Crossover Equals Station Wagon

The Pontiac Bonneville Grand Safari station wagon my family owned in the 1960's, on it's way to a camping trip with friends

The Pontiac Bonneville Grand Safari station wagon my family owned in the 1960’s, on it’s way to a camping trip with friends

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when station wagons roamed the interstates, the suburbs and city streets in the United States. This body style was ubiquitous, and every major manufacturer, foreign and domestic, offered a wagon of some sort, and if the manufacturer has different brands, each brand had their own station wagon. The only brands that didn’t have wagons were some of the luxury brands, i.e. Cadillac, Jaguar, Lincoln, Rolls-Royce, etc.

1996 Ford Taurus - Ford's last station wagon

1996 Ford Taurus – Ford’s last station wagon

But, almost everyone offered a station wagon in their lineup. There was good reason for this; the wagon configuration was very popular. You got the fuel economy of a car, the handling of a car, and you got a huge increase in cargo/passenger capacity over a regular sedan. Compare that to a truck or a van, where the handling and fuel economy were awful, and although cargo capacity was greater than the average car, it was also much greater than the average person’s needs, thereby making the huge increase in cargo capacity of little value to the average motorist. So, a wagon was the logical choice, and millions of Americans made that choice, over and over.

My family, for example, had three Pontiac station wagons in a row in the 60’s and 70’s. Massive cars that would seat eight, and, with the rear seats folded down, would carry an incredible amount of “stuff”, whether that was luggage, bags of mulch for the yard, or sports equipment for the four boys that lived in the house.

As the station wagon made its way through decades of automotive history, it acquired the designation of being a conveyance for housewives, suburban moms that led quiet (read: dull) lives. This proved to be its downfall.

When the minivan showed up in the early 80’s, many of those women driving station wagons saw a chance to 1) drive something different, and, 2) escape the housewife cliché. And they took that opportunity, en masse. The minivan, much more quickly than station wagons, acquired the designation of being a conveyance for housewives, suburban moms that led quiet (read: dull) lives. This proved to be its downfall.

The SUV (sport utility vehicle) craze hit in the 90’s, and both men and women saw the chance to drive something with cargo capacity that possessed more of an “active lifestyle” image, and they flocked to SUVs in droves. The SUV got new converts from everywhere – people that formerly drove sedans, wagons, and minivans.

But, there was a problem. An SUV was a truck. And trucks got poor fuel mileage and didn’t handle very well and didn’t brake very well.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the “crossover” was born not long after the SUV became popular. The popularity of crossovers, a vehicle that looked like a rough and tough SUV, but was on a car platform, skyrocketed and has been going strong over since. Consumers love the “sheep in wolf’s clothing” approach, and keep buying crossovers, no matter how much the vehicles shrink, or what manufacturer churns them out.

2014 Honda CR-V

2014 Honda CR-V

2015 BMW X1

2015 BMW X1

2015 Buick Encore

2015 Buick Encore

Now crossovers are everywhere. You might say they’re ubiquitous.  Millions are sold, almost every manufacturer (even luxury and performance makes like Porsche, Cadillac, and BMW) offer a crossover now, and there are many, many more on the way. Crossovers get the fuel mileage of a car, they handle as well as a car and you get a huge increase in cargo capacity compared to a sedan. There are very large crossovers, and there are some very small crossovers – so small that they’re really hatchbacks more than wagons, but “hatchback” is just as negative a term to consumers as “station wagon, so it’s not a hatchback, mind you, it’s a crossover.

Let me pose a rhetorical question here. Does any of this talk about crossovers sound familiar?

Well, of course it does. The crossover is now the modern station wagon. Crossover equals station wagon. It’s on a passenger car platform, has a rear cargo area with a hatch opening, and the only difference is that it has a taller profile and a shape that is meant to bring to mind an SUV.

But, it’s a car designed to carry “stuff” when needed. Most crossover owners would be genuinely insulted if you referred to their rides as station wagons, but, really, that’s what those vehicles are now. I’m ok with that, because I loved (and still love) wagons, and the whole crossover thing is copasetic with me, but, most crossover owners are not going to be enthusiastic about you telling them that they own a modern station wagon.

But that is the fact of the matter. Crossover equals station wagon. Period.

5 thoughts on “Crossover Equals Station Wagon

  1. Ken says:

    That Pontiac wagon is uptown!

  2. Jersey Girl says:

    You are spot-on. Which is fine, I love wagons. My friends all think I’m crazy, I’m 26 years old and single and I want a station wagon, LOL.

  3. Pingback: Wagon Love
  4. Richard says:

    What’s in a name? I suggested some years back that that we get a station wagon to haul my wife’s art materials. She was insulted. “I’d NEVER drive a *station wagon*.” She said, spitting the words with venom.

    “Okay.” I asked, “What do you want,”

    “A Subaru Outback”

    I managed to keep a straight face and NOT tell her that an Outback IS a station wagon, but with an updated name.

    1. Matt Lupton says:

      You know what they say; A happy wife makes a happy life. You did well, Richard!

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