Not Your Granddad's Ride: The Case for Station Wagons

A new crop of sleek, stylish wagons are defying old stereotypes to the extent that the category now needs a new name: We suggest calling them shooting brakes.

Jim Fets Photography / Audi
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Here’s a little secret: Every journalist who writes about cars loves station wagons. Sure, much of America has embraced the SUV for its cargo carrying capability and the high ride that makes drivers feel like they are above the flow of traffic, but when it comes to combining speed, handling, gear hauling, and sheer driving fun, a wagon can’t be beat. Car makers must think so, too: Suddenly companies like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Ferrari, and Volkswagen are introducing sporty new models, dramatically expanding what had been a small universe of vehicles. Next year, Jaguar will offer a XF Sportbrake model although no details are available at present. There also are hints that Porsche may add a Sport Turismo wagon to its Panamera lineup in 2018. And that's to say nothing of the vehicles already in existence, like the A4 Allroad, which are now getting significant upgrades.

As a category, wagons suffer from an image problem left over from your grandfather’s days when they were slow, ponderous cars outfitted with wood paneling on the sides, effectively cementing their links to suburbia. But take one look at the new Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, equipped with a V-12 engine that screams to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds, and you have to rethink your assumptions. It may help that the Italians call this model a “shooting brake,” a term technically used to describe a wagon with just two doors, derived from the days when custom-built luxury vehicles were used to transport European hunting parties and their gear. But it’s a term that’s gaining traction for describing today’s wagons, too, which are characterized by their sporty exterior design, luxurious interiors, and all-wheel-drive, which allows them to compete with the off-pavement capabilities of SUVs. Who knows, maybe the name will cross the Atlantic. But what is clear is that these new models defy the old stereotypes. Here’s a look at a few of our new favorites.