By Peter J.H. Johnson
Ten years ago if you walked into a car dealership and told a salesperson you were interested in a station wagon you'd likely get a sympathetic pat on the back and a 10 page report on why wagons have gone the way of disco music and moon shoes. Ultimately, wagons sales petered out as customers lined up in droves to buy mini vans and SUVs. Since the introduction of the aforementioned mini van, which was introduced in the early 1980's, most families abandoned the wagon in hopes of regaining a sense of coolness that was somehow missing from a 1983 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagon with wood grain side panels.
As mini vans grew in popularity they too began to become less desirable to families looking for that next big thing. As any 12 year old can tell you, once too many people start doing the same thing it becomes dated and opens the door for something else. Remember The Power Rangers, Pokemon, or Pogs? Neither do I. In this case the successor to the mini van was the SUV. Throughout the 1990's, SUV's grew to new heights of popularity, filling Wal-Mart parking lots and emptying the strategic oil reserve at an unprecedented rate. Although even more popular than the mini van, SUV's have remained the vehicle of choice for North America's "with it" families for well over a decade.
Times are changing. Today, as gas prices reach new heights more people are reconsidering the SUV option in favour of something more fuel-efficient. Manufacturers have done their homework, introducing wagons with AWD, panoramic sunroofs and rear DVD players. Just like many SUV's. And if by now you've noticed that most people aren't interested in the off-road capabilities of their SUV you wouldn't be wrong. As little as 3% of SUV's have actually been taken off road. The gravel driveway leading to the cottage doesn't count.
For most people it's been so long since the Wagon was popular that they forget why they left it. Wagons offer better handling, fuel efficiency and are still able to carry the kids (and their gear) to hockey practice. European manufacturers such as Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz offer wagons. Even BMW has increased their wagon line-up with the introduction of the 530xiT last year. And these manufacturers know a little something about vehicle dynamics. Sure most marketing managers cringe at the term wagon, favouring terms like Sport Touring and Avant. Perhaps they've been reading Shakespeare.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."
Sure, but I like giving a dozen roses and I call a car with a rear hatch and an extended roof line between the c and d pillars, a wagon.
But younger audiences have yet to jump onto this bandwagon (pun intended). Rappers, actors, and sports icons continue to roll around in Escalades wearing 24's. So perhaps this is just a sideshow to the storied SUV. Then again maybe not. A few months ago I saw something I thought I would never see. I saw a popular rap video showcasing a black Dodge Magnum, undoubtedly a wagon, driving up and down the boulevard. Could this singer be a trailblazer (oddly the name for a SUV from Chevrolet)? Let's hope so. Put down that gas pump and get rid of your SUV. You want a wagon, uh sorry, a sport touring. Get with the program. What's old is new again.
About the Author: Peter Johnson is the chief writer for http://all-about-car-selection.com