Words and Photos by Jennifer Jensen
It’s not everyday that I get to drive across the country for a good old-fashioned road trip. So when the occasion arose to take Buick’s Regal TourX from Detroit to Orlando and back I couldn’t say no. The first order of business was a flight to Detroit to pick up said Regal TourX.
For those readers not in the know, Buick launched the Regal TourX here in the U.S. in 2018. It is the company’s first station wagon since the Buick Roadmaster more than twenty years ago. But don’t read the word “wagon” with shame or disdain because this is not Clark Griswold’s Family Truckster. In fact, to my eyes, the TourX is downright sexy. But like most station wagons, the TourX isn’t all about looks. As we find out on this trip, the wagon serves its purpose of hauling people and gear quite well.
Based on the Opel Insignia Country Tourer, the TourX adds additional ground clearance, some plastic body cladding to protect against chips in the paint, and an all-American engine. Unlike the wagons of yore, this engine is not a gas-guzzling V8 or even a V6, no it is a modern commodity meant to provide a combination of good fuel economy and performance. The heart of the TourX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That decent power is put down to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system is semi intelligent as it can vary torque between the rear wheels as needed. But let’s see how all this plays out in the real world.
I disembarked my flight at Detroit Metro Airport and there it was in its Rioja Red Metallic glory. The TourX appeared smaller in the airport pickup line than it had on the auto show floor where I had ogled it after its debut. But the rear end quickly swallowed two large suitcases, a large tripod case, and two Pelican camera cases. Rated at 32.7 cubic-feet of volume, there was room to spare allowing us to use the backseats for a cooler and some snacks. What’s a road trip without snacks?!
The plan for the first day was to make it to Kingsport, TN. Why Kingsport? Well, one of the itinerary items to check off our list was a stop at Hillbilly Vette Shop to check in on a rebuild of a classic 1969 427/435 Corvette convertible. But I digress.
Interstate 75 was to be our friend for most of that first day’s drive and the TourX was surprisingly nimble belying its rather portly 3747-pound curb weight. Visibility all around is far better than most of today’s sedans, and the optional sliding panoramic moonroof makes the entire cabin feel open and airy.
All that visibility makes maneuvering through congested traffic quite easy. Throttle response from the boosted four-cylinder was a lesson in turbo management as the engine is not very responsive below 4,000 RPM. Mash the throttle and the TourX will get up and go, but the transmission has to think about what you want first. There are no paddle shifters behind the steering wheel but you can shift up and down via the center-mounted shifter stalk. However, even those gear changes are hesitant.
None of that really mattered on our Interstate travels that day and the TourX did what it was designed to do…deliver us to our destination in relative comfort and calm. Neither of us was exhausted after that first day’s drive which speaks volumes to a car’s demands on the driver or passengers. There was one more surprise that first day…gas mileage was a very impressive 29.8-MPG. The 16.3-gallon tank afforded a more than 450-mile range meaning my bladder was more of an inconvenience than stopping for fuel.
With day one under our belts, we got some excellent Tennessee BBQ and headed to bed.
The next day brought warm sunshine and the opportunity to check in on the ’69 Vette. Unfortunately, very little work had been done on the project car for a few months as the owner Of Hillbilly Vette Shop has been ailing for awhile. After catching up with him and making some preliminary plans for continued work on the car, we had the opportunity to find some roads that Michigan and Ohio typically don’t offer…twisties.
Having emptied out the back end of the TourX back at the hotel, there was a noticeable difference in handling and weight transfer. While the Buick doesn’t necessarily suffer when loaded down, it does transition far better when empty. On twisty roads, that is a huge benefit.
We found a neighborhood that had houses spaced more than a few acres apart. As we headed out of town, the road started winding like a snake that was hit by a Taser. The Buick handled everything we threw at it with Stabilitrak (GM’s stability control system) stepping in on occasion to help straighten things out. We didn’t push hard enough to make the standard all-season tires give way, but they did chirp their discontent a few times.
The following morning we headed out of Kingsport to venture over some of the Smoky Mountains. Mother nature had other plans and as the TourX all-wheel-drive system came in handy as a torrential downfall of rain followed us for the better part of the day. The trusty wagon was sure-footed working its way up and down mountain roads that looked more like rivers than paved surfaces.
When the skies finally cleared we were in South Carolina. In an effort to make up some lost time we once again found ourselves on interstates. Here we were really able to check out some of the TourX’s additional features such as adaptive cruise (still hate that there is no creep mode with this!) and what Buick calls QuietTuning Technology. This is an active noise reduction system designed to help tune out disruptive noises in the cabin…if it works. I can say that it is unobtrusive and the cabin was never so noisy that we needed to raise our voices above the speaking level of a quiet room.
A one-night stop outside of Savannah, Georgia gave way to a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and a side trip to Jekyll Island. This little seaside town offers several exciting activities that provided a nice respite from the toils of the road. We hiked several miles of beaches before enjoying some locally made ice cream while planning the rest of the drive to Florida. A quick top off of the fuel tank and we were back at it.
The next 200 miles went by swiftly as we passed Daytona on our way to Sanford, Florida. The Buick once again delivered on its promises and we arrived refreshed and ready for the next adventure on this road trip…an RV Rally. RVillage’s Rally 2.0 to be exact.
RVillage is an online social network that connects RV owners while they travel the country. It’s a great use of technology to actually bring people together so they can spend time face-to-face. This was the company’s second rally and it was held at the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park outside of Live Oak, Florida. Like many rallies, this one had conferences, speakers, exhibitors and evening activities…and it was a blast. We spent a couple days taking in all that the rally had to offer including flipping the backseats down in the wagon to create a vast 73.5 cubic-feet of storage to stow camping gear, trinkets and firewood.
We were also able to sample the Buick’s abilities on less than perfect roads. The campgrounds were littered with dirt trails and gravel roads that the wagon handled with little fanfare. While the TourX looks like a jacked up wagon, the ground clearance isn’t any more than a Toyota Camry so don’t think you’re going to go rock crawling with this one. But you won’t have to worry about making your way through snow or other less challenging conditions that benefit from having all-wheel-drive and a bit more room under the floor. That lower floor helps create a lower center of gravity, which translates into a far more responsive chassis.
Like many of todays super popular SUVs and cross overs, the Buick is capable of soft-roading and hauling loads of stuff. But it does all this without paying penalties in fuel usage or hogging up road space. Drivers in this country have lost their love of station wagons and I hope that this car helps reignite that love affair.
After the rally it was time to head home, but not without one all-important detour first. We headed north out of Live Oak through Atlanta, Georgia and on past Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Buick soaking up the miles all along the way. We made good use of the on-board Wi-Fi and watched videos (no, not from the driver’s seat!) of the best ways to tackle a certain road that was calling our name…the Tail of the Dragon.
We spent the night in Knoxville and re-packed all of our gear as tightly as possible so it wouldn’t shift as we traversed the infamous road. The Tail of the Dragon has 318 curves in a scant 11 miles. It’s a workout for any car but we wanted to see how this family hauler would fare.
We were blessed with very little traffic as we approached the Tail and began the process of sawing the steering wheel back and forth. Keeping the engine on boost helps the TourX leap out of corners with tenacity. The brakes were more or less up to the challenge, and the all-wheel-drive system helps ensure that the power is distributed where it needs to be. Obviously the TourX is not a sports car, but it handled the challenging Tail of the Dragon with surprising alacrity. Turn in on the steering wheel is not as immediate as we would like, but not so lazy as to spoil the fun. This is actually a welcome trait on the highway, where the wagon is more at home.
We took a break at Deals Gap before turning around and heading back through the challenging road, this time pushing just a bit harder as the temps of the road, and our tires, were higher. Once again the Buick wasn’t exactly an Olympian athlete, but certainly held the level of a high school track star. With our gear strapped in place in the rear hatch, the TourX simply took the punishment we sent its way and seemed to smile while we did it.
The 500+ miles from Knoxville back to Detroit were dull in comparison to the morning’s workout, but the Buick provided a quiet and relatively serene atmosphere to whisk the miles away. With our snacks depleted we had to hit a few drive through restaurants and I can certainly envision families making good use of the Buick’s space while they make soccer runs, grocery trips, and daily runs to the office.
Additional niceties like heated steering wheel and seats, the previously mentioned Wi-Fi hotspot, a nice Bose sound system, dual climate controls, and safety features like lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, along with pedestrian detection and braking help make this car perfect for families.
Our 2019 Regal TourX Essence edition stickered at $39,930 and I feel it’s a good buy at that price. The Buick offers much of what today’s buyers are looking for in a family vehicle. So if you are shopping for a grocery getter that looks better, and drives better, than competitive SUVs, do yourself a favor and head to your local Buick dealer. Together we can make station wagons great again.