2018 Buick Regal TourX

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Buick last fielded a wagon 22 years ago: the V-8–powered, rear-drive Roadmaster Estate. Such models can usually be identified by the wood-grain vinyl covering most of their 18-foot-long sides and by the octogenarian behind the wheel. When GM quit building them, the land-yacht class of station wagons went extinct—right around the same time Subaru was inventing a new, modern kind of wagon. A suspension lift and some cladding fitted to the mid-size, all-wheel-drive Legacy Produced the Outback, which has since evolved to become the long-roof sales champion. No wonder, then, that Buick’s comeback bid adheres to a somewhat similar plan.

Like other Buicks of late, the Regal TourX is a rebadged Opel, specifically an Insignia Country Tourer, a mid-sizer that’s been encircled by many square centimeters of black plastic and given an ever-so-slightly taller ride height. And like other Opels brought here, it attempts to straddle the crevasse between commodity car and luxury car. GM’s 2017 sale of Opel to the PSA Group included a provision for supplying Regals from its Rüsselsheim, Germany, factory, where U.S.-bound TourXs are fitted with a unique powertrain: GM’s corporate turbo 2.0-liter four paired with an Aisin-sourced eight-speed automatic. Otherwise, the biggest point of difference for the American model is the oversized tri-shield emblem in its grille.

As a lesson in globalization, the TourX couldn’t be more perfect. It does have that red, white, and blue badge and an American-built engine (one that can trace its genesis back more than two decades to a collaboration between Britain’s Lotus, Germany’s Opel, Sweden’s Saab, and, of course, the sometime owner of all the above, GM itself), but the TourX uses a Japanese transmission and is assembled in Germany by a subsidiary of a French company. Is this an automobile we’re describing or the opening ceremony of the Olympics?

Looking at the TourX is nearly such a spectacle. GM’s designers deserve kudos for penning this anti-crossover; even the overabundance of cladding can’t make this Euro-style wagon seem like anything but a car, and a handsome one at that. A single strip of bright work extends from the A-pillar across the top of the windows and down along the edge of the D-pillar into the taillights, accentuating the long and low look. A deeply drawn character line through the lower doors breaks up the body side and lends a welcome dash of sportiness. Not everything is as it seems, however, as the dual exhaust outlets integrated into the rear bumper are fakes; the actual tailpipes are hidden underneath the car.

The TourX’s spec sheet is almost as attractive as its sheetmetal. Standard are 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, struts up front and a five-link rear suspension, and an all-wheel-drive system that can vary left-right torque distribution across the rear axle. And the TourX swallows 74 cubic feet of gear with its rear seats folded flat, which is more than Mercedes’ E-class wagon can fit. All this comes at a starting price of just $29,995.

Our test car, a top-of-the-line TourX in Essence trim, was not nearly so inexpensive, though. Its base price is $35,995, and it is the only way to get leather seats, adaptive cruise control, or advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking. Even adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability means spending at least $33,595 for the mid-grade, cloth-upholstered Preferred trim, plus an extra $1870 to upgrade the touchscreen from seven inches to eight. A fully loaded TourX will top $42,000.

This still undercuts the starting price of clad-and-lifted would-be wagon competitors, such as Audi’s A4 Allroad and Volvo’s V60 Cross Country. But those aren’t really the Buick’s bogeys, and GM knows it. That’s why pricing on the TourX lines up neatly with six-cylinder Outback models. Both the Audi and the Volvo shame the Buick’s interior, where GM uses materials more on par with Subaru’s. Buick can hold its own on the pointy end of mainstream, but it’s still not ready to play in the premium part of the spectrum.