Decades ago, GM’s various car divisions dominated station wagon sales with an assortment of ladder frame-based, full-size, rear-drive models plus a variety of midsize front-drive wagons. Olds Vista Cruiser, Chevy Estates and Buick Roadmasters were but a few of these family vehicles that towed, worked and commuted before minivans and SUVs.
Except for Volvo and Subaru, plus occasionally some German offerings, there are few automakers still plying the station wagon seas. American consumers have elected to make different choices; the segment has shrunk to niche status.
But this is where Buick enters the Regal Tour X. A Euro-centric offering designed by Opel (and built in Germany), the midsize Tour X is an all-wheel-drive wagon hoping to catch lifestyle drivers active in their recreational pursuits and sensibilities — wishing to drive a conventional car rather than an SUV/crossover/SAV.
Buick nails the car part. The Tour X is a smooth, confident operator delivering on traditional Buick values — quiet down the road, isolating driving manners and cosseting comfort inside. With a “smart” all-wheel-drive setup that can transfer power (as needed) not only front to back, but from side to side, the Buick is a new-generation car that works in all weather, all seasons.
Under the power liftgate rests a square-ish cargo hold that expands to 73 cubic feet with the rear seats folded — as much as many of today’s taller compact crossovers. There is a flat deck to work with, a restraint track with clips on each side of the floor, plus the lower liftover level of a car versus a crossover.
This virtue, however, is double-edged; the low stance of the Tour X, only 5.8 inches of ground clearance, the same as a Camry sedan, means the Buick is not well-suited for off-road travel. It also means that ingress and egress is like a regular car; you lower yourself to climb aboard plus pull yourself up to exit. This is one of the traits that older crossover buyers often mention of why they left their sedans behind — difficult access.
Despite herculean efforts to change the brand’s image, and clientele age, Buick remains a brand that is still favored by customers at the higher end of the average buying-age cycle.
Back when those old Roadmasters were pulling boats and horse trailers, buyers who choose four-cylinder-powered cars expected higher levels of noise, often accompanied by extra vibration and harshness compared to the popular V-8s of the era. Not so today.
All Tour Xs feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine with direct injection and enhanced computer programming to create a healthy 250 hp. It wasn’t that long ago that automakers strived to exact 100 hp per liter from four-cylinder engines — that was the magic threshold to performance, excitement. Honda’s S2000 stands out — it was a raucous convertible with an extroverted engine that demanded redline operation to exact any meaningful power.
The Buick’s engine is nothing like that. It is hushed. It is quick to rev and deliver smooth power low on the tachometer readings. And, it produces a strong push in the back when hurried, (295 pound/feet of peak torque), all while delivering a realized 28.3 mpg against EPA ratings of 21/29 mpg with the eight-speed automatic transmission. The proliferation of these potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engines throughout the auto industry highlights many of the engineering strides that have been accomplished with the venerable internal combustion engine. Besides being lighter than previous V-6s and V-8s, the created turbo-power combines with increased efficiency to make for smarter powertrains.
Tour X pricing starts at $29,070, rising to $35,070 for Essence Trim. On-board Wi-Fi is standard, as well as Apple/Android connectivity, rear camera, blind spot monitoring and auto climate controls. Our monochromatic interior seemed bland compared to the latest presentations from many automakers, yet controls were intuitive and easy to manipulate. There is the now normal touchscreen, with various apps and functions, plus heated leather seats here. Balanced on the road, the Buick’s dash did prove to be slightly annoying. With the seat and steering wheel comfortably adjusted, the top third of the instrument cluster disappeared from view.
Looking like little else on the road, the Tour X’s sleek body is part of a Regal lineup that includes a hatchback sedan. Tour X sales are currently 25 percent of overall Regal sales — beating Buick’s expectations, yet this is a brand that actually sells better in China than it does in the United States.
Wagon buyers who thought they could only visit the Volvo store will find the Buick a value-priced alternative that offers similar performance. The Tour X confirms the old axiom about competition and how buyers want choices.