Where have all the station wagons gone?

I’ve never paid much attention to fashion; not for clothes or hairstyles. I’m not particularly mindful of trends when it comes to restaurants, or music, or vacation spots. And I’m only vaguely aware of what’s on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I shouldn’t be surprised then, that when I set out to buy a new station wagon it turned out I’d missed an automotive trend.

I was still driving a station wagon, a 1998 Subaru Legacy. The fact that it needed struts, at twelve years old, was compelling enough to convince us to finally replace it. There was spirited discussion about whether or not we needed a station wagon (if we ever truly did). When we bought the Subaru we didn’t know how many kids we’d have, or what kind of sports they’d be into. It seemed logical, if not inevitable, that we add a station wagon to our transportation mix. Now here we were, twelve years later, parents of an only child whose soccer cleats never required more than the space her feet occupied. Nonetheless, we couldn’t ignore the desire to have a car with enough room to bring home purchases from the occasional trip to Ikea.

Our other car is a Prius. During its peak cruising season it can hit fifty miles per gallon. The only way to get that kind of mileage in a second car was to purchase another Prius. We agreed that our second car should have more cargo capacity than the Prius, with the best possible mileage. I subscribed to Consumer Reports online (a blog post for another day) so I could research our options. Searching for good gas mileage and cargo capacity, for under $25,000, produced a short list with nothing that they considered “station wagons.” As a result, we are now the somewhat abashed owners of a 2011 Subaru Outback Crossover Wagon.

A crossover wagon is, apparently, more than a station wagon, but not quite an SUV (a trend I couldn’t have missed if I were blind). The industry can call it what they want, but when we stood in our garage, trying to admire our new Outback, my husband looked at me and said, “I think we just bought an SUV.” We’re vaguely embarrassed, and a little ashamed of our new car. We drive our Prius proudly and feel a little hangdog in the Outback. However, on our recent trip to Lake Placid, the Outback averaged 33 miles per gallon, which is better than some of the smaller cars that Consumers liked. It’s a good thing, because we’ll be driving that Outback for a long time.

My father taught me that a car should be driven until it dies under you. And even then, there can be life after death. When the engine went on my old Chevy (oh, pardon me, Chevrolet) Duster on the Mass Pike, it wasn’t dead enough for my dad. He insisted it would be fine once we had a new, used engine put in it. I let him manage that, and subsequently sold it to my younger sister for a grand, so I could move up to a used Toyota Tercel.

My father is still driving his beloved 1988 station wagon. I don’t remember the make or model. It doesn’t really matter because whatever it is, they don’t make it anymore.


10 responses to “Where have all the station wagons gone?

  1. I believe Volvo and Audi still make station wagons. I’m still driving my 1998 Volvo XC and have no plans to trade it in.

  2. I’m still driving (well most days my husband takes it) my 2000 Saturn SL2 – with 140K miles on it. We want it to last close to another 5 years or 200K which ever comes first (unless its a big bill to repair it). I never understood the new car every three years concept.

  3. Judy & Hubby –
    It’s a GREAT car. I have a 2002 Subaru WRX wagon with 188,000 miles on the clock (bought new) and it’s the best car I’ve ever owned bar none. I’ve decided to be bronzed and buried in it. The first 168000 (four years!) miles I beat it unmercifully – flat out back and forth across the US of A – Nevada to Nova Scotia – many times – I’m still wanted in more states than I care to think about. I can’t stand airplanes after 2x million miles in the air; I drive everywhere. Raced it flat out up Pikes Peak – repeatedly – I had a season pass for the mountain road when I lived in Colorado Springs. I was also mildly suicidal but never mind that.
    They are great cars. Up here – I live above 10000′ in Colorado – every other car is a Soobie – or a stupid diesel pickup. I drive it up to the summit of the continental divide (12000′ plus) with my foot to the floor the entire time (almost). Well over 100mph uphill. My insane goal is to do it without ever lifting my right foot and I’m getting close. OK commit me – big deal. Great car – ditto for Northern New England. And safe beyond belief – I’d put my 3 littles in it with great faith – if they were still littles – which they are not. Soobie engines last forever – mine has been boosted beyond belief since 10,000 miles after new. I’ve never seen anything like it. Simply great.
    You will simply adore the OB when there are 9 to 18 inches of snow on the damn streets – city or up country. Take up skiing, if you haven’t already, and you’ll adore the little bugger; much, much better than the WRX for that – and keep the tire pressures 6 pounds higher in front (summer) and 2 pounds higher in front (winter).
    Did I mention that my WRX is just about as fast as my ’67 Corvette and faster than my ’60 Vette. Amazed me, I’ll tell you. I believe your OB is faster than the ’60 Vette. Beyond awesome for a family wagon.
    Be well. Beat your Soobie and know that it loves you the more you do. It’s the no holds barred family car of all time.
    – – – and your writing is excellent. I too am working on a novel-like thingie. Members of my writing group visibly cringe as they read pieces; so, I know I’ve got it just about right.

  4. Several buttons just popped off my blouse and clattered across the floor. Apparently pride is as dangerous as overeating, but I’ll gladly sacrifice a few shirts to the pleasure I get from your blog.

    You are truly your father’s daughter, if much funnier, and he is popping his buttons, too.

    I’m afraid that neither of us will be there when your Outback needs an engine transplant since it is likely to last a lot longer than we will, but we are confident that when the time comes you will do the right thing.

  5. Judy,

    While I also enjoy reading your blog, I feel compelled to disclose that either you drove a Plymouth into the ground, or you never owned a Duster. I guess you could say Chrysler (I mean Plymouth), but while Chevrolet did attempt (infamously) to market a “No va” (Spanish for “doesn’t go”), I’m fairly sure they never had a Duster.

    Your CWA,

  6. Funny, my husband and I just went through this a couple of weeks ago. We were pretty much set on an Outback, until we saw the 2011. And yes, it’s an SUV (sorry). We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it, and are instead looking at the VW Jetta wagon. It’s too bad, because we really wanted the Outback, just not that one. The older, used Outbacks would be fine with us, except the price isn’t enough lower to justify getting used. Sigh. I hope you enjoy yours.

  7. Sorry, a Subaru isn’t a station wagon. A wagon has got to be big, low, and guzzle gas. Needs a trailer hitch and can NOT be driven off of paved roads without plowing up all sorts of tree roots and gopher mounds. Sorry.

    Want to see wagons? Go to http://longroofgransport.wordpress.com/

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