FIRST LOOK: It’s ‘Wagons Ho!’ for Buick – but not in Canada

New mid-size Buick Regal hatchback has plenty to offer beyond its stunning style

Published: April 6, 2017, 1:10 PM
Updated: May 17, 2018, 2:05 PM

2018 Buick Regal TourX

WARREN, MI – Buick had a big surprise for the automotive journalists attending the global debut of its totally redesigned 2018 Buick Regal. There’d been plenty of pre-event speculation about what would be revealed when the wraps came off the Opel Insignia-based new Regal, so as the five-door sport sedan rolled into the spotlight in the GM Design Dome, the applause was polite, but subdued.

However, after Buick’s global vice-president Duncan Aldred went through the new mid-size hatchback’s highlights and features, something happened that few onlookers had anticipated – another Regal variant replaced it on the turntable.

The sedan was relegated to a corner, while the spotlight – and the immediate buzz among the media – focused on this unexpected newcomer, the Regal TourX. It’s a wagon!

But not for Canada!

Once Mark Reuss, executive vice-president of GM’s global product development, had completed his presentation on the TourX, the media swarmed this German-built gem, leaving the Sportback to sit all but ignored. The reaction speaks volumes about how much this new premium mid-size wagon impressed the crowd.

Don’t, however, get too excited and start rushing to your local Buick dealer with chequebook in hand. The TourX won’t be coming to Canada when the Regal goes on sale in the fall.

2018 Buick Regal

While our American colleagues rushed the stage for a closer look, GM Canada spokesperson George Saratlic quickly gathered the clutch of Canadians in attendance to douse our enthusiasm.

It turns out the Buick Division north of the border doesn’t believe there’s sufficient demand for a premium mid-size wagon to justify the costs involved in bringing it to our market.

Consumers in Canada have different tastes and priorities than American buyers. Remember how strongly we have embraced the hatchback body style while only recently has the U.S. market shown an interest.

Similarly, Canadians have been quick to recognize the advantages of diesel power, the VW “dieselgate” notwithstanding, while there’s been subdued interest in oil burners south of the border.

So it’s not surprising Buick’s research indicates a lack of interest in a premium wagon, at least not in sufficient numbers to make the offering practical here.

A similar situation occurred with the introduction of the Cadillac CTS wagon (2010-13). While critics showered it, especially the V-Series version, with accolades and positive reviews, the model generated few sales and was dropped from the lineup when the third-generation CTS was introduced in 2013. That experience played a major role in the decision to not offer the TourX in Canada.

What we are getting

So let’s look at what we are getting. The 2018 Regal Sportback is certainly pleasing to the eye, but it also offers plenty of versatility – kind of a “crossover sedan” – with loads of cargo space.

2018 Buick Regal

With the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks upright (40/20/40-split seatbacks are available), there are 892 litres of cargo space, which is more than double the space in the current Regal. Flip the seatbacks down, however, and that available cargo capacity jumps to nearly 1,720 litres. That’s more than the Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe.

The European influence of the Opel platform has resulted in a car that promises a sporty flavour in terms of ride and handling. The wheels have been pushed further to the corners of the car and the wheelbase has been stretched more than 76 millimetres compared to the current Regal.

Buick says the body structure is stiffer and stronger, yet the car’s curb weight has been trimmed about 91 kilograms, which will not only enhance its dynamic performance, but also improve fuel efficiency. We’ll find out more on this aspect once the car is available for driving.

2018 Buick Regal

The cabin, which is more spacious, thanks to the longer wheelbase, reflects the craftsmanship you’d expect in a premium vehicle, with quality materials throughout. The standard infotainment system, with a seven-inch display, is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Upgrades include a premium Bose audio system and eight-inch screen with navigation. Also standard is the OnStar 4G LTE system with built-in WiFi hotspot.

The sole engine offered in the Regal is GM’s turbocharged 2.0-litre aluminum four-cylinder with double overhead cams, 16 valves, continuously-variable valve timing and side direct fuel injection. The engine is rated at 250 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. It’s coupled to a nine-speed transaxle feeding power to the front wheels.

AWD available

Buick is offering its intelligent all-wheel drive across all three trim levels – Regal, Preferred and Essence. (It’s standard equipment on the TourX wagon, but we won’t tease you further regarding that model.)

2018 Buick Regal

It’s the same system used on the Buick LaCrosse and Envision and features active twin clutches mounted on the rear differential case that individually control the torque transfer to the halfshafts. This enables torque to not only be shifted between the front and rear wheels, but also left or right to the rear wheels as required.

There is no fixed torque split front to rear – the system is hydraulically activated so the torque can be shifted dynamically as conditions dictate. For example, when the car begins moving from a standstill, torque is directed to the front wheels, unless the throttle tip-in is more aggressive. Then the system shifts the output to the rear wheels.

Similarly, the default split while cruising on the highway would be to the front wheels to reduce fuel consumption, but the torque can be redirected to the rear wheels if demand requires the change. In another scenario, if the front wheels are sitting on ice, but the rear wheels have traction, then the system will direct the torque to the rear.

2018 Buick Regal

Because the system is hydraulically activated, changes in torque split can be done at zero speed, unlike mechanically activated systems that require the vehicle to be in motion before a change can be accomplished. Since the system relies on the twin clutches to control the rear torque split, the transition is smoother than in systems that depend on brake applications to compensate for traction changes.

If you opt for the all-wheel drive, your Sportback will also be fitted with a new five-link rear suspension and torque output is boosted to 295 lb.-ft., although the peak torque band is more limited (3,000 to 4,000 rpm.) The transmission is an eight-speed unit.

Pedestrian safety system

Among the Regal’s safety features is an innovative active hood pedestrian safety system that senses the imminent impact of a pedestrian. The system, which functions at speeds from 25 to 48 km/h, will activate a pyrotechnic device that lifts the back of the hood about 10 centimetres to lessen the impact on the pedestrian and potentially reduce injury.

Standard equipment on the Regal includes push-button start and entry, hill start assist, 10 air bags, universal home remote and heated side mirrors. An available driver confidence package includes lane change alert with side blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, and rear park assist. A more advanced driver confidence package adds front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, forward collision alert and adaptive cruise control with forward automatic braking.

The new Regal will be available for public viewing at the New York auto show, where the new Buick Enclave SUV will also be revealed. Pricing and other details will be announced in the fourth quarter of this year when the Regal is scheduled to arrive in dealers’ showrooms.

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal