The stigma associated with wagons is evaporating. Most SUVs — the form factor's unfortunate replacement — are becoming more wagonlike. Let's just skip a step: Wagons aren't the past, they're the better, sexier future.
I want get this out of the way: Yes, the average wagon offers more utility than the average sedan. This isn't the argument that I'm making. Done. Boring. Everyone knows that.
What doesn't everyone know? This, for starters: With any given vehicle or platform, the wagon variant is almost always the most attractive and fun to drive. A Volvo 240/244 sedan is a nice thing, and a 242 coupe is always fun, but there's a reason why people prize the wagon, and why I don't want to part with mine. Most people don't look twice at a Volvo sedan, but everyone stops and want to talk about the long-ass 245 in my driveway.
If you don't believe me, spend some time in a Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. The CTS four-door is already an entertaining luxury sedan, but in wagon form, it magically transforms into something I'd actually consider buying. In an interesting twist, the CTS wagon is the only Caddy that a self-respecting under-fortysomething could get away with owning. No matter how fast the CTS-V is, there's something about Cadillac sedans that make you feel like you're late for a tee time and unable to urinate properly without medication.
The wagon, on the other hand, is youthful. There's nothing to hide — it's all windows because, when you're young, you want everyone to look at you. It's also the most comely CTS: The coupe screams mid-life crisis, and the sedan loses the sexy beltline. The wagon, on the other hand, is stylish without being ostentatious. And it has that massive, awesome D-pillar.
Oh, that pillar. It not only balances the impact of the CTS's cheese-grater grille, it strikes a masculine note and supports a set of taillights that I'm fairly sure were modeled on He-Man's power sword. It is, in a nutshell, the reason for the CTS wagon's existence. And it is good.
The driving experience? The weight penalty with most wagons is virtually nonexistent; the CTS wagon weighs 12 pounds more than its sedan brother. (Many five-doors actually weigh less than their four-door counterparts.) The same goes for drag — many hatches offer no significant aerodynamic disadvantage compared with their four-door siblings, and some are actually more efficient.
The wagon has two other distinct advantages: visibility and surprise. The visibility portion is obvious — the more windows you have, the easier it is to see out. The surprise comes in when you boot the throttle. Deactivate the CTS's electronic stability control and the car gets sideways quicker than a Jersey Shore cast member. Do this in a sports car and you look like a show off. Do it in a sedan and you look reckless. Do it in a wagon and you look like law-abiding, button-down awesome.
The modern hot wagon movement may mark cars like the Audi RS2 and the BMW M5 as turning points, but it's vehicles like the CTS that bring the concept of fun wagoning back into the consumer consciousness. If you come across the uneducated and they ask you how much your five-door can carry, just smile, put one hand on their shoulder, and inform them that you don't use it to haul gear. You use it to haul ass. Then do a burnout so that they don't notice that your wayback is carrying a metric ton of Ikea boxes. (What can we say? Meatballs are tasty, and sometimes, you just need furniture.)