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What the hell happened to the wagon?

I am helping my wife hunt for her new wheels, and just have to rant about the fact that there are no true wagons anymore. My wife is short in stature, which I think is an admirable attribute but apparently the mass-manufactured automobile design gods have deemed her unfit for requiring cargo capacity in an automobile that suits her height. We have two medium sized dogs that we want to be able to load in crates into a car along with ourselves and (gasp) possibly a child or two in the future to go on road trips, but apparently you have to be able to pole vault as well as sail a juggernaut in order to accomplish this now. Is the problem that the designers are now assuming everyone weighs 200 pounds and needs a gargantuan amount of space for their derrieres? Throw in the image of our 95 year old grandmother trying to belly flop her way into the minivans and SUVs we’ve recently test driven (it’d be nice to be able to get her to some of her doctor visits without an unscheduled stop at the emergency room on the way), and you can begin to understand our frustration. Whatever happened to the family wagon? We cannot find one anywhere. There used to be many, many more of them. Have you had any sightings lately? Will be looking at a Volvo V70 this week in hopes it will meet some of our needs and not break our bank account if we buy it, or break in its reliability either should we buy one.

Enter “Buick Estate Wagon” into Googles search window…

Check this baby out…

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Buick-Roadmaster-Estate-Wagon-1993-Buick-Roadmaster-Estate-Wagon_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQhashZitem20afc3674dQQitemZ140387772237QQptZUSQ5fCarsQ5fTrucks

Subaru Outback and Forester
Audi A4/6 Avant
BMW 3/5-Series estate
MB R-Class
etc., etc.

Twotone

CAFE is what happened to them.

CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, and it requires that the average fuel economy of every car and truck a carmaker sells is above a certain number to avoid huge fines. Companies have to meet separate averages for cars and light trucks, and as the required averages got higher in the early-90’s, the car-makers realized that it made more sense to sell compact-truck based SUV’s (which count as light trucks, and are generally more efficient than other light trucks) than station wagons (which count as cars, and are generally less efficient than other cars). They’ve since fixed this loophole to a certain extent, but SUV’s had already got popular and the station wagon was already dead.

For what it’s worth, a lot of the small-car based SUV’s like the Cr-V and the “crossover” vehicles are pretty similar in capability to an old station wagon.

Honda has a “crosstour” that looks like a wagon to me. Also, check the Toyota Venza. The crosstour is an Accord wagon, and the Venza is a Camry wagon in effect.

IIRC, the last model year for the Buick wagon was 1991.
The OP did not state whether he was looking for a brand-new car or a new used car, but somehow I doubt that he is looking for something that is almost 20 years old!

To the list provided by Twotone, I would add the Toyota Venza.

after all the reasons…this is the truth from Greaseyjack…

For what it’s worth, a lot of the small-car based SUV’s like the Cr-V and the “crossover” vehicles are pretty similar in capability to an old station wagon.

The sad truth as you’ve stated is that the SUV had taken over the market. The second sad truth is your mis labeling the SUV contributes to the confusion. Original truck based SUVs did present entrance/egress problems. They are still popular for towing purposes. The compact SUVs, Pilots, Highlanders and other car based,are all improvements, not only over the original rollover top heavy SUVs, but low slung, hard to crawl in and out of, station wagons. The modern car based SUV provides better loading, better handling, and better economy than most of the wagons in there past. Now, they’ve added awd and more upright space with the more practical style…and it looks different.

It’s all about styling. Add a 4wd system to a wagon, you get a Jeep Cherokee and an Outback…each of which offer no advantage over a RAV4, CRV, Escape etc. You go ahead and look at a Volvo wagon for the nameplate and the style, and you’ll find yourself with a car superior to a well designed car based SUV in only those areas, nameplate and style.

A friend, tired of the problems in his years with Volvo wagons, bought an Outback. I urged him to at least try out a CRV/RAV4 etc. Wife did not want an SUV in the driveway…fine. I have to listen to him complain now with his loading problems and lack of vertical space in the Outback. Enough people equally complained, so 2010 Outbacks are a “new style” with measurements very similar to the Highlander. Go figure…it’s all about style, and nothing more. Fine a vehicle that fill you needs the best and disregard the labels…I feel you just haven’t tried out enough vehicles and are hung up on labels IMO.

CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy

HOW…Since a wagon gets BETTER gas mileage then a Mini-Van.

The reason there are no wagons is because people aren’t buying them anymore. The last time Honda made a Wagon it accounted for less then 5% of their total car sales.

Ford Flex

Yes, the Ford Flex is the perfect reincarnation of the traditional wagon. If I had 2 dogs and a family, that’s what I’d buy.

However, you should lok at the new Accord wagon as well since it is essentially a very large hatchback.

Mini-vans counted as light trucks in the early-90’s, so the same sort of issue as with the SUV.

Undoubtedly wagons were in decline before, mostly due to an image problem (similar to how mini-vans are viewed today), but I think the shuffling of the CAFE standards in the early-90’s was the final straw that lead carmakers to dump station wagons altogether and try to get their station wagon customers into SUV’s and mini-vans.

Also, if you compare something like a first-generation Dodge Caravan to a contemporary full-or-midsize wagon, it’s not necessarily true that the wagon got better mileage.

Most of them are exempt from CAFE. They were classified as trucks at first.

Also the profit margin on mini-vans is far greater than a station wagon.

I disagree that a 3500 pound V8 powered wagon got better fuel mileage than a 4 or 6 cylinder mini-van. If I remember right the average wagon also had a 4 barrel carb.

My opinions are subject to change with new facts.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time carting my mother and grandmother to and from doctors, hospitals, assisted living, nursing care, and rehab hospitals, I think a minivan is the perfect vehicle. We used to transport my grandmother in my mother’s Ford Taurus Wagon before my mother bought a Toyota Sienna minivan, and experience tells me it is easier to assist someone up into a vehicle than it is to assist someone up out of a vehicle.

Honestly, its obvious you came here to rant, not seek advice. As a result, I doubt you will take my input seriously, but objectively, cars (even station wagons) don’t make very good medical transport vehicles. Car-based SUVs and minivans with large sliding doors work much better.

Maybe your wife is the exception, but generally, vertically challenged people like to sit higher so they can see more.

The Volvo V70 seems like a nice car. I hope it suits your needs. If it doesn’t, talk to some of your peers about the benefits of minivans. If you keep an open mind, you might find something that fits your needs even better than a wagon.

Acura is planning to market a TSX wagon in the near future. Premium gas, though, which is a no-no in my book.

Most of them are exempt from CAFE. They were classified as trucks at first.

That’s right…they WERE…but not anymore.

I disagree that a 3500 pound V8 powered wagon got better fuel mileage than a 4 or 6 cylinder mini-van. If I remember right the average wagon also had a 4 barrel carb.

Who said anything about a 3500lb V8. Honda never put a V8 in the Accord…Neither did Toyota…They all use to make station wagons and now don’t. People don’t want them.

They are called “crossovers” now; many brands have them.

I remember very well the station wagons that had wood bodies–these were made by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Just after WW II, Willys came out with an all metal wagon. This started a trend and soon all the manufacturers had all steel wagons. By the mid 1950’s, this became the family vehicle of choice. I guess being a family vehicle kind of went out of style and the station wagons all but disappeared.

A parallel situation happened a couple of decades later. VW introduced the microbus. Just as the big manufacturers had done earlier in making the Jeep station wagon a better vehicle, Chrysler, followed by GM and Ford used this concept to build minivans. Now, with the ‘soccer mom’ image, Ford and GM no longer make the minivans. My son would like to buy my Uplander minivan from me. Since I need a minivan with its sliding doors, my choices are to buy a Toyota Sienna and hope the accelerator doesn’t stick, buy a Hondy Odyssey and count on an $600-$800 outlay periodically for a timing belt, or take my chances that a Chryler minivan won’t self destruct in 100,000 miles. I think I’m going to solve my problem by purchasing a Mazda Miata which will carry just me and my horn and let my fellow musicians find their own transportation for themselves and their instruments.

One more interesting note: Studebaker was in terrible shape in the late 1950’s. In 1957, they brought out a stripped down line of vehicles which they named the ‘Scotsman’. The Scotsman was available as a 2 door sedan, 4 door sedan, and 2 door station wagon. The best seller in the Studebaker Scotsman line was the station wagon. The Scotsman slowed down the flow of red ink so that the the company could bring out a new model called the Lark in 1959. The Lark line of vehicles allowed Studebaker to make a modest profit and the Lark line included both a 2 door and 4 door station wagon.

The traditional family wagon of which you’re thinking has disappeared due to one thing; very little market for them.
No car maker wants to design and manufacture a vehicle just to sell a few thousand copies. (other than the occasional engineering exercise like the Plymouth Prowler)

My late mother used to complain about this issue because she liked the old Chevrolet Caprice full size station wagons and honestly thought (no matter what I said) that “everybody wants one”. Maybe she did, but no one else in the 'hood would agree.

Since I need a minivan with its sliding doors, my choices are to buy a Toyota Sienna and hope the accelerator doesn’t stick, buy a Hondy Odyssey and count on an $600-$800 outlay periodically for a timing belt, or take my chances that a Chryler minivan won’t self destruct in 100,000 miles. I think I’m going to solve my problem by purchasing a Mazda Miata which will carry just me and my horn and let my fellow musicians find their own transportation for themselves and their instruments.

May I suggest a Mazda 5? Sliding side doors, smaller than other minivans, it’s really a tall wagon. A musician friend of mine got one a year or so ago and seems to like it. The OP might want to check out the Mazda 5 also.