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Old 02-23-2011, 10:54 PM   #1
BigElm
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Default The death of the station wagon

The news came like a blow to the gut for this child of 1950s suburbia:


Volvo, the company most associated with station wagons for the last 20 years, will stop selling wagons in the U.S. The market is drying up.


Farewell, Family Truckster, farewell (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

The Volvo wagon had been on life support for months. After dropping the larger V70 Volvo in 2010, Doug Speck, CEO of Volvo Cars of North America, told Automotive News he was giving the V50 another year because there "is a bit more energy in the small wagon segment."

Not enough, apparently. Volvo, which was sold to China's Geely in 2010, sold just 480 V50s last year, about two per dealer.
Other makers have been quietly dropping wagons for years as their customers flee to more utilitarian vehicles.

Edmunds.com, the online-car buying site, lists 115 kinds of SUVs and 92 types of crossovers but only 31 varieties of station wagon. Even that count is suspect. It includes a Ford Flex, which is a minivan in disguise, and the bizarre Dodge Caliber.
Growing up in a Connecticut commuter town after World War II in an active family of seven, station wagons were the only practical forms of conveyance.
Ford Country Squires, with their acres of imitation wood, were particularly prized. Sportier owners displayed yacht flags representing their initials on the driver's side door. Black Labradors and Golden Retrievers were practically standard equipment.

At 16, I took my driver's test in a brown Plymouth Suburban wagon with a rear-facing third seat and a three-speed manual transmission. Luckily, parallel parking wasn't part of the exam.
Somewhat later, the Plymouth's transmission linkage developed the habit of seizing up when it got warm. The driver had a choice of wrapping his hands in rags, diving under the hood, and shaking the rods until they freed up -- or driving home in first gear.
I shudder to think how we flirted with disaster in those pre-safety-conscious days. On long trips, my parents would fold down the wagon's seats and outfit the passenger compartment with pillows and blankets, where we slid around, un-seat-belted.

Long before Ford got out of the wood-grain-paneling business in 1991, Volvos had become the wagon of choice. Safety had emerged an issue, and so had the environment. Volvos had the twin advantages of looking sensible and being upscale at the same time. It was a boxy European import that looked as wholesome as a bowl of granola. Wagons were part of Volvo's DNA. As the story went, the reason Volvo sedans looked so boxy is that designers would style the wagon first, and then cut off the tailgate and add a trunk. What happened to the Volvo wagon is a classic case of automotive Darwinism.

American buyers first turned away from station wagons during the 1973 oil crisis. Their extreme length, emphasized by long rear overhangs to accommodate a third seat, made them natural targets. In the 1980s, the minivan came along and stole the people-mover business.

SUVs moved to the fore in the 1990s. Far more utilitarian, they offered a lot more cargo space, a command seating position, and four-wheel-drive. And the 2000s were the decade of the crossover, combining the best features of both van and SUV. With their combination of capability and capacity, they remain one of the fastest-growing segments. Despite its enduring image for safety and solidity, Volvo has been behind the automotive curve for decades.

With annual sales of fewer than 400,000 cars, it never enjoyed the scale it needed to support R&D or frequent model changes. It was slow to move production out of high-cost Sweden and never built cars in the U.S., its largest market. Product innovation came slowly too. Volvo never built an SUV, it didn't get around to all-wheel-drive until well after Audi and Subaru, and didn't introduce its first crossover until 1998. Nor did its 1999 sale to Ford help matters. Neither party was able to benefit. Ford tried to integrate Swedish engineering into its cars but found it expensive and prone to weightiness. And Ford technology never made it across the Atlantic, likely because of an unwillingness to share and fear of diluting Volvo's image.

Volvo probably did itself a disservice by running testimonials from owners who drove their Volvos for years and years. When you put a million miles or more on a car, it limits the opportunity for repeat business.

Audi, BMW, and Mercedes still offer wagons for sale in America, although they don't call them that. At Audi, "avant" is the preferred designation; BMW uses "touring," and Mercedes likes "estate."

Sport wagons, though, have never made much of an impact. Cadillac's CTS is a spectacular offering, but its tightly tailored body and rear liftgate have limited its appeal. Volvo plans to soldier on with its well-regarded line of crossovers: the XC60, XC70, and XC90.

Before I get carried away by nostalgia, caution should be observed in writing off an entire vehicle segment, because they do have a habit of coming back to life. The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado was lionized as the last American convertible -- until Lee Iacocca brought out the 1982 Chrysler LeBaron ragtop.

The station wagon may rise again

http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/auto...station-wagon/
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:31 PM   #2
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*sheds tear*

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Old 02-24-2011, 12:56 AM   #3
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Yeah, it's sad.

I'll drop a reminder that Hyundai has the Elantra Touring.
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Old 02-24-2011, 01:34 AM   #4
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I own a V70 and a lowered Forester. They are twins. Yay for me.

Don't forget about the just released TSX wagon. Slow as a sideways turd, but nice otherwise. I'll give it 3 years...unless gas gets up to $5/gallon.
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Old 02-24-2011, 01:50 AM   #5
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wow really? ****ing weak! if i had a family i'd totally rock a late model volvo station wagon. i miss my 91 940se now she was named Gretta
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Old 02-24-2011, 02:14 AM   #6
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450 V50's last year?!?! That's insane! The V50 is the best looking wagon out there today, hands down. Volvo dropped the ball though - the V50 is sporty looking, but the engine and transmission are not. The T5 is OK, but doesn't have the blistering performance needed to compete...and no manual is a killer. The V50 with 300 HP and a manual transmission would change the game for Volvo.
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Old 02-24-2011, 02:33 AM   #7
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who says station wagons are dead? call it what they want, it's still an elongated hatch... same shape.. whatever
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Old 02-24-2011, 02:57 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianbot5000 View Post
450 V50's last year?!?! That's insane! The V50 is the best looking wagon out there today, hands down. Volvo dropped the ball though - the V50 is sporty looking, but the engine and transmission are not. The T5 is OK, but doesn't have the blistering performance needed to compete...and no manual is a killer. The V50 with 300 HP and a manual transmission would change the game for Volvo.
I agree. I dropped a friend at a Volvo dealership last week and I took a close look at the V50. It does look very good indeed;very sleek looking wagon.
Volvo is pushing the T5 to 250HP in the new S60 and they could do the same in the V50. Oh, well .
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Old 02-24-2011, 03:24 AM   #9
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Wagons will never die. The name my change but they'll always be around.

That said, wagons these days are made for the opposite ends of the spectrum. AMG Wagon= super fast and super expensive. Jetta wagon= super slow and super cheap.

The new TSX looks sporty but 200hp makes it a dud.
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Old 02-24-2011, 06:18 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepclam View Post
Yeah, it's sad.

I'll drop a reminder that Hyundai has the Elantra Touring.
Also no mention of the Jetta Sportwagen. Great reporting
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Old 02-24-2011, 07:00 AM   #11
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die wagons DIE!
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Old 02-24-2011, 07:58 AM   #12
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What utter nonsense. All these new CUVs are just tarted-up wagons with higher hip points.

My dad just bought himself a barely used '09 Caddy SRX4 (instead of an Outback 3.6R Limited, I should note: reason -- the OB is "FUGLY"), and aside from the 8.7" of GC, it's a STATION WAGON...

...and a damned fine one, too.

Same steak, different sizzle.
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:05 AM   #13
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The TSX isn't slow. It's not brain re-shaping fast either.


If the TSX is such a pos, since it's so underpowered:
guess the Outback with it's 170hp is also.
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenk View Post
What utter nonsense. All these new CUVs are just tarted-up wagons with higher hip points.

My dad just bought himself a barely used '09 Caddy SRX4 (instead of an Outback 3.6R Limited, I should note: reason -- the OB is "FUGLY"), and aside from the 8.7" of GC, it's a STATION WAGON...

...and a damned fine one, too.

Same steak, different sizzle.
But that's just the point. It's not the same. That's like saying trucks and SUVs are the same except one has seats in the bed and a cover over it. Or that crossovers, *shudder*, are the same as truck based SUVs like Suburbans except have a softer ride.

I don't want a car-like ride quality. I want a car ride quality. Even though the area wasn't big, I miss the rear area of my 9-2x. I don't want a higher ride height just to get that back. My next car will most likely be another wagon or hatch.

I would have cross-shopped the V50 of that year with my 9-2x, but I had a GM discount, and I was getting a base model. I loved the the V50, but it was a little out of my range.
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Old 02-24-2011, 11:30 AM   #15
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Ever since mini-vans, SUV's, CUV's wagons have been on the decline, most want a larger vehicle. Few want an in between size vehicle (in between a hatchback and CUV/SUV).
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Old 02-24-2011, 11:38 AM   #16
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There are still wagons around...now the liftback hatch, that's awhite rhino.

Oh, and since owning the Saabaru, my wife won't consider a car that's not a hatch/wagon.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenk View Post
What utter nonsense. All these new CUVs are just tarted-up wagons with higher hip points.
Yup. Take a wagon, make it slightly taller...voila...CUV.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:08 PM   #18
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No suprise to me. The new Chinese owners of Volvo want to dramatically increase sales to make Volvo profitable. And wagons don't sell well in the U.S. compared to sedans and SUVs. What is surpising is that Acura and Honda just released new wagons.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:19 PM   #19
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good riddance
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:21 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Italiano View Post
The TSX isn't slow. It's not brain re-shaping fast either.


If the TSX is such a pos, since it's so underpowered:
guess the Outback with it's 170hp is also.
The 2011 TSX posts identical performance numbers as the 2010 Camry.

My 6,500lb suburban is half (HALF!) a second quicker to 60 then both.

My mother in law has an '09 TSX, it's fun tooling around the city and cruising on the freeway but any type of spirited driving leaves you .

Another 30-40hp would really improve this car.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:22 PM   #21
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^^beat me to it GDB FAN but similar post and sentiments exactly. More small turbo please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Italiano View Post
The TSX isn't slow. It's not brain re-shaping fast either.


If the TSX is such a pos, since it's so underpowered:
guess the Outback with it's 170hp is also.
Yes, as equipped, it's painfully slow. The 5 speed automatic trans combined with excess weight (3600 lbs) hurt the character of the engine, which has 200hp at 7K rpms. When do you ever drive above 6K rpms? There is nothing below 4K, and most driving is done there. When you want power, the conventional slushbox has to kick down 2 gears to do anything, and then you still have to wait for over 5K rpms before the thing moves. Base Civic inspired acceleration for a $32K starting price. For similar $ you can get a 3.6R Limited Outback (NOT a 2.5i Outback mentioned), that is faster, has its power everywhere in the rev range, and takes regular fuel. shrug


I hope Honda spices up the TSX wagon in the future instead of giving up and killing it. It looks great and handles great, too, and I love the seats!
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:27 PM   #22
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Beat by 1 minute. Vtec just kicked in y0!

An RDX powerplant would be nice.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:55 PM   #23
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my fat fingers overwhelmed teh Vteque!

SOA needs to give us our damn Legacy wagon back.
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Old 02-24-2011, 05:35 PM   #24
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Yes, vehicles like the BMW 5GT are much better

I'd love a wagon for my next car, I'd totally drop my Mazda 5 for an outback if it had a 3rd row, even a halfassed one.

But really, I'd love a shooting brake!
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Old 02-24-2011, 06:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godmal View Post
Yes, vehicles like the BMW 5GT are much better

I'd love a wagon for my next car, I'd totally drop my Mazda 5 for an outback if it had a 3rd row, even a halfassed one.

But really, I'd love a shooting brake!


Hawt.

Really, though, I'm bummed about the lack of wagons out there. If Subaru had kept the Legacy GT wagon w/ 5MT around until 2007 when I could finally afford one, I'd have purchased one. It was nearly impossible to find a used one without the tan interior, so I gave up.
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