One of the underrated sources of car information is Consumer Guide (not to be confused with Consumer Reports), which has published many books about cars.
Consumer Guide has a website, Daily Drive, that is an entertaining read from time to time. (Nothing is always an entertaining read, except this blog, of course.)
Daily Drive recently brought out “5 Wagons You’ve Completely Forgotten.” And they’re mostly right:
2005-2008 Jaguar X-Type Sportwagon
Mistakes were made—the largest of which was thinking that Americans (or anyone, anywhere, really) was looking for an underpowered compact Jaguar. The X-Type was launched in the U.S. for the 2002 model year, but the Sportwagon didn’t arrive until 2005. … Because the Mondeo’s front-drive arrangement was unacceptable in a Jaguar, an AWD system was fitted to X-Types instead. Sales of the sedan and wagon came to a halt during the 2008 model year.
1985-1988 Nissan Maxima
The year 1985 was pretty important in Maxima land. First, the car was now a Nissan, not a Datsun. Secondly, the car was redesigned. As a Nissan, the Maxima wagon would get a four-year run. Power came strictly from a spunky 3.0-liter V6. Rare but cool, a few manual-transmission Maxiwags should be floating around out there.
1993-1996 Mitsubishi Diamante
Like the Maxima, the Diamante was a sort of near-luxury car, marketed in a niche about a half-notch above mainstream midsize offerings. And like the Maxima, Diamante could, for four brief years, be had in wagon trim. But, while Diamante sedans were sourced from Japan, U.S. wagon shoppers were treated to the rare Australian import. As it turns out, the wagon wasn’t really a Diamante at all, but a reskinned Aussie-designed Mitsubishi Magna. Still, it was properly trimmed for the U.S. market and looked the part, and by all accounts it was a pretty slick ride.
It’s too bad the Maxima wagon didn’t survive the next generation of the Maxima, because the 1989 redesign breathed some life under the hood accompanied by a much better looking exterior. Nissan started calling it the 4-Door Sports Car (with a 4DSC sticker on it), and it was pretty close.
From where, we head to “5 Newly Classic Convertibles.” Two, however, aren’t worth your attention because they’re powered by weak four-cylinders, and the third isn’t really a convertible. Which leaves you with …
Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunbird
These two badge-engineered cars are listed together because they’re quite similar. Both are front-wheel-drive 4-seaters available with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Cavalier could also have a 2.8-liter V6, while the Sunbird was optional with a 2.0-liter turbo. The Pontiac’s sportier trappings make it the more attractive of the two, but both serve the purpose well. …
Back in ragtop form since 1983, the Mustang was updated to be much sportier and more aggressive in 1987. Only two engines were offered: a wheezy 2.3-liter 4-cylinder and a stomping 5.0-liter V8, with the V8 being vastly preferable in this rear-drive car. The convertible was offered in LX and GT form, the latter being the sportier version, which came standard with the V8.
I can’t personally attest to the Sunbird convertible, but we did own a Sunbird coupe with a seriously underrated V-6 and five-speed. GM stuck the 3.1-liter in larger cars attached to automatics, with the result being a car that resembled your least favorite canine. In a light car like the Sunbird, though, that was fun. The Sunbirds also had better designed interiors.
The Mustang mostly speaks for itself. It’s interesting that the 1979–1993 versions appear to be looked down upon by collectors. (Though not as much as the Mustang II.) The ’94 and onward Mustangs looked like previous Mustangs, and that can’t be said for the previous generation. However, the third-generation Mustang included a hatchback model, which means you can own a manual-transmission V-8 that handles well but has versatility for hauling stuff when needed.
You may find the next one, shall we say, illogical: “What Would Star Trek Crewmembers Drive,” starting with part 1:
Counselor Deanna Troi
As a Betazoid, Counselor Troi has the ability and predisposition to communicate through nontraditional means. Likely she would, despite its detractors, embrace the MyFord Touch suite of control tools as a step toward more open relations between crew and vessel. Also, given Troi’s willingness to sport the occasional, rather-flattering non-regulation jumpsuit, we can assume a certain appreciation for things subtly on the more expressive side. Because she’ll need rear-seat space for group therapy sessions, I’m putting Troi in a Ford Taurus SHO. The car’s taut lines hint gently at the potential beneath the calm surface, and the over-the-top level of vehicle-to-humanoid communication options are just what the empath ordered.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
The thinking man’s Schwarzenegger, Jean-Luc Picard is both deeply cerebral yet given to fits of controlled visceral indulgence. The Captain is also a practical sort, unlikely to commit long-term to anything so flamboyant as a sports car. He is educated and refined, though, so a certain of amount of craftsmanship and restrained luxury are in order. For Picard, I choose the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon. It is tastefully restrained inside, practical almost to a fault, and absurdly fast—in a dignified sort of way. The AMG Performance Package is a must, because lifting the limited top speed is a must for a guy accustomed to moving a warp speed. Engage.
As for the original series:
Logic dictates that efficiency be a primary decision-driver for the galaxy’s most prosaic first officer/captain/ambassador. Additionally, living long and prospering means doing things in a sustainable, practical manner. When you add to the mix Spock’s love of technology, the Toyota Prius v becomes the logical choice for our Vulcan friend. The practicality of a roomy wagon, the promise of 45-50 mpg in routine driving, and a relatively modest asking price make the v a natural choice for anyone accepted to the Vulcan Science Academy.
Actually, they’re incorrect. We know what Mr. Spock drove, thanks to what Collectible Automobile unearthed:
What? You find a 1964 Buick Riviera illogical?
Finally, there is the craziest vehicle comparison since Car & Driver famously compared a Ferrari GTO to a Pontiac GTO, a 1970 Chevrolet ad:
Some might think a Corvette and a Titan 90 (which no longer exists because GM is out of both the medium-duty and over-the-road truck markets) are in different markets. (Although they both had manual transmissions.)