Proper Gearbox Wagon Rundown 2012

29Mar12

It’s been a while since I last had a look at who offers a manual transmission wagon.  I used MSN Autos since it has a fairly easy interface to perform this check with, and just ran down the list of whatever they called a wagon, and have provided ample commentary.  So here are the wagons of model year 2012 and whether they offer a manual transmission:

  • Acura TSX Sport WagonNo, and it’s a shame since this car is the acclaimed Euro Accord (we get a watered down US-only car badged as an Accord here).  The sedan was long available with both a manual and the sporty Type-S trim, and anticipation was high that Honda would bring the wagon, and give it the same features as the sedan.  Instead, Honda announced that we’d be getting another US-only “wagon,” the Crosstour.  Public outcry on Honda’s Facebook wall followed and the TSX Sport Wagon was born (Honda claims this decision was not motivated by the Facebook debacle).  Alas, only 2 pedals and no sporty bits.
  • Audi A4 AvantNo, and I can only call the lack of a proper gearbox in the Avant a travesty.  Further, the S4 Avant was dropped entirely due to low sales of the B7.  A new A4-based allroad is slated for 2013, but I highly doubt there’ll be a manual in it when it reaches our shores.
  • Audi A6 AvantNo, and the A6 is an especially frustrating case.  The last time you could get an A6 Avant with a stick was in the allroad which sold until 2005.  It came with the cackle-inducing 2.7L twin turbo motor out of the S4 but was saddled with a goofy jacked up suspension and plastic lower body.  This was during the period when automakers were trying to make wagons more appealing to SUV buyers, but it was frustrating for wagon people since it ruined all the good properties of wagons and the higher end features weren’t available on the ones with normal suspensions.  Nowadays the allroads aren’t worth much thanks to maintenance costs, and swapping the suspension for standard or lowered height is common.
  • BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon – Yes.  Ahh, we’ll always have BMW to deliver driving satisfaction, right?  Well, maybe.  In an odd turn of events, the last two generations of M5 have only been available with the automatically controlled SMG (previous generation) and dual-clutch transmission (current generation) except in the US market, where buyers demanded a proper manual.  So BMW wants to go that way, and since I rarely see any of their wagons driven by non-moms, I suspect there would not be much pushback if they ultimately dropped a pedal, unlike the pushback they got from M5 buyers. Also worth noting, the twin turbo 3.0L motor available in the coupe, convertible, and sedan 335i (I think you accidentally a 5, BMW) is not available to us wagon-loving cretins.
  • BMW 5 Series Gran TurismoNo, and this is ultimately a result of the demise (in the US market only, of course!) of the real 5 Series wagon (which had a manual) since this car is almost a 7 Series (in which an automatic is almost justifiable).  Fastback wagons seem to be the next move in automakers’ attempts to sexify the wagon, and it’s arguably better than the last move, the pretend-SUV wagon.  They’ve got regular road suspensions and yeah, some of the fastbacks look nice but it’s at the expense of rear headroom and cargo space, and at least with the allroad you can just swap on a normal suspension and have a nearly normal A6 Avant.  And while I’m here, I’ll add that the abuse of BMW’s naming scheme has been turned to 11 with the 5 GT.  The 535i is the same old misnaming of the twin turbo 3.0L with which we’ve become familiar.  The 550i is a twin turbo 4.4L V8 and thus an insult to the 5.0L V12 of 850 yore.  I wish they’d just switch to something else rather than further twist the knife.
  • Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon – Not really, except on the CTS-V.  Major kudos to GM for selling the CTS-V wagon, BTW, and I am tempted by the idea of picking one up once they’re cheap (if only they weren’t so hideous).  I suspect GM (like Audi and BMW) will eventually discover Americans won’t drop that much money on a wagon when they’re mostly buying performance cars for their egos and would prefer much flashier and manlier M3s and RS5s.  Anyone have sales numbers on the CTS-V wagon?
  • Chevy HHRYes, and on all trim levels!  Of course, this is only insofar as the HHR can be considered a wagon, and that also insofar as anyone would ever want to buy an HHR.  But again, kudos to GM for this.
  • Honda CrosstourNo, and this car is just one big abomination.  Half wagon, half car, half SUV, 200% horrible.  We should’ve had the Accord the rest of the world has, and we should’ve had the Accord Wagon the rest of the world has, and instead we get this.  Well, if Honda desperately wants to rid itself of its rabid following of young drivers who are turning family-aged and instead fight with Toyota over AARP members, that’s their choice.
  • Kia RIO5No.  Really?  Even the Kia doesn’t have a manual?  With all of 110 HP and 107 torques, this thing must be indescribably miserable without a 5 speed (and I say this as a guy who’s had lots of fun driving low powered cars).
  • Mazda MAZDA5Yes, but only on the “Sport” (base model).  Not much to discuss here since this isn’t really a wagon, but it was on the MSN Autos wagon list, so here you go.
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class WagonNo, and for whatever reason this never bothers me, probably because I just don’t care about Mercedes (okay, maybe a little bit about AMG).
  • Mercedes-Benz R-ClassNo.  The minivan for Mercedes buyers who don’t want to admit they’re driving a minivan (and want one that’s not nearly as spacious, to boot).
  • Saab 9-3 SportCombiYes, but is it even possible to buy one right now?  Well, I imagine there’s plenty of unsold stock.  Anyway, I do hope Saab survives (and intact with its essential Saabness), but it’s not looking good.
  • Subaru OutbackSorta, on the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims, but not the 2.5i Limited or any 3.6R trims.  The 2.5XT is dead and the Outback has become a crossover.  The Outback has the most frustrating history of any car on this list.  Subaru started the pretend-SUV car trend back in ’95 by slapping some gray plastic and a couple inches of extra ground clearance on both the Legacy Sedan and Wagon and calling them the Outback.  By their third generation they’d grown in height and also gained an optional turbo, but all 4 models remained.  In 2005, we were given the Legacy GT in both sedan and wagon forms, as well as the Legacy Outback XT in both sedan and wagon, and all 4 were turbocharged to 250 HP and available with a stick.  The very next year, the manual option was removed from the Legacy GT wagon but remained available on the other 3!  The two non-sport trims (Outback) kept it while the sporty wagon trim didn’t, and I have no explanation for why this was done (although these guys probably have some ideas).  For the 2008 MY, Subaru dropped the Outback Sedan (which I thought was odd looking by that point due to the increasing ride height) and the Legacy Wagon, leaving only the Legacy Sedan and Outback Wagon.  SUV lust killed one of the most beloved wagons of all time, and this transition was cemented by the introduction of a much bigger and less Legacy-shaped Outback in 2009.
  • Toyota MatrixSorta, on the 2WD trims.  Let’s move on, shall we?
  • Volkswagen Jetta SportWagenSorta, on the “S” (base) trim and TDI(!).  It’s a bit of a bummer that you can’t have the manual in the higher trims, but you really want the TDI anyway, and its’ a 6-speed.  Americans refused to buy the Jetta sedan when it cost a bit more than others in its class (thanks to a greater number of standard features and significantly nicer interior quality) so for the current generation, VW cheapened it up for the American market.  However, the Sport Wagon and Golf did not get this treatment, they retain all of the interior quality for which VW is known.  If I were in the market for a new car, the JSW TDI is the one I’d have.  My only wish for this car is an AWD option.
  • Volkswagen Passat – No.  Like the Jetta, VW has given up on trying to sell Americans on quality over lowest price and cheapened up the Passat for our market only.  They also killed the wagon (albeit they’d already killed the manual wagon a few years earlier half way through the B6 run).  So despite it being dead, the Passat wagon is on here because I own one, and I just wanted to bitch about its death.  Also, they made a TDI for a few years but it was the only trim in which a manual was not available.  Wha??  If you want a sweet 6-speed sleeper wagon and don’t mind wrenching, go back and pick yourself up a Passat W8.
  • Volvo V50No, and what a shame.  A few years ago you could have a mini-V70R in the V50 T5 AWD.  It was even a 6-speed.  Now the 3rd pedal and even the extra driveshafts are history.
  • Volvo XC70No.  The V70 was a great car, and sadly it too became victim to the pretend-SUV craze.  The V70 (and its badass variant, the V70R) are dead, replaced by the plastic-and-lift-kit XC70.  Volvo signaled an exit from the world of quirky performance variants a few years back.

I noticed some cars were missing from the MSN Autos wagon list, so here they are.  Some could be considered hatchbacks and I certainly did not list all 4-door hatchbacks currently on the market, but I felt there were some worth mentioning:

  • Audi A3Not really, only on the 2WD gassers.  What’s the point of Audi without quattro?  And I’m glad there’s a diesel A3, but the lack of 3rd pedal in a diesel is inexcusable.  It could maybe be acceptable if it had a DSG, but it’s just a lowly, lossy, inefficient auto.  Come on Audi, even the Jetta SportWagen TDI is stick or DSG.
  • Ford FocusSorta, but SE (base hatch trim) only.  The Focus has come a long way and I would happily be seen in one, but Ford has taken the “manuals are for economy cars” approach here to ensure I won’t buy one.  The hatch profile is too slanty to call it a wagon, but the other 4 door hatches in the compact class are on this list, so I felt it’d be unfair to exclude it.
  • Hyundai Elantra TouringYes, on both trims.  Hyundai has done some interesting things lately, but the Elantra Touring is not one of those things.  But I shall give credit where credit is due.
  • Mazda MAZDA3 – Yes.  A family member of mine has a 6-speed Grand Touring and it (like all Mazdas) is a joy to drive.  The list of features on the GT is impressive, especially considering the price they sell for.  It’s a shame about the styling, though.
  • Mitsubishi Lancer SportbackNo, and the auto is a CVT. D=
  • Subaru Impreza SportSorta, “Premium” trim only.  You like shifting your own gears?  Well, I hope you don’t like leather.  City mileage is 2 MPG worse than the auto and highway is 3 MPG worse.  The explanation is likely the CVT which… yeah, CVT. D=
  • Subaru Impreza WRXYes, and automatic is not even an option!  It’s the WRX, need I say more?  Oh, apparently you can’t get leather in the hatch STI, only in the sedan.  I think I like what that says about people who prefer the STI sedan. ;D
  • Suzuki SX4Sorta, lower trims only.  Interesting “economy” mentality since it’s a 6-speed.
  • Volkswagen GolfSorta, TDI and .:R only, not on the 4 door gassers.

Did I miss anything or get anything wrong?  Leave a comment!

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