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2018 Buick Regal Sportback and TourX First Look: Branching into Hatchbacks, Wagons

Based on Opel Insignia, the two new Regals for the North America will be imported from Germany

Based on Opel Insignia, the two new Regals for the North America will be imported from Germany

Bye-bye, Buick Regal sedan. For 2018, Buick is having some fun with body styles in offering the midsize Regal Sportback hatchback with coupelike styling and the Regal TourX, which officials refer to as a crossover but we excitedly call a wagon.

The TourX is not a sport wagon like the ones offered in Europe that we lust for, but it is a wagon: 3.4 inches longer than the hatchback and with an extra inch of overall height.

The new vehicles were unveiled at GM’s Warren Technical Center in metro Detroit ahead of the New York auto show, where Buick will be showing the new Enclave crossover. The Regals will go on sale in the fourth quarter. Pricing has not been announced but competition, especially for the wagon, is largely limited to the Volvo V60 Cross Country, Audi A4 Allroad, BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon, and Subaru Outback, which suggests pricing in the $32,500 USD (Sportback) to $40,000 USD range. The Sportback will be offered in four trim levels; the TourX will be offered in three.

Both variants of the Regal are based on the Opel Insignia shown last month at the Geneva auto show: the Insignia Grand Sport hatchback and Insignia Sports Tourer wagon. And even though General Motors has agreed to sell the Opel brand to PSA, the Russelsheim plant in Germany will produce the Regals and import them to the North America. When asked about a potential border tax on imports, Mark Reuss, head of GM’s global product development, said all companies can do is plan for unknown contingencies to be able to adapt quickly if necessary.

Canada takes a hit. Production of the current Regal in Oshawa, Ontario, will be phased out over the next few months, and Canadians will only be able to buy the Sportback—no TourX wagon for them. Mexico gets neither, but Regal has never been popular south of the border. We will get further details of tweaks to the Sportback for the China market later this month at the Shanghai auto show. Chinese buyers favor bigger back seats over rear cargo room.

2018 Buick Regal Sportback cargo

Powering the Regal is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with the front-drive Sportback. An eight-speed with all-wheel drive is standard on the TourX, and the system features an active twin-clutch rear differential for better control in all conditions. The engine produces an estimated 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque in the front-drive Sportback and the torque increases to 295 lb-ft with all-wheel drive. Start-stop technology is standard.

Reuss has been driving the new Regal, and said he is impressed with its dynamic ride and handling.

Buick expects the majority of buyers will choose the Sportback, but Reuss said it is hard to gauge how many will choose the wagon—though he refers to it as a crossover. “He calls the move a smart risk and one that Buick as a smaller brand within a large company can afford to do.

This is the sixth version of Regal and the second generation since the car returned to the market in 2011. It has Buick’s trademark waterfall vertical-slat front grille. The wagon has body cladding, standard roof rails, and a hands-free liftgate. The cockpit was designed to be driver-centric. Drivers are well connected with an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, 7.0-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and lots of apps.

The Sportback has 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and the second-row seats split into two or three segments to make the room more flexible. Folded down, there is 60.7 cubic feet behind the first row. The TourX has 32.7 cubic feet with the seats up and 73.5 cubic feet with them down.

There is the usual array of safety features, but a Buick first is an active hood pedestrian safety system that uses pyrotechnics to lift the back of the hood about 4 inches to lessen the impact and potential injury.

Duncan Aldred, vice president, Global Buick and GMC, said Buick launched four new vehicles last year with more to come with the Regal and Enclave. Buick now has the youngest lineup among U.S. brands with everything no older than 21 months. Buick is preparing to add the Velite plug-in hybrid in China, but Reuss is not rolling out plans for electrified Buicks in the North America yet.

Given how strong Buick is in China, the brand has seen seven years of international growth, Aldred said.

2018 Buick Regal
BASE PRICE $32,500-$40,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback or wagon
ENGINE 2.0L/250-hp/260-295-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8- or 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3,750-4,300 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 111.4 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 192.9-196.3 x 73.3 x 57.3-58.4 in
0-60 MPH 6.6-7.3 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet tested
ON SALE IN U.S. Fall, 2017