Cleveland, Ohio – Buick station wagon. This is a test, right? Some sort of psychological or brand-awareness study to differentiate Baby Boomers from Gen Xers from Millennials?
“Buick continues to make bold moves outside traditional vehicle segments,” company officials said with the announcement of the 2018 Regal TourX.
For anyone older than 30, the idea that a Buick station wagon – one of the most forgettable cars of the 1970s and 1980s – now represents a bold move outside of tradition… sorry, I still need a minute to process this.
For anyone younger than 30, let me try to explain my befuddlement.
Station wagons are old-people cars. Specifically, they’re Mom cars. Sure, they’re practical, and unlike SUVs and some crossovers, they can be really fun to drive. But by the mid-1980s, they were so uncool that people rejected them for a new class of vehicles – minivans.
That’s right, Buick’s new bold move outside of tradition is to a car class once considered so uncool that people were willing to buy Plymouth (Google it) Voyager to avoid being in one.
And it’s not just that it’s a station wagon – it’s a Buick station wagon. Buick stopped producing its Roadmaster wagons in the early 1990s to a collective shrug from buyers, the victim of changing consumer tastes. No tears were shed, no lamentations from magazines about the loss of an American icon. The old-person’s brand had stopped producing a car that only old people drove. What’s the big deal?
Outside of the Dodge Magnum (2004-2009), American car companies haven’t produced station wagons for the U.S. market in more than a decade, and GM has been out of the game longer than Ford and FCA US.
Like Levi’s reviving button-fly jeans in the 1980s or turntables making a comeback for audiophiles, maybe this is a retro thing. A 30-year-old driver today probably got shuttled around as a kid in a minivan and get her license in 2004 when the only station wagons on the road were a few Ford Focus models and a handful of Subaru Outbacks.
They remember soccer games featuring rows of minivans and SUVs, not Ford LTDs, Buick Roadmasters, and Dodge Aspens. It’s been nearly 30 years since wagons were a significant part of the U.S. auto culture, so to a lot second-time and third-time car buyers, they’re new again.
The Regal TourX won’t be very similar to those old Roadmasters. The traditional Buick wagon is a body-on-frame, heavy, rear-wheel drive behemoth, powered by a V-8 big enough to move all of that metal.
The Regal TourX, on the other hand, weighs about 4,000 lb and features a 2L, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 250hp and 298 lb-ft of torque (a 1990s Buick wagon featured a 3.1L V6 that peaked at 155hp). The new Buick also features an 8-speed transmission (double the number of old-fashioned ones) and an all-wheel drive system.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.