So I'm driving along the other day, and I get up behind the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLA, which I'm calling the "Glaw" to rhyme with "Draw," or perhaps "Haw," as in: "Haw Haw, you bought a Mercedes-Benz that looks like a wheeled catfish!"
So we're cruising down the street, the Glaw in front, me in back, and we eventually reach a stoplight where we're joined by a Chevrolet Equinox. Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the Equinox, allow me to sum it up for you: this is the least intimidating SUV of all time. Its design is all curves, it has the off-road prowess of a fountain pen, and its primary purpose is hauling around federal government postal inspectors assigned to write a 400-page report on mailbox blueness.
But I'm sitting there, with the Glaw in one lane and the Equinox in the other, and it hits me: the Equinox towers over this thing. On one side, you have the Equinox, favored transportation of elderly travelers who signed up for a "Ford Escape or similar" at the Tulsa airport Hertz. And on the other side, you have this brand-new Mercedes-Benz crossover that's being pitched as a cool new SUV for cool new young people with cool new lifestyles and cool new furniture, the kind of furniture that looks like giants could use it as a sex toy. And yet the Equinox stands over the Benz like LeBron James at a Big Brothers, Big Sisters holiday party.
So I went home and checked the specs, and it turns out that I'm right: the GLA is just 58.8 inches high, compared to 66.3 for the Equinox. That may not seem like much, but consider this: the Equinox is almost 13 percent taller than the GLA – the same percentage difference between a person who's six feet tall and someone who's six-foot-nine.
And that's when it hits me: the GLA is no crossover. The GLA is a station wagon.
Now, for those of you wondering why this matters, allow me to explain: Americans hate station wagons. Americans despise station wagons. In fact, most historians now believe the entire Civil War could've been entirely avoided if only station wagons had existed in the 1860s. What would've happened, historians suggest, is the Union and the Confederate troops would've lined up at the first battle, weapons drawn, ready to fight, eager to kill, and then a Volvo Cross Country would've driven by, inspiring such laughter and mockery and ridicule that the entire slavery issue would've been forgotten, and everyone would've shaken hands and gone inside to carry out 1800s tasks, such as pooping into metal pots.
Knowing this, Mercedes-Benz doesn't market this vehicle as a station wagon. In fact, I headed over to the Mercedes-Benz website to find out exactly what they call this vehicle, and it turns out the name is sports activity tourer. Or possibly touring sports crossover. Or maybe coupe touring sportster. Or crosstouring activity sportsover. OK, fine, I didn't actually go to the Mercedes-Benz website, because then I'd lose the entire afternoon to the G-Wagen configurator. But whatever they call this thing, rest assured that it isn't station wagon.
And yet, the GLA is a station wagon. For proof, I've created made a list of several important items with their overall height, so you can see exactly how they stack up against the 58.8-inch GLA. Here it is:
BMW X5: 68.5 inches
Volvo XC60: 67.4 inches
Lexus RX: 66.7 inches
Acura NSX with a LexMark CS410dtn color printer on the roof: 62.2 inches
Ford Taurus: 60.7 inches
Mercedes-Benz Glaw: 58.8 inches
Hyundai Sonata: 58.1 inches
Toyota Camry: 57.9 inches
400-page report on mailbox blueness: 1.2 inches
Yes, that's right: less than an inch separates the Mercedes-Benz GLA from the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry. It's shorter than the Ford Taurus. And it's in a completely different league than crossovers like the BMW X5, Lexus RX, and Volvo XC60. In other words: Mercedes-Benz has infiltrated the U.S. station wagon market by simply calling their wagon a crossover!!! This is like when you have a toddler, and he hates peas, and he won't eat peas, and he won't look at peas, and you tell him the peas are chocolate, and then suddenly he likes them.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz isn't the only luxury automaker currently selling a secret station wagon. In fact, it isn't even the first. That honor goes to BMW, noted manufacturer of cars that confuse my girlfriend. ("Why is this four doors? I thought you said all the 4-Series were two doors?")
You see, BMW has been building a secret station wagon for several years now. And while it's called the X1, implying that it's sort of a smaller version of other BMW crossovers like the X3 and the X5, the truth is very different. It's a wagon. A station wagon. A family station wagon, just like the wood-sided Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser owned by your grandma, just like the Volvo owned by your mom, just like the Saturn LW200 owned by the creepy guy at the end of the block who was eventually arrested for installing hidden cameras in dressing rooms.
For proof: the X1 is just 60.4 inches high, placing it right in that automotive sweet spot between the Ford Taurus and the Acura NSX wearing a hat made out of computer peripherals. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is wagon territory.
Now, some of you might be thinking: Who cares? We like wagons! We don't mind if BMW and Mercedes are selling more wagons! Wagons are cool! And I tend to agree. But this issue still needs to be brought to the forefront of our minds. This issue is a clear case of automakers blurring the lines between fact and fiction. This issue is an important study on the effects of marketing to the American consumer. Also, this issue has allowed me to say "poop" and "sex toy" in one column.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.