2018 Buick Regal TourX Review – Being a Wagon Isn’t Enough

It’s a running joke in auto journalist and car enthusiasts circles that wagons are the ultimate body type, as well as the cure for the crossover crave that seems to bother us  (myself included) in ways that aren’t necessarily logical or rational.

Wagons are better than crossovers because they perform the same utilitarian duties as a crossover while still being closer in form to a sedan. Or so the argument goes.

Whether that is or isn’t “true” is a matter of opinion, of course. But the Buick Regal TourX is an example of how simply “wagonizing” a platform isn’t enough to make a decent car great.

The wagonized Regal does have the advantage of being based on a fairly good platform – Buick isn’t being tasked with turning dirt into gold here. But even if the starting base is good, you still have to put in the work. A solid base doesn’t automatically translate into a great product.

Whether in hatchback or wagon form, the Regal is supposed to be Buick’s sportiest product, but the TourX doesn’t quite feel up to the task. It’s hampered mostly by numb steering that has an on-center dead spot, and while the 295 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (250 horsepower) is a solid number, you have to dig a bit into the rev range before you feel it. Low-rev punch could be better, but once you get it over three grand it pulls well enough.

Aha, you say. Only the Regal GS and Sportback are meant to be sporty! This wagon is meant to haul my kayaks and suitcases and do light off-roading and do it all in luxury!

Well, you’re right about the luxury part. The Regal’s interior is nicely done, in recent Buick fashion, and it does lend an air of “sport” to the car, as well, thanks to a dashboard that swoops down and then back upwards. Underneath Buick’s well-done infotainment system sits a large knob and handful of radio buttons, with simple and logical HVAC controls below. The rear seats can be folded to near flat in order to make hauling cargo easier.

It’s a comfortable cabin, and the wagon bodystyle does lend size and an airiness to it. Indeed, I get the appeal of a wagon – and Buick is marketing the Regal TourX as a sort of outdoorsy wagon that can haul your kayak or your keister to the campsite.

All-wheel drive is a part of that equation, and despite the extra weight that AWD brings, the Regal TourX feels light on its feet for the most part – it’s a good, if not great, handling wagon. The AWD system has a twin-clutch system that can be used to make sure a rear wheel that has traction can get the car moving, even if the other three wheels aren’t getting grip.

Buick does fall short when it comes to ground clearance, though. The TourX has just under 6 inches of it, which is less than the 8.7 inches in the Subaru Outback or the 6.9 inches offered by the smaller Golf Alltrack.

Speaking of the Outback, that vehicle poses a problem for the TourX. Not only does it have more ground clearance, but it starts around $3K less than a base TourX. Most TourX buyers will spring for the mid-trim Premium or the loaded Essence (like my test car), putting their purchase price into the low or mid $30s. Subaru offers a Premium-trim Outback for under $30K, although the two top trims come close to TourX Premium and Essence pricing.

Buick’s media materials list the BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon, Audi A4 Allroad, and Volvo V60 Cross Country as the TourX’s main competition, but based on price, I see the Outback being a greater threat. Yes, the Buick has a premium image, but while the interior is upscale, it may not be distinctive enough to make up for the lower ground clearance or to fight against the Subie’s positive reputation.

The Subie also offers almost 3 cubic feet more of seat-up cargo space and about the same cargo volume with the rear seats down.

The Essence trim has 18-inch wheels standard. Other standard features include heated front seats, push-button start, power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, fog lamps, remote start, satellite radio, USB, in-car 4G LTE Wi-Fi, heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Optional features include the infotainment system and navigation (part of a $1,095 package), Driver’s Confidence Package ($1,795, includes wireless charging, LED headlamps, cornering headlamps, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, and other features), and the $995 white paint job. Total as tested, including D and D: $39,760.

Fuel economy is listed at a ho-hum 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway/24 mpg combined.

Like most automotive journalists, I usually gravitate towards wagons over crossovers (despite growing up in the ‘80s, when wagons were uncool). The hatchback utility, car-like ride, and lower ride height appeal to me. But being a wagon isn’t enough.

The TourX is upscale in feel, but not enough to compete with the nameplates listed above. It doesn’t offer a compelling argument over the Outback. The throttle/engine response below 3,000 rpm is disappointing, and while the car handles well, a weird on-center numbness plagued my tester.

The good news is that this isn’t hard to fix. Changing throttle response and transmission behavior would work wonders, and a little bit of tweaking could turn a solid handling car into something quite fun.

Judged on its own merits, the Regal TourX is a good-enough car that needs a bit of fine-tuning. But good enough isn’t, well, good enough, and the wagon bodystyle isn’t justification enough. There’s a good effort here, but with the Outback lurking and with Buick hoping to lure buyers out of the luxury marques, the TourX is in an odd spot. It’s not quite good enough to out-wagon the Outback, and while it’s cheaper than the competition, it’s not quite premium or sporty enough to seduce the luxury shopper.

It’s nice that Buick offers a wagon, but a bodystyle alone does not a great car make.

A version of this review first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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