General Motors doesn’t want you to know that Buick is building a good car right now. Hidden in among the nondescript “That’s a Buick?” crossovers on lots is a beautiful machine built on the last vestiges of GM’s control of Opel. It’s the only American-nameplate wagon left in a market that was once jam-packed with the things. Sure, it’s technically a German car—from a brand now owned by Peugeot/Citroen—but the Buick Regal TourX is one of the better cars I’ve driven in the last few years.
It makes for an absolutely stunning and incredibly useful daily driver.
Automotive writers tend to get flak on social media and in comment sections for making life-impacting purchase recommendations with no personal stake in the matter. I am so adamant that the Buick TourX is the best daily commuter car you can buy for the money, that I signed a contract promising to send several hundred of our own hard earned dollars to GM Financial every month in order to prove it. It’s a six-year contract, too!
In exchange, we get use of a 2018 Essence example in a lovely shade of maroon that Buick calls “Rioja Red Metallic” with “Shale” leather interior.
The big lumbering five-seat longroof family wagon was once the king of the road. Even after the wagon’s place got bumped in favor of the minivan in the late 1980s, I still remember big wagons being everywhere when I was a youth. Then came the crossover, and both wagon and van alike died of neglect. I am hopeful that that cycle of cool will begin anew with excellent wagons like the TourX.
We couldn’t “save” both the wagon and the manual at the same time, try as I might, I had to make a choice. I chose practicality, which runs against my usual decision-making process. I chose to carry all in comfort. I think I made the right choice.
So, what have I learned in 10,000 miles of Buick TourX ownership?
We weren’t exactly looking for a new car last December, but Tom McParland alerted me (and everyone else) to the incredible good deals that TourXs could be had for, and within the week we had one in our driveway. My wife had been pining for a Volvo V90 for a while, but the starting price in the fifties turned me off immediately and good luck finding one to test drive anyway.
I’d been trying to talk her into a plug-in hybrid, but none appealed to all of our needs save the pricey Volvo V90 T8. The TourX was hardly even on our radar, but as soon as we drove it, we knew this was the one.
After reading dozens of reviews, including Kristen’s here, I couldn’t find a single person who walked away from the TourX with negative feelings about it. We did our research and found a nearby dealership that had the top-of-the-line spec car that we wanted on the lot.
The car was a 2018 model year that was still sitting there unpurchased in mid-December. They were willing to deal. Not only did we get $6,000 cash on the hood, but because my wife’s grandfather worked for GM for decades, we were entitled to a GM Family First finance program. That worked out to an incredible 0 percent financing for 72 months and a waived destination charge. They were begging us to free up this spot on the lot so they could fit another boring Enclave or something that actually sells in volume.
Our prior daily driver, a 2009 Mazda3, had 200,000 miles on the clock and it remains a really great car. It has served us extremely well in the time we’ve owned it. That little Mazda has been nothing but dead nuts reliable, decently economical, and unflappable. I probably might have just dealt with it forever, but being that I work from home and my wife has a commute, she’s the one that put in the work order request for more comfort.
In that department the Buick is a big step up from the Mazda. We never really had any complaints about our decade-old car, and it worked great as bargain basement transportation. It wasn’t much more than an A-to-B kind of car, however.
The TourX has all of the joyous conveniences that a modern suburban working woman might need, from radar cruise and Bluetooth to comfy infinitely adjustable leather chairs and a trick little button to fold the back seats when you’re standing at the tailgate. With an eight-speed automatic transmission, a nice torquey turbocharged four-cylinder, and all-wheel drive, it’s got all the tricks.
Stepping back into the Mazda after four months in the Buick, my better half sent me an electronic missive, as follows:
“This is like living in the 18th century. How the fuck did I live like this?”
We were, just over six months ago, perfectly happy with our Mazda. We didn’t ask any more of it than it could provide. Now that the TourX is in our lives, we’re not satisfied with anything less than electrically warmed seating pressed against our ham hocks, six-ish second 0-60 runs, an interior crafted from an entire herd of cows, and NVH levels the Rolls-Royce of a couple decades past would have been jealous of.
I mean, duh. The wagon has long been the king of long-haul Americana.
Within two days of purchasing the big Buick we pushed it into a long road trip. We packed up the new wagon with everything my wife and I and our two basset hounds would need for a three-week haul across the country.
It was a yuletide pilgrimage back to our homeland, to Michigan over the non-denominational December holiday. From where I live in Reno, Nevada to where my wife and I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan is an easy 2,041 mile jaunt across I-80 before turning north on I-94 in Chicago.
I’ve done a lot of long haul highway road trips across the country. Thousand mile days are monotonous and uncomfortable, no matter how you slice it, but the TourX is a damn fine road trip companion. For one thing, the cargo area is massive. We had room for everything we needed, and left the rear seat up so our dogs would have a place to lay out in comfort.
Buick’s adaptive cruise control system is one of the better ones I’ve tested. It’s intuitive, and tuned well enough that it works with the driver and feels like it knows what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Combined with lane keeping and blind spot monitoring, this system is excellent at assisting the driver without promising too much.
Far too often I will have the radar cruise on in another modern vehicle and will come up on a slower car. If you don’t hit your marks perfectly, merging into the passing lane well before you get to the slow car’s rear bumper, the cruise system will freak out and throw out anchor. The Buick system allows a more intuitive operation, easing off the brake when you put on the turn signal to pass, for example. Accelerating at a pace that doesn’t make you a nuisance on the road is another plus.
The downside? When I’m driving on the highway through the fluffy white stuff, it gets plastered to the front emblem. The radar can’t read objects ahead through a fine layer of snow or ice, so it shuts off completely. From there, you have no cruise control whatsoever, which is a minor inconvenience over traditional cruise.
After six months and over 10,000 driving miles, I’m having a hard time finding anything the Buick Regal TourX does wrong. Sure, I’d prefer it didn’t have the America-spec plastic wheel well cladding, and extra ride height. Sure, I wish it had a manual transmission. But that isn’t an option in the U.S. right now. Maybe eventually I’ll put a Regal GS bumper on it and lower it on some sport springs, but for now it’s a good daily ride for us.
I asked my wife what she thought of the car, as she’s been racking the lion’s share of that mileage, and she said “I haven’t found anything about it that I hate, and that’s saying a lot coming from me.” She has been known to pick nits.
Early in our ownership of the Buick one of us (me) spilled some A&W root beer on the center console. For about two days after that the electronic parking brake would spit out an error message when we started the car. It hasn’t come back since, touch wood.
The Aisin-built eight-speed automatic is the one part of the car that seems to achieve critical dissent. I’ll admit that it’s not the most refined experience, as I can occasionally catch it in the wrong gear at low speeds with on-off throttle action, like slow-but-moving traffic or leaving a stop light behind another car. That said, it’s such a minor problem that I don’t spend much time thinking about it, and my wife didn’t even notice.
Man, this car is large and in charge. The move up from a Mazda3 to a TourX didn’t take much time to get used to, as it drives quite easily. It’s as comfortable as you need to be to drive it all day, and it’s competent enough to handle a mountain road without making you seasick. It isn’t going to set any speed records, but with the Saab leftover 2.0-liter turbo, it’s got 300 lb-ft of torque, which is quite nice.
Despite being bigger, heavier, more powerful, turbocharged, and more all-wheel-drive-y than our decade-old Mazda3, the new Regal TourX gets considerably better fuel economy too. The below picture was taken after our big road trip, which was admittedly all highway miles. After 10,000 miles, the car’s lifetime average has settled into the 26 mpg range.
There’s nothing that screams big old Americana like a large family wagon, which certainly has its appeal. This is a proper old-world wagon packed with new-world features. It’s too bad Buick doesn’t advertise this thing at all, because it fits the needs of most American households. Just as wagons always have. I love our Buick, and I will lean in to my boat dad image.