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Wagons – Audi’s odd niche

In the U.S., wagons haven’t been popular since the early 80’s when, if you didn’t own a Ford LTD Country Squire, then you and your family were a bunch of punks. Once the 1980’s and the likes of the Griswold Family Truckster began to move on, wagons in the U.S. found themselves being replaced quickly by SUV’s like the Jeep Cherokee or Wagoneer.

griswolds

However, Europe and much of the rest of the world still found use in wagons for those people who wanted the driving dynamics and size of a sedan with the convenience of a something with a bigger boot. Audi agreed with the rest of the world with the release of it’s B4 platform-based 80 Avant model in the early 1990’s – the precursor to the first A4 platform(B5 platform).

Audi then did one better and essentially built the concept  for it’s then-new wagon-based supercars with the Audi RS2 Avant. The Rs2 produced nearly 315 horsepower and returned a 0 to 60mph time of under 5 seconds – very impressive by 1994 standards and still impressive today, 15 years later.

Audi’s very handsome blend of convenience and practicality coupled with outright performance proved to be a smart and successful package as Audi gave the public the  S4 Avant and later the RS4 Avant on it’s B5 A4 platform. The B5 RS4 Avant again moved the game with a wagon that could deliver Porsche-topping horsepower, nevermind BMW or Mercedes in this segment, coupled with seating for 5 and a dog and luggage in the back.

RS2_Airborne

As the Audi brand began to quickly evolve into a full range of vehicles, Audi began to develop more and more wagons with vehicles like the Audi Allroad  – a wagon-only platform based off of the C5 A6 platform to the standard B6  and B7 A4 Avants to the C5 RS6 Avant – though never sold in the U.S., the sedan versus of the C5 RS6 was a tremendous hit while the Avant enjoyed success abroad.

But what is about Audi wagons, especially the powerhouse wagons, that make them so alluring? Many people don’t like them after all, as the thought is a wagon is traditionally a soccer mom car that no guy would ever want. Well, they’re so beloved probably because of the unparalleled “Q car” factor they carry by design.

B5_RS4

And who would ever expect a wagon to carry a low-yield nuke for an engine? Audi has always excelled at this. Overshadowing BMW’s M Division and AMG Branch of Mercedes with its quattro GmBH, Audi’s understated wagons have made it cool to own a wagon again. Across Europe at any track day, you’d be hard-pressed to not find an Audi RS2 or RS4 wagon carving up Eau Rouge at Spa or Becketts at Silverstone.

And this is where Audi has built one of it’s best niches: Autobahn and track-crushing wagons that have yet to be rivaled in terms of packaging by brands both on their level and well above. Hopefully, those of us stateside will continue to receive these wonderful soccer-mom-on-steroids cars as Audi moves forward in the further development of the niche for which it has become nearly intrinsically linked.