A New American Station Wagon. Except It’s German.

The last time there was a real honest-to-goodness station wagon available from an American automaker, it looked like this.  Ouch. Practical and roomy, but to most of us, that’s about as beautiful as a trip across Nebraska in July with the A/C broken and your stinky brother sitting next you.

“Daaad he’s touching meeeeee! Make him stop!”

The mid-90s marked the end of the big American station wagons. The Buick Roadmaster and its sister, the Chevy Caprice Classic wagon, faded away, lost to the rising popularity of SUVs and minivans.

But there’s a lot to be said for a car-height family hauler instead of an SUV! If you don’t absolutely need a third row of seating, it can be a really smart family choice. You’ll get better gas mileage due to better aerodynamics and (sometimes) have slightly lower upkeep costs due to car-sized brakes, tires, and suspension parts instead of truck-sized parts. And the normal-car height of a wagon means accessibility for those who aren’t able to heft themselves up into full-size SUV.

There hasn’t been a lot to choose from lately, though, especially in the mid-price range. And if you’d prefer an American automaker, you’ve been out of luck for a long time.  Gone are the days when pretty much every sedan came in a wagon version. There were a few attempts here and there along the way, but only Subaru, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi currently make a sedan-based station wagon. A few of those options are pretty pricey luxury brands. (The Mercedes E-class wagon begins above $60,000. Ooof.)

General Motors has decided to try again, though, in spite of the growing ubiquity of the CUV and dozens of new, high-ground-clearance sort-of-car, sort-of-SUV things which, well, what are they? Tall hatchbacks? Short minivans with no sliding doors? In light of all the confusion, I’m really happy to see a return to a classic form in the new Buick Regal TourX. It has better cargo space than the visually-larger Buick Envision. And it actually looks okay. Maybe even good. The last time there was a Buick (a Buick!?) that I thought looked good, I wasn’t even born yet.

You’re going to have to click over for more photos yourself because I haven’t taken any at my local dealership yet.

This new unBuick-ey Buick comes standard with a roof rack and a 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine.  It’s priced to compete with the Subaru Outback, and like the Outback, has four-wheel drive standard on all trim levels. Pricing starts at $29,995, which is competitive with Subaru’s Outback. It’s more expensive than VW’s Golf SportWagen, which starts at $21,685, but that’s a smaller wagon and has significantly less horsepower, which will show up when you’re on the way to Grandma’s house for Christmas, fully loaded. It’s also a VW, with all the usual caveats and stern cautions I give my clients about buying products from Volkswagen Audi Group (about which more some other time) when they want basic, reliable transportation which they can own for 150,000 miles.

Initial reviews indicate the TourX may not be as off-roadable as some of its competitors, but if we’re honest, most of us who buy all-wheel drive want it for the snow performance, not back-country rambling. (If you do need serious off-road performance, come talk to me. I can help!)

What complaints I’ve heard in the press regarding the TourX so far are things mostly car enthusiasts fuss about, things like slightly less than sporty handling and an 8-speed transmission that sometimes causes irritation. Or that the interior isn’t as nice as the Audi Allroad wagon (well… duh. It’s $15,000 cheaper!) I hope to drive one myself, soon. I’ll report back when I do. Until then, I’ll continue trying to convince people to buy a wagon instead of an SUV.

“But wait! Jenny, you said it’s German!” I did. And it is. The first American station wagon in thirty years or so… is being built in Germany, in a plant that used to belong to GM’s European brand, Opel.  If you really neeeeeeed your wagon to be built by Americans, you might choose the Subaru Outback instead, which is built in Indiana.  Isn’t globalism wild?

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