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Video | Touring the Oregon Trail in a Buick Regal TourX

Wagons are in kind of a weird spot in the automotive world. They were once the de facto family hauler, and now they’re embraced by enthusiasts. We say we love wagons because of the practicality, but I think we just like them because they’re kind of weird. They’re like sedans with more car attached to them on the back — and the practicality benefit is just a nice bonus.

So when a car like the Buick Regal TourX comes around, it gets attention from the enthusiast crowd. Wagons barely exist in the U.S. anymore because people in the market for new cars just don’t buy them, and would rather have a crossover. So why would Buick go to the trouble of offering the wagon version of the Buick Regal — itself a badge-engineered Opel Insignia — to SUV-hungry Americans?

In search of the answer to that question, I covered a lot of miles in a Regal TourX starting in Denver, Colorado, driving all the way to Oregon City, Oregon, on a path that resembles the Oregon Trail. The big difference between the pioneers who originally crossed that trail and myself is that they were using covered wagons and I was using a station wagon.

On this trek, I had a lot of time to ruminate on why the wagon was so unpopular in the States. There’s such a powerful stigma about station wagons that Buick is hesitant to even call the Regal TourX a wagon, even though that’s clearly what it is. It’s a Regal with a wagon body, a little bit more ground clearance, plastic cladding (which I disapprove of) and standard all-wheel drive.

What’s unique about the Regal TourX is that it doesn’t really have any direct competitors. You could say it competes with other luxury AWD wagons like the Audi Allroad — but there’s a significant price difference, with the Buick having a starting price of about $15,000 less than the Audi. If anything, it’s more competitive with the Subaru Outback, which is closer in price.

However, despite both being similarly sized, outdoorsy wagons with standard AWD, the Regal TourX and the Outback have pretty different personalities. The Buick is a little classier, with a more upscale look and feel inside and out — as opposed to the Outback, which seems to attract the more fair trade/organic crowd. The TourX is a great option for anyone who’s attracted to the virtues of the Outback, but doesn’t want to commit to being a Subaru person.

Performance-wise, the TourX is, in a word, adequate. The only engine available is a 2.0-liter inline four which can swiftly and comfortably take you to any speed limit you encounter — and it returns respectable fuel economy numbers of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, the Chevrolet Camaro-derived V6 in the Regal GS isn’t an option in the TourX.

I didn’t do a lot of off-roading in the Regal TourX, but on the occasion that I did defect from the pavement, this Buick showed the competence I was expecting. It could handle easy trails without skipping a beat, but I wouldn’t want to try any real rock-climbing or water-fording in this Buick.

But most drivers are never going to do any serious off-roading in a Regal TourX — or at all. Most of them are going to use them as a family car, which it’s great at. I was pleasantly surprised by how roomy this thing was in all categories. There are five seats with plenty of room to comfortably put two adults in the back seat — and there’s very impressive cargo volume. For day-to-day commuting and family-hauling, this Buick has all of the practicality that everyone loved about wagons in the first place.

A quality that I always like to see in cars is balance. Balance in a car is a bit abstract, but you know it when you see it. When one car can balance, comfort, performance both on-road and off, technology and efficiency, it’s something special even if it doesn’t particularly excel in any of the aforementioned categories. Where the Regal TourX does excel is in practicality and value which is what you might expect from a Buick.

So, why did Buick decide to offer a Regal wagon in the U.S.? I’m still not sure, but I sure am glad they did. Find a Buick Regal TourX for sale

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