Tag Archives: car

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.