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  • October 25, 2014

Not Your Mom's Station Wagons - Ladue News: Arts & Entertainment

Not Your Mom's Station Wagons

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Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 9:09 am | Updated: 11:47 am, Thu Feb 23, 2012.

No longer the old family truckster of years past, today’s station wagon (or sport wagon) is a great alternative for families or active individuals looking to haul kids, cargo or any combination thereof. Sport wagons offer all the cargoand people-carrying capacity of an SUV, but with better mileage and handling—and usually a lower relative price.

Because they make more on SUVs, most automakers have abandoned the sport wagon market, but Acura recently bucked the trend by introducing the TSX Sport Wagon, and I’m glad they did. To start with, the TSX Sport Wagon is a good-looking vehicle, adding a nicely sloped rear cargo area attached to the sporty TSX sedan body.

The interior is not too over-the-top, including nice features, such as heated power seats with memory, dual automatic climate control, rearview camera, available GPS, power moonroof, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a powerful sound system, available power lift gate, and a large cargo area with tonneau cover that can be expanded by folding  the rear seat. The slope of the rear liftgate does impede slightly on the height of cargo that can be carried. Rear seat room is a bit tight, though those in back do get their own air vents.

The TSX Sport Wagon is powered by a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 201  horsepower to the front wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage is a class-leading 22 city, 30 highway. Power is plentiful if not overwhelming, but more than adequate for most drivers. Handling is great. You forget you’re driving a wagon until you look in the rear-view mirror. A typically athletic Acura suspension for good handling combines with good brakes, responsive steering and steering wheel paddle  shifters to provide a fun-to-drive vehicle, thanks in large part to the lower center of gravity offered by a wagon compared to a higher riding SUV or crossover. The sport mode ratches up the fun by tightening the suspension and increasing shift points for faster acceleration, making the TSX quite sporty.

According to Frank Leta Acura general sales  manager Allen Masengill, “The TSX Sport Wagon’s body lines are  fantastic. Acura made a versatile wagon without losing the TSX sedan’s sporty look and feel.” Prices for the TSX Sport Wagon start about  $32,000; add about $3,700 for the technology package, which includes navigation, a fancy sound system, bluetooth, a power tailgate and voice recognition system.

Another great wagon alternative is the Audi A4 Avant. Offering the style and performance of the A4 sedan with the added bonus of expanded cargo-carrying capacity makes for a very attractive vehicle for those who enjoy driving but need to haul a lot of stuff.

Inside, the A4 enjoys the lauded Audi interior that’s tops in design and finish. Heated power leather seats with two memory positions are moderately bolstered and very comfortable. Combined with dual automatic climate control and a large opening moon roof, year-round comfort is assured. A screen in the middle of the dash displays a  number of functions but is controlled by a remote joystick on the console between the seats. It’s not as intuitive as a touch-screen, but hard buttons around the joystick make navigating the through the system a bit easier. The nice leather-wrapped steering wheel has radio controls on it so you don’t have to take your hands off the wheel. The rear seat is surprisingly roomy with air vents and controls. The generous cargo area is accessed through a power liftgate and the rear seats can be folded, though the slope of the rear hatch can limit the height of objects that can be carried. A rear-view camera greatly assists reversing, and a sensor beeps as you approach an object.

The A4 uses the fabulous Audi 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 211 horsepower mated to an 8-speed automatic that drives all four wheels. Gas mileage is 21 city, 29 highway. Stability and traction control kick in if your driving ability ends before the road does. Turbo lag is pretty much non-existent, and power is plentiful throughout the rev band. The steering and suspension feel nice and tight with good road feel, which combined with excellent handling and good brakes, makes for a really fun driving experience. Kevin Rodermund, sales manager at Plaza Audi, extols the virtues of the A4 Avant by saying, “It has room, space and fuel economy. It’s a good all-around vehicle for families and active people.”

Prices for the A4 Avant start at about $36,400 and can reach the low $50,000s if you want all the options.

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