DETROIT – There’s a freedom inherent in modest expectations. When not much is expected, nobody cares, or even notices, if you flout convention.

That allowed Buick to take a flyer with the 2018 Buick Regal TourX sport wagon, a handsome and practical vehicle that deserves to divert a few buyers from the auto industry’s headlong rush to all shapes and sizes of SUVs.

Buick calls the TourX a crossover, but that’s the marketing department talking: It’s really a sporty Euro-style station wagon that delivers as much passenger and cargo space as many small SUVs in an elegant package that’s easier to park.

“Crossover” is a term automakers invented for vehicles that look like SUVs, but without much towing or offroad ability. They get better fuel economy and frequently have a smoother ride, because they aren’t loaded down with extra gear for fording streams and hauling horses.

Small and midsize crossovers are the hottest part of the car market, while you can’t give a station wagon away unless it’s from a European brand or pumped up for SUV-ish looks.

Buick’s as American as forgetting where your voting precinct is, but the TourX is built in Germany, at a plant General Motors owned before selling its European operations to France’s Peugeot-Citroen last year. It shares its architecture with GM cars like the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu. All its parts come from the GM bin, so service won’t be an issue, and it offers the same features as GM’s other brands.

All TourXs have a 250-hp 2.0L four-cylinder turbo engine, all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The TourX competes with AWD wagons and lowered SUVs like the Audi A4 Allroad, BMW 330i xDrive wagon, Subaru Outback, Mercedes E400 wagon and Volvo V90 AWD.

Prices start at $29,070. All prices exclude destination charges. I tested a nicely equipped TourX Essence, the highest trim level. It had Bose audio, heated steering wheel and front seats, a spacious cargo area, blind spot and cross-traffic alerts, remote start, navigation, voice recognition, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, white frost tricoat metallic paint, big sunroof and more.

My test car stickered at $38,835. Its value, features and performance compare well, and it offers more room than most competitors.

Buick’s SUV lineup is strong and growing. Nobody expected it to sell many Regals, so the brand rolled the dice on a couple of unusual body styles, the TourX wagon and its stablemate the fastback Regal Sportback.

Buick added about an inch to the TourX’s ride height and put cladding around the wheel wells, but the wagon remains a convenient height that should be easy for anybody from little kids to the elderly to enter and exit. The liftover into the cargo area is similarly convenient. At 32.7 cubic feet, there’s more space behind the rear seat than in the Audi A4 Allroad, 330i wagon and Volvo V90.

The Outback and E400 both have bigger cargo capacities, at 35.5 and 35 cubic feet, respectively. The E400 is at best a marginal competitor, though. While it’s about the same size as the TourX, E400 prices start at $63,050, and it has a 329-hp twin-turbo V6. The Subaru is an outlier in the other direction, a mass-market vehicle competing with luxury brands.

The TourX’s passenger compartment is comfortable and accommodating. At 99.9 cubic feet, it’s considerably larger than the Audi, and a hair bigger than the BMW, Mercedes and Volvo.
Subaru wins the space race in both cases.

The TourX offers all the usual comfort, convenience features and driver aids. Check virtually every box on the order form and a loaded TourX costs thousands less than a comparably equipped A4 Allroad, 330i xDrive wagon, E400 and V90.

The downside: The TourX was surprisingly noisy on the road. It was supposed to use an innovative new Continental tire with an inner layer of foam to reduce road noise, but the tire – called ContiSilent – was in short supply when production began. Front-wheel drive Regal Sportbacks, which are expected to outsell the TourX, got ContiSilents from the beginning of production.

All Regals built, including the TourX and upcoming performance GS, should soon come with ContiSilents, which reduce interior noise by a full 2dB compared to the Continental ProContact tires fitted to the first few hundred cars shipped to the U.S.

I’d recommend waiting to buy a TourX ’til the right tires are available, or at least taking a long test drive in a Sportback with ContiSilents so you know the louder interior won’t bother you.

The wireless phone charger in the center console is another case of unfortunate timing. It’s a first-generation charger that doesn’t work with the wireless charging Apple finally added to the iPhone 8 and X. If you usually plug your iPhone in to use Apple CarPlay, that won’t bother you, but the second-gen charger should be available in Regals built sometime this year. Ask your dealer, and verify the answer during your test drive.

The 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s 250 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque compare well to the Allroad, 330i and Outback. The pricier V90 and E400 both have more power, but the TourX’s acceleration and highway cruising are more than satisfying.

The Buick is the lightest vehicle in the group, which pays off in acceleration and handling. The TourX’s steering is responsive and its suspension absorbs bumps and holds fast curves comfortably.

The TourX’s EPA fuel economy rating is OK: 21 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 24 combined. The key combined figure is two mpg less than the 330i xDrive, one mpg less than the Allroad and V90, three mpg better than the E400. The Outback alone in the group recommends regular gasoline. According to EPA projections, that will make it the least expensive to run, despite a combined rating of 22 mpg.

You just know somebody at GM headquarters was humming “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” when Buick responded to sport sedans’ slide toward oblivion with the TourX wagon. It’s a good car and a welcome departure from the SUVs flooding the market.

It deserves a look from anybody who wants a sporty and practical vehicle that looks great in the driveway and stands out from the crowd.

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