Europe's Station Wagons Flourish

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Europe's Station Wagons Flourish


Byline: Russ Heaps, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If the domestics were the barometer, station wagons could be pronounced dead on arrival. Chrysler has no station wagons in its lineup, while Saturn is the only General Motors Division with a wagon. Ford continues to keep the faith to a certain degree with its Taurus/Mercury Sable wagons, as well as one wearing the Focus nameplate; but that's a far cry from the domestic wagon selection a quarter of a century ago.

For all intents and purposes, the minivan has usurped the station wagon's role in the American family - or has it? Although the domestic brands have all but abandoned the genre, the Europeans appear oblivious to the minivan's dominance in this country. The Swedes (Volvo and Saab) and the Germans (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen), all successfully market station wagons here and abroad. Asian imports also weigh in with a number of wagons. So, the station wagon isn't really dead; it just isn't as profitable to build and market as, say, a full-size pickup truck. That's the grim reality. Every year, more and more car-based domestic models are being discontinued to make additional capacity for manufacturing the highly profitable pickups and sport utility vehicles. However, that's another story for another time.

Owners wishing to escape bulky, fuel-hungry SUVs or the "soccer mom" stigma of minivans still do have some station wagon choices, and among the more interesting are those from Germany.

The three described here all offer six-cylinder engines, automatic transmissions and seating for five. All also post similar Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates of roughly 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway. Missing is either offering from Audi. Audi has a wagon version of its A4 and A6.

The A4 is similar in many respects to the Volkswagen Passat appearing here, and retails for about two grand more.

Mercedes-Benz has put a new face on its E-Class entries for 2003. This is the bread-and-butter series for Benz, so it hasn't done anything too drastic to its most popular seller.

As with the sedan, the E-Class wagon enjoys a freshened exterior and a more comfortable interior. …

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