2018 Buick Regal TourX first drive: slightly rugged, very muddy

January 25, 2018

The 2018 Buick Regal TourX is a muddy vehicle. Not just because it is aimed at the hiking boot-wearing active-lifestyle set that marketers covet.

Buick would like to see its new tall(-ish) wagon, which shares a nameplate, powertrain, and interior with the Regal Sportback hatchback, covered in dirt with outdoorsy accoutrements strapped to its roof and filling its capacious, 73.5 cubic-foot cargo hold (rear seats folded). That coveted image has been perfected over the last two decades by the archetypal not-a-crossover, not-a-wagon, not-an-SUV, the Subaru Outback.

MORE: Read our 2018 Buick Regal review

But Buick didn’t build a better Outback. It built a different wagon that’s superior in some ways, short in others. Peel back its unpainted fender flares and look beyond a ride height that’s about half an inch higher than the rest of the Regal lineup and it’s an Opel Insignia wagon built by Buick's former German cousin, which is now owned by the French. It may be a one-off, or it may be a surprise hit. 

Either way, the Regal TourX finds itself fording waters that are hardly crystal clear.

German four-wheeling

As we expect from a German car, the Regal TourX rides exceptionally well, and its steering is nicely weighted and direct. Its 2.0-liter turbo-4 sends its 250 horsepower to all four wheels with authority, the TourX zips up and over mountain passes with just enough verve to entertain. The 4-cylinder engine rarely makes its presence known and the 8-speed automatic fires off quick, syrupy shifts.

It’s also luxuriously quiet; a good portion of its 3,417-pound curb weight is designed to muffle and hide the outside world its intended drivers are supposed to explore. At 196.3 inches from bumper-to-bumper, the Regal TourX takes up a lot of garage space, but it's svelte and it drives smaller than those dimensions would suggest. It's half a foot longer than an Outback and nearly 14 inches longer than the Volvo V60 Cross Country.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

2018 Buick Regal TourX

The TourX is a soft-roader in the best definition of the phrase. It’ll eat up miles at an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. When pavement gave way to dirt on our test drive around the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, the TourX performed fine, but not exceptionally well. There’s no off-road mode for its traction control system—or any drive mode, for that matter—but with less than six inches of ground clearance, it’s clear that the TourX is intended for limited exploration.

Outside, the Regal Tourx’s looks are continental, aside from the proud American Buick badge up front. A low roofline with a delicate strip of matte silver trim helps it fit in better with the Teutonic Audi Allroad than the dowdy Outback. The standard 18-inch wheels are attractive and production models due in showrooms this month will feature Continental tires with a strip of sound-absorbing foam inside to mute out road noise. Our pre-production test cars lacked those tires, but were still very quiet inside.

The Regal TourX’s interior is shared with the Regal Sportback, aside from its spacious cargo hold. The swoopy dashboard cants toward the driver and places the touchscreen for infotainment—7.0-inches on base and Preferred trim levels and 8.0-inches on range-topping TourX Essence variants—up high. The infotainment system runs Buick’s latest software with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Buried below are standard dual-zone automatic climate controls and a pair of cupholders under a retractable lid. Only one USB port is included up front, but a wireless charging bin is hidden in the center console for smartphones. An additional two USB ports are near the back seats, which are wide and well-shaped but not the easiest to access due to the sloping roofline.  

2018 Buick Regal TourX

2018 Buick Regal TourX

With the second row upright, the wagon’s cargo hold can swallow nearly 33 cubic feet of cargo. Fold the rear seats and that grows to a long, if somewhat shallow, 73.5 cubes. Standard low-profile roof rails up top stand ready for high-riding, gear-holding cross-bars available through Buick dealers.

The interior can be draped in either all-black trim or builder beige. Cloth upholstery is standard, while curiously stiff and unforgiving leather is optional. Contrasting brown French stitching on the seats aside, the interior makes no effort to channel Patagonia, The North Face, or even REI’s in-house brand. Some kind of differentiation from the Regal Sportback like earth-toned upholstery, standard all-weather floor mats, or matte wood-like trim would go a long way toward making the TourX look special—or at least different—inside. Instead, it comes across like a missed opportunity.

Buick figures around a third of Regals will be TourX models. The base trim runs about $31,000 and is well-equipped, but it’s only available in a couple of exterior hues and seems designed to make buyers pop for the pricier TourX Preferred at about $34,000.

The higher-specification Regal TourX Essence versions we drove in and around Sedona were spendy—at around $39,000—but short on whiz-bang features beyond the expected heated seats, Bose-branded audio, a power liftgate, and LED headlights. Moreover, Buick restricts advanced safety gear like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control to the Regal Essence, which pushes the price to nearly $40,000 for the version we’d recommend.

That’s less than the much smaller Volvo V60 Cross Country and Audi Allroad, competitors that feel dressier than than the Buick. It's a few grand more than an equivalent Outback 3.6R Limited, which is more clearly in the Regal TourX's crosshairs.

All in all, the smooth, refined Regal TourX has plenty of assets—even if it is about as outdoorsy as a pair of Chuck Taylors.

Buick provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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