Make us your home page
Autos | Station wagons

Station wagons ride again

My friend David grew up, as did I, in a household where there was always a station wagon among the family vehicles. I was traumatized by them and have long sworn off buying anything so utilitarian.

But I am single. David is not.

So when it came time to haul around his wife, daughter and maybe an occasional set of golf clubs, he ended up buying a Saab 9-5 wagon. His neighbors must have thought he was crazy; sport utility vehicles are the family hauler of choice in cul-de-sac country.

Sport utilities once were a staple among the horsey set, who adopted the vehicle as their own when most car buyers were snapping up full-size station wagons as fast as automakers could produce them. The wagons' names, such as Kingswood Estate and Colony Park, alluded to life amongst the upper crust, but their utilitarian nature proclaimed their true mission.

But by the 1980s, middle-class America started snapping up minivans, which were even more utilitarian than the wagons they supplanted. Once cul-de-sacs were teeming with them, minivans lost their allure, giving rise to the SUV. It was like a minivan or station wagon, but it had an image, one that suggested you actually spent time at the polo club, or venturing through the woods. In fact, the farthest off-road most people travel in their SUV is accidentally tromping over the topiary at the end of the driveway.

Alas, the alternative, the SUV, has become the norm. So, what's next? How about the station wagon?

As was once the case with SUVs, few station wagons are offered today, and their rarity makes them more appealing than ever.

You can tighten a wagon's suspension, add gobs of horsepower and drive like you're Jeff Gordon. Try that in an SUV and you'll find yourself off-road and upside down in a field of kudzu. And many wagons now offer all-wheel drive, giving the vehicles an edge not only in snow, but in everyday performance.

But even if you're no leadfoot, wagons, which already return better fuel economy than an SUV, can easily be made into hybrids, returning fuel economy a truck driver can only dream about.

And besides, SUVs lack style. They always have. That's their style. You can't give an SUV curvaceous looks — all you can do is heap on the chrome or add a brush guard for the marauding rhinos that populate suburbia.

Someday, someone, somewhere in a cul-de-sac named after a tree that was cut down to build the neighborhood, a car buyer will yearn for something else. That's why, right now, some luxury brands are offering station wagons. Their numbers are small, but I hope they'll be growing.

Wagons recall a simpler, more innocent time. And when I can buy a wagon like Cadillac's 556-horsepower CTS-V, maybe it's time to consider one.

Station wagons ride again 01/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Virginian-Pilot.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]