Sedans Are Now Cooler Than Wagons

Pmw1 Sedan

I am a wagon guy. Two of my last three project cars were Volvo 240 longroofs. PR people know, instinctively, to send me wagons because wagons make me happy. They still make me happy, but I’ve been in the car business for a while and one truth is clear to me: Sedans are now cooler than wagons.

(This is a new, recurring feature we’re trying out called “PROVE ME WRONG” where we take our hottest genuine take and try it out for you, our adoring fans. We want you to prove us wrong, even though we are almost certainly right. While some takes exist to shut down arguments, we want this to be a way of encouraging thoughtful conversation around issues and ideas car enthusiasts are facing.)

This thought has lingered for a while and what better place to air it than here, amidst the wonderful and attractive community of Autopians, none of whom, I’m sure, are sharpening ginsu knives or gassing up chainsaws as they seethe in rage at the very hint that wagons aren’t the coolest thing since Miles Davis or wetting your drawers.

Here’s the problem with loving station wagons: Station wagons won. Station wagons are to car culture what Dookie was to popular music. One day you’re counter-culture and then the next day you are culture and everyone in your suburban Nashville junior high is dressing like they just walked out of 924 Gilman.

It is not special to be pro-wagon when, actually, we get some pretty nice wagons. Subaru Outbacks are outrageously popular cars for parents. Mercedes will give you an E-Class wagon, albeit in all-terrain form. Most impressively, we got the Audi RS6 Avant we’ve always begged for. Not only that, we got a sweet commercial to go with it:

[Editor’s Note: That’s almost seven minutes! That’s not a commercial, it’s a student film. – JT]

This is natural. This is ok. But what’s going to fill the void? Sedans, of course.

Follow my logic here: The family car of the ’60s and ’70s was the station wagon which meant, for a certain generation of person (Gen X, largely) the station wagon was démodé. This is why the minivan was a necessity for ’80s and early ’90s parents who viewed it as a way to be hipper than their own progenitors. But if you were a car geek? Wagons became forbidden fruit. Something you’d read about in car magazines or see pictures of on the nascent automotive internet.

Stationwagontake
Ford wagons brochure via Ford Heritage

Now those people are old enough, have earned enough, and are frankly bored enough to start buying all the wagons they didn’t get. Don’t believe me? Just look how many Audi RS2 Avants have been imported and sold on Bring-A-Trailer.

SUVs quickly replaced minivans and just never went away, though they’ve slowly started to morph back into station wagons. But sedans? Sedans, we were told, are dying. Hell, Ford is going to outright stop making them in the United States.

And yet, there are two good reasons why sedans are both the future of general consumer cars and enthusiast cars.

Lucidsapphire
Lucid Air via Lucid

On the general consumer front, the simple aerodynamic advantage of a sedan makes it the go-to shape for electric vehicles. For a lot of people the Tesla Model S is the coolest car on the planet and it’s hard to argue with them. [Editor’s Note: For many reasons. – JT] It looks good. It can outperform most sports cars in quantifiable if not qualitative ways. It is luxurious without being ostentatious. Joining the Model S are the Lucid Air, Mercedes EQS, and hilariously named Genesis Electrified G80.

The lack of the engine in an EV also means you can add a frunk, which brings back some of the utility that sedans of yore lacked.

On the enthusiast front, it is the fact that they are not popular that will make them popular in the future. It’s a trend as old as trends itself. Citizen Kane was a commercial flop when it debuted and was largely forgotten before being hailed as one of the greatest movies all time. Vincent Van Gogh died penniless. The mere reality that you think sedans are not cool will make them cool. Just you wait.

2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0t
Honda Accord Sport via Honda

Plus, sedans now are exceptionally good. Both the recent Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are excellent vehicles (someone even brought a new Camry to our Autopian reader meetup!). In 15 years a manual 2019 Honda Accord Sport FWD will be something enthusiasts get excited about.

This is what I believe. Do you disagree? In the immortal words of Seymour Skinner: “Prove me wrong, kids, prove me wrong.”

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93 Responses

  1. Counterpoints:

    1) The Tesla Model S is a liftback, as is the Prius, as was the Insight, and as are most other aero-focused Kammback designs. I think it’s a very useful shape especially with a liftback and folding second rows.
    2) Most of the people I know who strongly prefer sedans want it for the weatherproof locking trunk. As EVs proliferate the weatherproof secure storage desire will be taken up by the frunk.

    The kernel of truth is that as 2-box designs become the mainstream, there is some emotional want related to a 3-box-like profile. And indeed, the classic 3-box profile is now being sold as a premium product (e.g. id.5, Cayenne Coupe, GLE Coupe, Model S). The catch is that none of those are “sedans”.

    I would hope that the world does not lust after abominations such as the new Crown (for USA).

  2. So here’s my thing, would I want a Cadillac CTS-V wagon over the STS-V sedan? No, I actually would not. The STS-V is more the sleeper that I lean toward. But I’m not sure that makes the sedan cooler.

    There’s the cool that is associated with being unusual or rare which wagon are these days mostly. But there’s also the cool of knowing who you are and what you are for and sedans fall in that category. Most true wagons (and it’s hard for me to count Subaru’s as true wagons now) aren’t really about what they used to be which was hauling a lot of people and their things comfortably. Now I kind of feel like what wagons that are out there are trying too hard which as we know is inherently uncool.

  3. “On the enthusiast front, it is the fact that they are not popular that will make them popular in the future. It’s a trend as old as trends itself.”

    This is probably correct.

    “For a lot of people the Tesla Model S is the coolest car on the planet and it’s hard to argue with them. [Editor’s Note: For many reasons. – JT]”

    This is hilarious.

  4. Your uncle has passed. He’s left two cars and instructions that you and your sibling each get one. They’re the same as can be, but one sedan and one wagon. They are cars that exist. I. E. RS6 Avant vs. RS7 sedan, AMG E63 sedan vs. wagon, Panamera vs Panamera Sport Turismo, Regal vs. TourX, 05 legacy 2.5gt (5mt) sedan vs. wagon, 97 Accord sedan vs. wagon… Your sibling says “You’re the car nut, pick.”
    If you picked the sedan, that’s ok; personal preference is valid, YMMV. You know the wagon was cooler though.

    Conflating CUVs with wagons to make sedans seem cool is lazy and dishonest.

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