Whatever Happened To The Wagon?
And why I believe (hope) we could see a resurgence of the station wagon/ estate...
I was one of those lucky American boys growing up who's father owned a woody wagon. Actually, we owned multiples at different times, of different brands, but they all had one thing in common: the ability to bring joy in a way that no other car did for me. Like many kids, I would love riding in what i called "the way way back" where the seat faced backward. In the summer, my cousins and I would fire our little orange cap pistols out the back when on vacation at the ocean in Maine, wave to people as we passed by, and lick ice creams with big dumb grins on our faces. The station wagon (or estate) is truly the last true family car.
Sure, National Lampoon's Vacation immortalized the station wagon in America, but it has always been a pillar of the automotive world the whole world over. I mean look at that Volvo I put above- pure beauty. Why do the vast majority of others not feel this way is the real question though? I'll start with a few detriments of the wagon here in America. First, they are expensive- a Volvo specced like the one above is nearly $60,000, and other brands are no cheaper. Buick, Mercedes, Audi- they all cost crazy money (like almost all new cars these days) and I think that people just figure if they are spending that kind of money they will buy an SUV. Two, people like the height and diving position of an SUV. At my own apartment complex, I see soccer moms hopping out of their $70,000 (most likely leased ) Tahoes and Suburbans wearing yoga pants having just driven back the 500 feet from our on site gym. I have a lot of opinions about this but instead will bring it back to the fact that since they are already comfortable spending $1000 or more a month on a car payment, most people figure that they may as well get the status symbol and "keep up with the Joneses" if you will.
The most baffling aspect of the weaning of the wagon is that in an age of high gas prices, climate change alarm, and good mpg, people are still opting for the gas guzzlers. The Volvo above is rated at a combined mpg of 31- even being AWD. That is pretty good for a heavy AWD vehicle, and yet people still opt for Suburban's and Mercedes GLC's. My hope is that as gas and new car prices continue to climb (as most agree that they will continue to do,) the wagon might once again find its niche in our culture and become the favored family car. It has all of the room that an SUV does and more, and can sip gas while you make memories road tripping with your family and dog. Of course the true SUV will always and should always have its place in the world, but next time you're looking for another boring small SUV or crossover, why not try a station wagon? It might be just what you've been missing sitting in your driveway.