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Bimmer325

Is Wagon the New SUV?

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Is Wagon the New SUV?
By Bimmer325


Contrary to popular belief, the majority of SUV’s rarely venture beyond regional highways or even the local Home Depot. While SUV owners adore the style and space their vehicles possess, off-road prowess is normally of little concern. Until now, inefficient fuel-economy and even the sheer lack of maneuverability that these vehicles present have had little effect on style-conscious consumers. However, the current trend toward rising gas-prices and a social-stigma that grows further against the SUV each day now threaten to limit the once mass-appeal of SUVs. At the same, more suitable options are emerging both from a segment that died long ago, and another that’s just been born.

The recent surfacing of popular wagons in a seemingly stagnant segment isn’t due to any real breakthroughs in practicality, versatility, or spaciousness. Rather, these attributes have defined the segment since it dropped from favor decades ago. However, wagons have typically lacked the stylish character that’s drawn buyers to models like the Cadillac Escalade and even Hummer’s H2. Instead, they’ve been frowned upon as drab and dowdy people-movers that even Mom won’t drive. Now, entries from Dodge, Saab, and Audi (to name just a few) seek to break this trend, and simultaneously, surpass the almighty SUV in regards to style. A task deemed impossible just a few short years ago, now seems more likely than ever.


Chrysler’s competent LX platform, underpinning models from the Dodge Charger to Chrysler’s notorious 300, has spawned the automotive industry’s trendiest products this year. With controversial styling and performance to match, these cars have rapidly become the fashion statement of 2005 (just consult an episode of MTV Cribs). Among the trendiest vehicles unveiled in years, where better to start when attempting to make wagons cool again? Daimler Chrysler’s answer comes in the form of the Dodge Magnum, a “sport tourer” combining the versatility and practicality of a wagon with bold, “in-your-face” styling not normally associated with the segment. Families in a real rush to soccer practice can opt for the Magnum SRT-8. Featuring a 6.1-liter Hemi producing a whopping 425 horsepower and 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels, the SRT-8 will set Mom back just under $38,000.

The car buying public has reacted so favorably to the rear-drive Magnum that it’s essentially become the catalyst of the modern wagon’s comeback. Other brands have already adopted the formula for success; Saab’s upcoming 9-3 SportCombi hits showrooms this November and boasts a look that’s sportier and more dynamic than even the 9-3 sedan it’s based on. Even more impressive, its sporty roots don’t end at styling. The Aero model boasts 250 horses and marches from 0 to 62 mph in less than 7 seconds. Saab engineers claim the aerodynamic SportCombi experiences zero lift both front and rear at high speeds. Moreover (and proof that you can have the best of both worlds), the SportCombi has 25 cubic feet of storage behind the second-row’s folding rear seat, which includes an innovative ski hatch. With the second seat stowed, there’s 60 cubic feet of storage space in a convenient, highly useable space. The storage area has a hidden sub-floor storage bin with a locking, folding lid, and there are enough cupholders for three Big Gulps as well as a 12-volt power socket. Sporty? Yep. Practical? You bet. Amidst a questionable product-development plan including a mildly reworked Subaru and a variant of Chevrolet’s Trailblazer SUV, the 9-3 SportCombi is essentially Saab’s beacon of hope. If recent efforts made by Chrysler are of any indication, the dynamic SportCombi may truly be just what the doctor ordered for Saab.


Admittedly, brands like Audi, BMW and Volvo have boasted equally athletic wagons in their lineups for years, the recent trend only attracting more buyers to the showrooms of such premium marques. Audi’s A3 wagon recently joined the A4 and A6 Avants as a smaller, more agile offering. Likewise, Volvo recently unveiled it’s V50, a wagon variant of the recently overhauled S40 sedan. In line with recent trends, the V50 can be had with a 218 horsepower turbo 5-cylinder engine. Recent rumor suggests that Volvo may even consider resurrecting the V90 moniker as a wagon variant of the S80 sedan when that redesigned model bows for 2008. BMW’s 3 and 5 Series wagons have soldiered on for years as well, and redesigned versions of each have just recently debuted. BMW hasn’t commented on the possibility of M versions of these wagons just yet, though the idea still looks to hold relevance. The Bavarian automaker recently took the wraps off M-“packages” for each, complete with specially tuned sports suspensions, aerodynamic enhancements, revised front and rear air-dams, and exclusive light-alloy wheels featuring wider rear tires.

Of course, unsuccessful attempts at applying sportiness to a wagon have made (or failed to make) history as well. Lexus failed to attract much attention with it’s IS300 Sportcross, a wagon aimed at the elusive younger crowd. However, a wagon variant of the redesigned IS (a model more in line with competitors) would most-likely enjoy more success. Similarly, Mitsubishi’s funky Lancer Sportback, while unique by design, found few owners. The model, also available in Ralliart trim, was discontinued shortly into its run. All things considered, such attempts seem distant from current trends. Aside from the futility Lexus and Mitsubishi displayed in their most recent attempts, these models reigned prior to the modern wagon’s “boom” anyway.


As recently as five years ago, making wagons cool would’ve seemed the equivalent to making a tuna sandwich exciting. Today, the situation is quite different. The SUV is no longer the invincible giant it once was. Ironically, all it took was $3 gas prices and a few music videos for consumers to take notice. What’s more, the trendy wagons now appearing on MTV look just as appropriate in the parking lot of your local Home Depot, rest assured.

-----

Louis Buccheri
Email: BuccherL@fordhamprep.org
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Is wagon the new SUV? Well it depends on what your definition of "SUV" is. Sales phenomenon? Coolness? I don't think wagons will ever be as popular as SUVs, but many are already regarded as cool.
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The SUV will be with us for some time. There may be a settling out in sales, but let's remember they have been selling like hotcakes. Even as gas was going up prior to recent events, SUV sales were percolating along. The Explorer has enjoyed 400,000 plus sales per year.....most makers would be ecstatic selling half of that. They aren't going anywhere. Many who can afford them can also can afford 3 dollar gas and more. Some may buy a wagon, but I think at the expense of a minivan, not an SUV...I just can't see an SUV customer buying a Mitsubishi wagon. The other vehicle that is being overlooked is the large pickup. It gets the same gas mileage as SUVs. Ford alone sells about a million per year alone. And yet the SUV is singled out. I don't get it.
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well I think its because we need pick-ups in the world for construstion and stuff like that, and if you think about it you see more pickups for commercial and fleet work then SUV's Edited by BlkHhr104
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The pickup is a general, personal use vehicle now. And I see many SUVs as work trucks. Suburbans and Expedtions are extensively used. I think it's become an irrational singling out of the SUV as the villan when there are millions of pickups sold per year.
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True, maybe its because the SUV is the new kid, because pickups have been out for a while and people figure since there is two go after the newer one, thats what i woudl do if i hate SUV's, but i love them to death so thats not going to happen.
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I think, though, that 'pickup' means different things to different people based on current models. Most 'pickups' I see being used for commuter and 'soccer mom' duty are not what I consider a 'pickup.' A truck to me is a utility vehicle, mine seats three (not comfortably) and has an eight foot bed. Popular pickups have four doors, seat 5 or 6 and have a 4 or 5 foot bed. While popular among the 'home depot' crowd, that's useless for me. This type of pickup is really more comparable in usage to an SUV. As in, they're used for hauling people more than cargo, etc. Farm work, construction work, etc require hauling capabilities which simply don't exist in these 'short bed' trucks. So as not to get completely off topic on this....... I think wagons are making a comeback. I'm a bit biased of course. :P The stodgy image (while I like it) of wood siding and lumbering wagons is gone. Modern wagons are sleek, powerful and still can haul the groceries and kids. Now, of course, my wagon may not be sleek but I can still outrun a Magnum. Well except the SRT8! Will SUV's ever go away. No but like the minivan, their roll will change. Mike
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It has always seemed to me like the wagon never went away, they just stopped calling them wagons. I mean, really, what are most minivans but tall sedans with hatches? Same goes for most of the crossovers or sport tourers or cute utes or whatever you want to call them.
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It has always seemed to me like the wagon never went away, they just stopped calling them wagons. I mean, really, what are most minivans but tall sedans with hatches? Same goes for most of the crossovers or sport tourers or cute utes or whatever you want to call them.

[post="10365"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I agree. The SUV is basically just a big wagon too.

so the SUV was the new wagon, and thusly the new wagon is a wagon.
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I agree. The SUV is basically just a big wagon too.

so the SUV was the new wagon, and thusly the new wagon is a wagon.

[post="10622"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Yes, most SUVs are just wagons with ground clearance (and some have truck-like BOF construction)... the key differentiators over a wagon that a minivan has are the sliding doors and taller body.
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Car-based crossovers appear to be the wave of the future. Whether to call such things a "wagon" is problematic. The Magnum's a wagon, but what about the Chrysler Pacifica? It looks like a wagon, but it has a transverse engine like a minivan. The Pacifica's a perfect example of neither fish nor fowl. Check out the buyer's guides for SUVs - some include the Pacifica, some do not. I don't know what the heck it is, except that I sure enjoy driving it!
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I am glad the wagon is making a come back, and while I do think that it will replace the SUV for some people (mainly the people that want or need better gas mileage) I agree that they will probably pull more people away from minivans than any other group. As far as why trucks are not being "targeted" as well, IMO that is because both SUV's and wagons are primarily built to be people haulers. Sure they can haul stuff too, and SUV's can tow stuff as well, but they are built to haul people. Trucks are usually built to haul stuff (there are exceptions), stuff that often times would be difficult or completely impossible to fit into a SUV or to a greater extent wagon. My parents have an 1996 Suburban that is primarily used to haul the family on trips (it was that or a cargo van, there are 9 kids in my family). Every time I have needed to use it for something beyond that, like hauling an engine and/or transmission or even just wood, I have to take seats out and put them somewhere and then take special precautions because of the carpeting in the "cargo" area. It is really hard to hoist an engine on an engine stand in and out of the back of a '96 Suburban (I am not sure about other SUVs) and would have been impossible with a wagon. It would have been a lot easier with a truck. Atleast that is why SUVs and trucks are not clumped together in this case. David Edited by Diognes56
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scroll down and check out this Buick Lucerne Wagon.

It rocks!
http://forums.autoweek.com/thread.jspa?for...19046&tstart=30

[post="11888"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


That is sweet...a modern Buick Estate wagon could do well, I believe. I also think Pontiac could do well with a sporty wagon, something Audi-like.. Edited by moltar
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Is Wagon the New SUV?
By Bimmer325
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of SUV’s rarely venture beyond regional highways or even the local Home Depot. 


Since when is that a popular belief?
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The Enclave reminds me of a Vista Cruiser. Its too bad Olds isn't around to bring that model back. That would have been cool.
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Some SUV's are wagons., but others are hatchbacks. The differentiator with cars is more than ground clearance, it's also hip-point and roof height. Looking at the frame as a differentiator is a red herring, as of course there are many old wagons out there that are BOF, like traditional trucks, and many SUVs that use unibody construction, like modern cars. The very wagon-like Isuzu Axiom is BOF, while the very truck-like Mitsubishi Montero, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Commander, Land Rover LR3, Ranger Rover and Range Rover Sport, and the previous Nissan Pathfinder are all unibody SUVs; but none would be called crossovers because of their construction. SUV's, and especially the slightly lower, lighter crossovers, are still the new wagons, soundly outselling their wagon siblings. Take as an example one of the few compact wagons offered in the US recently—the Lancer Sportback. At the height of it's brief availability it sold rearly as many as 200 per month. At the same time, the related Outlander crossover was selling as many as 2000 per month. ot the BMW 3-series touring, which prior to the arrival of the X3 sold nearly 4000 p.a.. That's since dropped by nearly half, to what will be just over 2000 this year, while the X3 routinely sells at least 30,000 p.a.. Even psuedo-crossovers such as the XC70 and Subaru Outback have a big lead over the regular wagon models. The standard V70 will sell less than 6000 units this year, while the XC70 will easily break 13,000. The Impreza wagon in a good year will reach 16,000 units, the Forester, (still very much an Impreza wagon, but with a more SUV-like body) in a similar year will do closer to 60,000 units, and even this year will reach 50,000. At it's peak the Legacy wagon sold just 8,000 units p.a., while the Outback version will again sell more than 55,000. Volkswagen has dumped the Jetta and Golf Variants, which at best sold an extra 10%, in favor of the upcoming Tiguan small crossover, which could give them at least an extra 60%, and probably nearly equal sales of the Jetta sedan. A Camry wagon if it was still around, may sell over 40,000 a year, not too shabby until you compare it to the Highlander, which will still sell 120,000 this year, and reached nearly 140,000 in 2005. Or consider the Malibu Maxx. In a year when Maliby sedan and wagon sales will together reach only 160,000, the similarly-sized Equinox will easily pass 110,000 by itself. Cobalt sales, sedan and and coupe, will easily pass 200,000 this year, but the HHR will add more than another 100,000 to that total, without the benefit of awd, far more than a Cobalt wagon. Crossovers are the new wagons, and will be for some time to come.
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