-recognition software worked well.
Having an active OnStar Safety & Security subscription is important, because that package supplies automatic crash response, one-touch emergency services, crisis assist, and quick access to roadside assistance, among other features.
Additionally, every Regal TourX is equipped with a free Teen Driver service. When you set this up via IntelliLink, it will spit out a driving report card to parents after their son or daughter has borrowed this Buick family truckster.
Furthermore, if you’re a brand-new parent, the Rear Seat Reminder system can help you to remember that you may have put something—or someone—important in the car before your drive.
A reversing camera is standard for the TourX, and all driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies are optional. None of it is offered for the base model, and you need to get the Essence trim to upgrade the car with forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist systems.
If you’re wondering how well the TourX will protect your family in a collision, I can’t answer that for you. As this review is written, neither the federal government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has performed crash tests on this car.
In base trim, this Buick is a bargain, sliding in beneath $30,000 (even with the $925 destination charge) to provide no-frills wagon buyers with genuine value. However, you’ll need to live with white, silver, or black paint with tan cloth seats and no factory options.
My favorite edition is the TourX Preferred, which retains cloth upholstery while adding more comfortable front seats. This version also opens the door to a wider color palette as well as desirable safety and infotainment system upgrades. Add the two primary option packages, and the sticker price is $36,705 (including destination).
My tested TourX Essence had lots of exclusive content you can’t get on other versions of the wagon. But for me, a Los Angeles resident who actually prefers cloth seats and never needs to worry about frigid temperatures, the only item worth the Essence's top-trim price tag is the forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking system.
That Buick requires you to spend top dollar in order to obtain these important technologies is borderline infuriating (Essence trim + Driver Confidence Package 1 + Driver Confidence Package 2). Over at the Subaru store, you can get an Outback with these critical safety systems for less than 31 grand. And when the going gets rough, the Outback can actually keep going.
If you’re like me, the idea of owning a German wagon at a cut-rate price is undeniably appealing. With the Regal TourX, Buick delivers exactly that. But with the cut-rate price, you’re forced to live with cut-rate interior materials, a silly SUV costume, and Buick’s “everything is extra” equipment philosophy—whether we’re talking metallic paint or important safety features.
Overall, I like the new Buick Regal TourX well enough. But I genuinely wanted to love it.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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