Decades ago, GM’s various car divisions dominated station wagon sales with an assortment of ladder frame-based, full-size, rear-drive models, plus a variety of mid-size front-drive wagons.

Olds Vista Cruiser, Chevy Estates, and Buick Roadmasters were but a few of these family vehicles that towed, worked, and commuted before minivans and SUVs.

Except for Volvo and Subaru, and occasionally some German offerings, few automakers still ply the station wagon seas. American consumers have elected to make different choices: The segment has shrunk to niche status.

But this is where Buick enters the Regal Tour X. A Euro-centric offering designed by Opel (and built in Germany), the mid-size Tour X is an all-wheel-drive wagon hoping to catch lifestyle drivers who are active in their recreational pursuits and sensibilities, and wish to drive a conventional car rather than an SUV/Crossover/SAV.

Buick nails the car part. The Tour X is a smooth, confident operator delivering on traditional Buick values – quiet down the road, with an interior that cossets with comforts.

With a “smart” all-wheel drive setup that can transfer power (as needed) not only front to back, but from side to side, the Buick is a new-generation car that works in all weather, all seasons.

Under the power liftgate rests a square-ish cargo hold that expands to 73 cubic feet with the rear seats folded – as much as many of today’s taller compact crossovers. There is a flat deck to work with, a restraint track with clips on each side of the floor, and the lower liftover level of a car versus a crossover.

This virtue, however, is double-edged. The low, 5.8-inch ground clearance – the same as a Camry sedan – means the Buick is not well-suited for off-road travel.

It also means that ingress and egress is like that of a regular car: You lower yourself to climb aboard and pull yourself up to exit. Difficult access is one reason older crossover buyers often left their sedans behind.

Despite Herculean efforts to change the brand’s image, and clientele age, Buick remains a brand that is still favored by customers at the higher end of the average buying-age cycle.

Back when those old Roadmasters were pulling boats and horse trailers, buyers who choose four-cylinder-powered cars expected higher levels of noise, often accompanied by extra vibration and harshness compared to the popular V-8s of the era.

Not so today. All Tour Xs feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine with direct injection and enhanced computer programming to create a healthy 250 hp.

It wasn’t that long ago that automakers strived to exact 100 hp per liter from four-cylinder engines – that was the magic threshold to performance, excitement. Honda’s S2000 was a raucous convertible with an extroverted engine that demanded redline operation to exact any meaningful power.

The Buick’s engine is nothing like that. It is hushed. It is quick to rev and deliver smooth power low on the tachometer readings. And, it produces a strong push in the back when hurried (295 pounds-feet of peak torque) all while delivering a realized 28.3 mpg against EPA ratings of 21/29 mpg with the 8-speed automatic transmission.

The proliferation of these potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engines throughout the auto industry highlights many of the engineering strides that have been accomplished with the venerable internal combustion engine. Besides being lighter than previous V-6s and V-8s, the created turbo-power combines with increased efficiency to make for smarter powertrains.

Tour X pricing starts at $29,070 and increases to $35,070 for Essence Trim.

On-board Wi-Fi is standard, as are Apple/Android connectivity, rear camera, blind-spot monitoring, and auto climate controls. Our monochromatic interior seemed bland compared to the latest presentations from many automakers, yet controls were intuitive and easy to manipulate.

Balanced on the road, the Buick’s dash did prove slightly annoying. With the seat and steering wheel comfortably adjusted, the top third of the instrument cluster disappeared from view.

Looking like little else on the road, the Tour X’s sleek body is part of a Regal lineup that includes a hatchback sedan. Tour X sales are currently 25 percent of overall Regal sales – beating Buick’s expectations, yet the brand actually sells better in China than in the U.S.

Wagon-buyers who thought they could visit only the Volvo store will find the Buick a value-priced alternative that offers similar performance. The Tour X confirms the old axiom about competition and how buyers want choices.


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