Not more than two weeks after turning 40, I bought a Buick Regal TourX. That’s the running joke when I tell my friends about my new car; “I turned 40 and bought a Buick wagon.” The joke usually elicits a chuckle or two. The image of an “older gentleman” driving a 80’s style boat of a station wagon with the left blinker perpetually left on is usually conjured up in most of my 30-something friends’ minds. This is usually the case for several reasons: 1. Almost nobody has heard of a Buick TourX, so they immediately relate to their last memory of a Buick wagon. 2. Nobody I know in their late 30’s or early 40’s drives a Buick, let alone a Buick wagon. Above two reasons are why the Buick TourX is such an unknown gem, and speaks volumes to Buick’s failure in marketing this great vehicle and reinventing their brand to better relate with the several generations of Americans following the baby boomers.
1st Gear: Why do Americans abhor wagons and yet embrace the wagon’s CG (Center of Gravity) challenged cousin, the cross-over?
Wagons are awesome. If it was up to me, all cars would be either wagons or hatchbacks. You see, I’m a mechanical engineer, and the pesky thing about us engineers is that we love efficiency. A wagon is simply a midsized or large sedan that is taking full advantage of the airspace it’s allotted. Why does the sedan even exist?!? It’s like if someone took your bedroom and put a giant empty box that took up a 1/3 of your room inside and said, “there you go, now it’s perfect”.
At least I can see a point to the SUV or crossover. It rides a little higher, it uhh, nope that’s it. You get to sit six inches higher than the rest of the people stuck in the daily traffic grind. And for that, you sacrifice inferior center of gravity (generally equating to poorer handling characteristics), vehicle weight (generally equating to slower acceleration and braking), and aerodynamics (generally equating to more drag and wind noise). And before you get me started on “well, I can go off-roading with it”, let me just say, with the exception of a handful of truly capable SUVs, most crossover owners will never take their vehicle off the beaten path. You know it, and I know it. Most people simply want to know (or think) that they COULD go off-roading if they REALLY wanted. Accidentally running over those forward parking curbs don’t count people.
2nd Gear: Dollar for dollar, why the Buick Regal TourX is one of the best wagon choices in America.
Compared to the shear number of vehicle models sold in America, wagons make up a paltry fraction of this sum. Off the top of my head, you have the Mercedes E-Class which will set you back 60 grand, the BMW 3 series and Audi A4 Allroad will set you back close to 50 grand, Volvo’s got a couple of nice ones with the V90 and V60, again in the 50-60 grand range, and then of course the Subaru Outback at 40 grand and the VW Alltrack in the mid 30s. There are probably a couple more I’m forgetting like a Porsche Panamera, or a Jaguar something or other but those are out my meager government engineer salary. Thirty to forty grand for a well equipped vehicle is where I live. The VW is out; a bit on the smaller side and not enough grunt. Anything over 45 grand is really out of my reach too unless I want to take up a diet consisting of at least 6 cup-noodles a week (those days are squarely behind me, I hope…). So, for around $45,000 (with some bargaining) I can get a relatively entry level A4 or 3 series wagon, or for closer to $40,000, the perennial favorite: The Subaru Outback 3.6R, which is very nicely loaded. This is how sad the Wagon market is in the United States. But wait, in 2018, Buick began to market and sell (strike that, they forgot to market it and went straight to sales) a variety of their Regal sedan and branded it as the Regal TourX. For just about the price of a Subaru Outback 3.6R and many unimpressive midsized crossovers, the American market can enjoy a top of the line, German designed and assembled (yes, it’s true, look up Open Insignia) wagon that looks sleek and has a smooth and quiet ride befitting of its make. To me, in the meat-and-potatoes American family automobile budget (30 – 40K $) its really only a two pony race if you want an all wheel drive wagon with some decent power, room, and most nearly all the bells and whistles; the TourX and the Outback, and honestly the TourX is a better car than the Outback. What it lacks is a reputation and lack of marketing. But wait, it gets even better! Because of the before mentioned oversight to market the TourX, GM has been forced to offer dramatic incentives on the TourX, to the tune of lowering prices below VW Alltrack levels. Let me tell you, when I walked into the Buick dealer, and asked to see the TourX, the salesman actually said “The What?”. I kid you not, that’s how many people know about this car. Oh well, Buick’s loss is my gain I guess…for now.
3rd Gear: The TourX is actually kind of a nice car.
Let me start off by saying that my previous car was a 6 Speed Manual 2011 Mazda 3 Grand Touring with the Technology Package (there were only three new ones with that combo available for sale in the entire state of CA when i bought it). The 3 was a fun car to drive, it was really reliable, and had a lot of bells and whistles at the time I bought it. But after the birth of my second child, I literally could not fit my family in it (myself, my wife, my 1st kid’s forward facing car seat, and my 2nd kid’s rear facing car seat). The rear facing car seat was the deal breaker as it would push the front passenger seat all the way up, rendering it useless to anyone who isn’t a midget, err “little person”. Also, as much as I loved my Mazda 3, it always left me wanting more power (especially torque), and as I got closer to that magical age of 40, I became increasingly more annoyed at the lack of acoustic insulation, especially at highway speeds. The TourX hits all the right notes for what I was looking for.
Good Power (especially low end torque), roomy interior and rear storage, all the comfort and technology goodies, smooth and quiet ride, all wheel drive, and good exterior styling.
Things I wish I could have: Manual transmission, less black plastic on the exterior (what’s the deal with that anyway? Why are all the wagons going to that?), and lower profile tires. Basically, I wish I could have the European version of this car.
Many other reviewers complain about the interior of this vehicle. Honestly, I think it’s fine. I’m not paying Volvo money, so I’m not expecting Volvo level interior refinement. The car has a lot of neat features that more than make up for it. The Power liftgate activated by a kick is one of those things that you never thought you’d really care about, but changes your life once you get used to it. It’s like keyless start, once you experience it, you can’t go back to the old way of reaching into your pant pocket, pulling out a key fob and turning your wrist to start the car (I shudder at just the thought of it).
Another neat thing is that they put four door lock/unlock buttons (one on each door) so that you don’t have to go to the front doors to open a door from the outside. That always annoyed me with almost every car that has the keyless start system. I also really like the infotainment system, the touchscreen works well and doesn’t lock you our when you’re driving. There are actually some buttons too, which I appreciate (especially to operate the HVAC system).
I got the Essence trim with the Sights and Sound Package along with both the Driver Confidence packages and there are way too many bells and whistles to mention, so it’s best to go on Buick’s website and check it out. I will say that the adaptive cruise works really well, to the point where I use it in city driving. I know this is not advised, but I can get pretty lazy, especially after a long day of work (or whatever government engineers do). I find new and helpful features in this car all the time. For example, on cold days the car will automatically turn on the heated seats and defoggers and turn them off as the car warms up. The side mirrors will tilt down when you shift into reverse so you can see the curb. There are integrated tie downs in the cargo hold.
Mechanically, I like the engine a lot. It’s got lots of torque at low RPMs, so I don’t need to really lay into it to extract the power. The all wheel drive system is pretty nice too. I never thought it would make as big of a difference in traction, but coming from a front wheel drive car, the difference is almost earth shattering.
4th Gear: There are some shortcomings too.
Mechanically, what’s most disappointing about this car is the transmission. On paper, it sounds great. Eight speed Dual clutch = conjures up images of exciting sports cars yes? Nope, in their zeal to appease the EPA or maybe their geriatric customer base, Buick’s eight speed tranny almost always wants to shift to whatever gear drops the engine’s RPMs below 2000. You gotta really “encourage” the accelerator pedal to get it to downshift, and even then, it does so with much reluctance and immediate reverts back to its old habits as soon you let up. Kinda like the fat kid running four laps around the track in high school PE. They really should have put in a “Sport Mode” option as I’m sure the tranny’s behavior is simply a function of its software programming. I use the manual mode if I want to have some fun or want to go up a hill where I don’t want the RPMs to fall below 3000.
My other complaint is related to the lane assist feature that comes with one of the Driver Confidence packages. It’s pretty lame and rudimentary. It doesn’t do anything until you’ve run over the lines (by then you’re halfway into the other lane), and even then 60% of the time it works every time. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just an orange LED light with a funny swerving car picture under it. I don’t have a lot of experience using this feature in mainstream cars, but I did drive a Tesla Model 3 and comparing that system to the Buick’s is like a one-on-one basketball game between Michael Jordan and Steve Urkel (I’m definitely showing my age with that comparison; hope there are some Gen X readers out there looking for a Buick).
My last complain is the lack of a spare tire in the Essence models. Apparently, the Buick team decided it was a better idea to put a subwoofer in the cavity designed for a spare tire, and instead give you an electric air compressor and a can of fix-a-flat so that you can completely destroy your Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Not sure why they couldn’t have integrated the sub into the spare tire like my Mazda 3. Now I have to have that nagging feeling in the back of my head whenever I go on a road trip. At least they give you roadside assistance for four years.
5th Gear: Why the long winded review?
Simply put, I like this car. I don’t want this model to die a slow death because then it’ll be really hard for me to find parts for it. Also, if it gets killed, I’m pretty sure my car’s resale value will plummet. But in all seriousness, this is a good car and it’s a damn good value. On top of all the year-end incentives that GM offered on this car, it’s worth noting that the warrantee of Buicks is in line with other luxury level cars at 4 year, 50K miles bumper to bumper and 6 years, 70K miles power-train. Also, they pick up the tab on the 1st two years of regular maintenance. So if you’re in the market for an Outback, or even a VW Alltrack, definitely go test drive the TourX. If you’re looking at an Audi, Beemer, or Merc you probably have fancier taste, but if the thought of 6 Cup-noodle meals a week makes you sad, go test drive the TourX. …and save my car model from a slow painful death.