Cadillac CTS Wagon
Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Toyota already has the Swagger Wagon, and I suppose Cadillac now has THE Sport Wagon, which I guess leaves things clear for the Buick Enclave to become the Smooth Wagon. And while I can't take credit for that last nickname'”brought to my attention by Krome on Cars reader Rena'”I'm thinking it says a lot about another factor that's certainly driving Enclave buyers, as well as purchasers of any of the bigger crossovers: The need to replace ye olde station wagon proper.
(Note: The actual impetus for today's ramblings comes from the fact that Buick will be dropping off a new Enclave, complete with a full tank of gas, at the Krome testing facility later today. And lest anyone worry about my getting too Buick-happy, rest assured my next tester will be a Suzuki Kizashi.)
Where Are the Wagons?
I'll tell you where they aren't: They're not in the lineups of a single one of the mainstream auto brands. Despite its GM origins, the Cadillac CTS Wagon is no traditional people hauler. The international Honda Accord wagon morphed into the Acura TSX Sport Wagon for U.S. buyers, and the Accord Crosstour is no Country Squire. A Hyundai Sonata station wagon is expected to debut at March's Geneva Motor Show and could end up coming our way, but I'm sure at least part of the reason Hyundai would do that would be to play up its rep for running counter to the mainstream.
For the most part, if you want a true station wagon in the U.S. nowadays, you forget about Detroit and make for the Deutschlanders. VW offers the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, and with an MSRP of $19,825, that just may be the least-expensive wagon choice on the market. (There may be a few current Volkswagen Passat wagons lurking at dealerships, but both that model, and the Passat sedan, have disappeared from the automaker's website as production of the all-new 2012 version gears up.) And BMW, Mercedes and Audi, of course, all offer station wagons, although they're a bit pricey'”the same thing that can be said about choices even further off the beaten track, like the Volvo V50 or Saab 9-3 Sport Combi. Both of these cars start around $30,000, which doesn't seem that steep until you remember we're talking about a compact and a mid-sizer, respectively.
I mean, to find a seat in a 9-3 Sport Combi Aero model, the price of admission begins at more than $37,020. For that kind of cash, you can get more of almost everything in a vehicle like ... the Buick Enclave.
No Need For Speed
Of course, for someone who enjoys any amount of performance driving, cars like the Sport Combi Aero or the $36,200 BMW 3 Series wagon are obviously going to deliver more of that than an Enclave, and provide better fuel efficiency to boot. (Although I will point out that the Enclave's 0-60 time of about 8.6 seconds exactly matches that time it takes the Saab to make the same run.)
But if we're talking about more wagon-esque specs, those smaller models are equally obviously no match for the seven-passenger, 202-inch-long Enclave, which opens at $35,615. Also, the BMW can hold a surprisingly robust 60 cubic feet of cargo with its rear seats folded flat; the Enclave fits in 67.5 cubic feet of stuff with its second-row up and a full 115.3 cubic feet with both second- and third-row seating folded flat.
At the same time, the Enclave is going to compare nicely to those premium station wagons in terms of comfort and convenience features, as well as fit and finish.
Buick vs. BMW, Really?
Okay, you're probably thinking, but would anybody ever really cross-shop the Enclave and a 3 Series wagon? Wouldn't a BMW X5 be a better comparo? Perhaps, but only if you can swallow the X5's MSRP, which is some 10 grand above the Enclave's.
The fact is, if you're looking for a near-premium full-size station wagon alternative that can come in under $40,000'”the Ford Flex Titanium starts at $40,454'”it's hard to find a better choice than the Enclave. It also may be hard to find any other choice than the Enclave, but that's the state of the industry.