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Station Wagon Perceptions

August 6, 2014 by Matt

Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon

The above represents the mental image my wife conjures whenever I utter the term “station wagon.”

It’s sad, really. I’ve had to accept it as one of those areas where “never the twain shall meet,” since when I think of a station wagon, or more commonly use manufacturer-specific terms like Touring (BMW) or Avant (Audi), I visualize vehicles along the lines of the late, great RS2 Avant.

Ford Taurus Station Wagon Rear

Speak to many folks, and while the more practical ones will concede the advantages of a wagon over, say, a regular sedan, I’m not sure their image of the body style is quite in line with the typical enthusiast perception. As for the rest of the driving population, well… My wife’s attitude toward the station wagon is probably pretty typical. It preceded the minivan, which inherited its soccer mom and neutered male connotations, associations which, in America, rather unfairly, the station wagon has never lived down.

Car buffs, for our part, tend to adopt the European mindset: The station wagon is simply the sign of a practical owner, full stop; there are no negative connotations to overcome. The body style is liberated to accept whatever capability its manufacturer choose to bestow upon it, from cheap and slow to range-topping road-eaters like the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, Audi RS6 Avant (never sold here, sadly) and to a lesser degree, the Dodge Magnum. Even Subaru got into the act, initially offering their third-generation WRX STI only as a wagon. Enthusiasts see the body style as just another possible shape for a performance car, as valid as any sports sedan or coupeā€”in a sense, even more so, since the practical nature of the wagon introduces an appealing “sleeper” element to the car’s perception.

All that said, I’ve made my peace with the fact that it’s unlikely my wife’s concept of the station wagon will ever nudge closer to the more open-minded view we enthusiasts take. That’s fine; at least there are performance cars in plenty of other body styles to choose from.

Image credits:,

Filed under: Car Culture


  1. Ryan says:

    I have many friends with the same “old school” mind set about wagons. Me, I love wagons (and hatchbacks usually). They’re different, I usually love the body lines, and on top of that they’re practical/useful.

    And I was so glad to see you include the Magnum in your list above. You know I love mine! :)

    One you didn’t mention, that certainly deserves to be listed amongst the V and the Audi, is any variant of Mercedes AMG wagon. And the new for 2014 E63 AMG wagon with AWD is OH SO SWEET!!! Who doesn’t love 0-60 in the mid 3’s in a vehicle of that size?!

    • Matt says:

      That’s a pretty good burnout. :D Very nice! And yeah, the Magnum h/t was a little “Ryan bait;” I’ll admit it, haha.

      The AMG wagons are pretty awesome, and BMW made an E60 M5 wagon, IIRC. The reason mentioned the cars I did is because Audi was the first automaker to really icon-ify the performance wagon (RS2 Avant, B5 RS4 Avant, etc), and the Magnum and CTS-V wagons are so…atypical for American-made cars. Love ’em.

  2. Ryan says:

    I bought it, hook, line and sinker. ;)

  3. John D says:

    I never really cared for wagons, either, until I bought my Volvo 850 Turbo wagon (because I missed my old 850, but needed more space for stuff). Up to that point I always thought certain people liked them just to be different. There are lots of ugly wagons and I don’t like the idea of wanting such a ‘sleeper’ that is has to be hideously ugly or boring. But there are good looking wagons and plain wagons and ugly wagons…just like every other body style of automobile. So while I’m not on the band ‘wagon’ (see what I did there?) in general, I do appreciate a handsome vehicle regardless of the roofline. And the performance wagons can be appreciated in more ways than one.

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