I love wagons. One of my earliest car-related memories involves riding in the back of my friend's parents' station wagon. We entered through the rear hatch and plopped down on backward-facing seats. An ignorant kid, I viewed the wagon as a utility vehicle — until my buddy's dad stepped on the gas. The V8 roared, the tires squealed in protest, and our bodies were thrown to the cargo floor, laughing. (Safety wasn't huge in the 70s.) From that moment on, I was hooked.
The wagon gets a bad rap in North America. The name conjures images of large expanses of fake wood paneling, aerodynamics like a stack of Lego blocks, and all the driving charisma of a mid-90s minivan running on three cylinders and bad gas. But with the right engine under the hood, an instant cult classic is born — the Volvo wagon being the pinnacle of the form. The fast wagon is a combination of all-out lunacy up front with a mature, sophisticated rear end. It's the opposite of a mullet. It's the El Camino that grew up and went to business school.
While the vehicle that initiated me was powered by a 460ci V8 Ford engine, other speed wagon icons have been turbo fours, like Volvo's legendary 200 Series from way back in the day. During the wonderful '90s, the 850 proved a wagon could be versatile and pretty. The later V70 upped the sophistication and power. The wildly popular performance versions, the 850 R and V70 T5-R, are all over YouTube with high-speed high jinks. While an inline five-cylinder with a high pressure turbo and all-wheel drive make for a fun wagon, the particular motive layout doesn't matter nearly as much as the ability to provide the ultimate joyride.
The turn of the millennium brought a number of great wagons to market, and while they had their fans, many have disappeared. The Dodge Magnum SRT8, a burly but useful driver's car, was discontinued in 2008. And even though I remember exactly where I was in 2003 when I saw the commercial for the (then) new E55 AMG, it'd meet its end come 2009. But Volvo, known for its dedication to sport wagons, is giving wagon lovers something to look forward to in 2015: the V60 Polestar. What does it have? A power boost of 345 horsepower that doesn't sacrifice fuel economy, emissions, and crash-test ratings. The V60 bests the AWD R-Design model it was based on engine-wise, while meeting the same safety standards.
There's a lot more to love about sport wagons than powerful engines, though. Like the looks. Up front is a chiseled, muscular design that makes you think it has the 500 Hp V8 from the Polestar Concept. The profile is also impressive — the windows run the full length of the rear, with a sweet arc curved into the small, rear C pillar. Out back is the distinctive wagon roofline, just a slight gradual arc, then one of Volvo's best rear ends ever. Massive S60-inspired tail lights reach up the sides of the hatch that reminds one of the handsome and unique C30. Large exhaust tips finish the rear for a touch of sport.
And who could leave out that roof? Its length helps create some visual trickery that's especially noticeable when a wagon is lowered. It creates a lot of utility, too. It'll carry your family and all their baggage (literally and figuratively). This is a full-on sport sedan that can haul, in both senses of the word. Take your foot off the floor for a minute, and you'll see wagons are cars you can live with every day.
When you approach a sports wagon from the rear, the potential is apparent. It's not a car you simply slog to work in. It's a car you create memories in. A decade from now, when you look through your Facebook timeline (or whatever has replaced it), this is the car that will have a place in every memorable event. The surf-boarding vacation, the last minute wedding supplies run, the track day at Laguna Seca, the one-night reunion gig with your defunct garage band. The sport wagon supports all the brilliant moments in your life — and that's certainly worth celebrating.
That's why I love wagons. Why do you? What do you tell the SUV and sedan snobs in your life when they don't recognize the magic of the fast wagon? Let me know in the comments.
Andy Jensen is a freelance automotive writer, when he's not being a social worker 40+ hours a week. He enjoys third generation f-bodies, '80s econoboxes, and other terrible cars.