Wagons Ho

We don’t have to tell you that the station wagon gets no respect in North America. Long regarded as a Mommobile -- and an outmoded version at that -- the station wagon is about as cool as teaming a corduroy sport coat with a paisley ascot.

But now, just like that so-bad-it’s-good fashion statement, the station wagon might be getting new life. Witness the New York International Auto Show, which featured several intriguing, and dare we say it, stylish wagon offerings. 

One of the most stylish comes from that bastion of automotive style known as MINI. The new model is called the Countryman, and it takes the familiar MINI look and adds oddities like rear doors and ample passenger space for four or even five adults. What’s spectacular about it is the Countryman doesn’t look like a MINI that has gained weight and started to lose its mojo. Instead, it is arguably the coolest-looking MINI of the lot. Adding significantly to the cool factor is a center rail system that facilitates the easy attachment of cup holders, storage boxes and personal electronics. 

In true station wagon fashion, the Countryman’s rear seats slide fore and aft and fold flat, expanding the 12.2 cubic foot cargo area to a remarkable 41 cubic feet. A normally aspirated 1.6-liter four cylinder engine is offered, but we suggest the turbocharged version with about 180-horsepower offered in the Countryman S. And to add to the utility, there is the optional all-wheel drive system, ALL-4, which can send up to 100 percent of engine power to the rear wheels. Ski weekend, anyone?

Also on the menu of super-trick new wagons offered in New York is the Cadillac CTS-V Sportwagon. Did we say “super-trick” and “Cadillac” in the same sentence? Yes, we did, and advisedly so. When it is time to take some gear to your boat or head up to the mountain cabin, why not do it in a wagon that features a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 developing 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque? While a manual transmission is available, we’d opt for the Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift controls. Inside this well-styled sportster is the hand-stitched leather-and-suede interior that is the meringue on the pie.

Cadillac a little too expensive for you? Then consider the new 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, which also made its world debut in New York. This fine-looking piece shares a great deal with the European market Honda Accord Touring model, which means there’s a lot to like about its handling. Initially the sole power train will be a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing around 200-horsepower, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission and sending its power to the front wheels. Hey, how about an all-wheel-drive version, Acura? We do applaud the standard leather seats, dual-zone climate control and panoramic sunroof, though.

We also applaud the Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon, which to our eyes is significantly cooler than the E-Class sedan. What’s cool about it? For starters, it features a standard retro rear-facing third-row seat just like that Ford Country Squire you might remember from Granny’s. (Remember, so-bad-it’s-good.) The cool vibe is furthered by the 268-horsepower V-6, a seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. To us, this is the perfect weekend escape car, no matter what the weather.

So, go figure: The New York Auto Show has shown quite clearly that the station wagon has swung around to cool. Now I’m going to bust out my madras blazer and the canvas Top-Siders.