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Luxury brands drive station wagon comeback

Coolness can swing in another direction in a moment’s notice. One dayyou’re swaggering around in acid-wash jeans and big hair, happilyplaying air guitar to Slayer, then suddenly, a couple of decades later,people start avoiding you at parties.

Coolness can swing in another direction in a moment’s notice. One day you’re swaggering around in acid-wash jeans and big hair, happily playing air guitar to Slayer, then suddenly, a couple of decades later, people start avoiding you at parties.


But true coolness cannot be denied. Don’t know if you noticed, but acid jeans have made a mild comeback, and so has the station wagon.


For a lot of years, the station wagon was the only vehicle option for larger families. Then came the minivan, the SUV, and the crossover, and various experiments and presto! The station wagon becomes so last century, which is when it was actually invented.


The term dates from the era of rail travel. The vehicles hired to pick up and drop off people needed extra room at the back for luggage. Individual operators modified their sedans accordingly, and later, so did the automakers. This type of vehicle became the “wagon” that toiled around the “station.”


Fuelling the station wagon’s current swing back to coolness is the arrival of some really slick high-end models — like Audi A6 Avant and Cadillac CTS Wagon. Sporty, high-end station wagons have always had a small, dedicated following, but recently they’re also welcoming buyers defecting from overly ostentatious SUVs and crossovers.


Paul Dineen, CTS marketing manager for Canada, told us the Sport Wagon gives Cadillac “a fresh product message” and “laid the groundwork for future CTS models.” Those future models would be the CTS Coupe, and a higher-octane version of wagon, the latter just debuting at the recent New York auto show. Like the CTS-V sedan, the CTS-V wagon will pack a 6.2-litre supercharged V8, good for 556 horsepower, and can be ordered with a 6-speed manual transmission. Now that’s a wagon!


Dineen anticipates wagons to be eight to 10 per cent of the mid luxury segment.


My friend Bob recently picked up a 2003 BMW 325i Touring. Like other devotees of sporty wagons, he points to the lower centre of gravity and inherent sportiness these vehicles offer over taller, heavier alternatives.


He puts it this way: “You can have fun driving it to Home Depot, and still come back with a load of building supplies.”


There’s also some new and cool wagon action at the lower end of the market, though when it comes to these shorter cars, the definition gets murky, whether they are a traditional station wagon or a “squared off” five-door hatch. At any rate, my current faves in the compact segment are Mini Clubman, Volkswagen Golf Wagon, and Hyundai Elantra Touring.


The Elantra Touring was styled in Europe, and exhibits some of the flair of the more expensive wagons. Hyundai Canada’s VP of marketing, John Vermine, notes sales of Touring is up 20 per cent over last year (when it was first introduced).


He noted also that many customers “come into our dealerships to look at the Elantra sedan, and leave with the Elantra Touring.”


Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for over 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

 
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