Volkswagen knows wagon fans well; we’ve been selling wagons in America since 1966. But customers are speaking clearly about their preferences—it’s an SUV world now—and the 2019 model year will mark the end of Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and SportWagen production for the United States.
“As we say goodbye to the Golf wagons, our legacy of ‘long roofs’ is something worth celebrating,” says Megan Closset, Product Manager for the Golf Family at Volkswagen of America. “From the air-cooled Squareback to the midsize Quantum and Passat wagons to today’s SportWagen and Alltrack models, every VW wagon has offered something different and something that stands out from the crowd.”
In the era of the original Microbus, Volkswagen of America positioned its popular people hauler as a competitor to the huge, domestic station wagons of the 1960s. The first true wagon as we know them today arrived with the introduction of the Type 3 in America in 1966, which was sold as a “Squareback sedan,” using the same air-cooled, rear-mounted engine with rear-wheel-drive layout as the Beetle. Although small by American standards, the Squareback offered cargo room both behind passengers and under the front hood.
The Type 3 Squareback was followed up by the Type 412 wagon in 1971. While it also used the basic Beetle layout, the 412 offered a more advanced suspension and unibody chassis. Heralded as a break with the classic “Think Small” approach of the Beetle, the Type 412 was sold through 1974.
That year, Volkswagen replaced the 412 with the first generation of its modern midsize sedan and wagon, sold as the Dasher here in America and the Passat elsewhere in the world. Fully embracing the modern water-cooled, front-engine vehicle layout, the Dasher offered a clean design from Giorgio Giugiaro, ample space for its size, and compelling fuel economy in an era of oil embargoes. While its 75 hp seems low by modern standards, the lightweight Dasher (2,100 lbs.) gave it performance that was competitive for its time and price.
The second-generation of the Passat was renamed Quantum when it arrived in the United States in 1981 as a 1982 model. The Quantum wagon variant was a more upscale vehicle than its predecessors, available with an optional 100-hp five-cylinder engine, and advertised as “the roomiest, most elegant Volkswagen ever.” It also was the first Volkswagen wagon to offer Syncro all-wheel drive, from 1986 through 1988.
In 1987, Volkswagen saw an opening for a more budget-priced wagon, offering a two-door variant of the Fox subcompact. One of the last “shooting brake” style cars sold in America – the name for body styles that combine two-door profiles with wagon-like cargo areas – the Fox wagon was rare in its time and even more so today.
The third generation of the Passat wagon arrived in 1990, keeping with the trend of the previous generations by being one of the largest Volkswagen sold to date. Available as a sedan or wagon, the new-to-America Passat name arrived with a sharp change in Volkswagen design, featuring a smooth, grill-free nose and aerodynamic-tuned profile. Building on the Volkswagen reputation for affordable European engineering, the Passat offered a controlled ride, upscale materials, and new touches like one-touch power windows.
When the all-new Passat arrived in America in 1998, the wagon variant quickly became a favorite among Volkswagen fans, with a variety of available engine choices and optional all-wheel-drive. The range eventually grew to include one of the most unique wagons ever sold in America, the Passat W8, powered by a 270-hp, 4-liter W8 engine paired with all-wheel-drive and an optional six-speed manual transmission. At nearly $40,000, it remains one of the rarest and most expensive Volkswagen wagon sold on these shores.
Recognizing the customer demand for a compact wagon, Volkswagen unveiled a wagon version of the Jetta at the 2001 Los Angeles Auto Show that went on sale in March that year. Much like the popular Jetta, the wagon offered similar performance and handling with even more space, and quickly proved popular. In 2002, between the new Jetta and Passat, U.S. sales of VW wagons hit a peak of 34,396.
The Passat wagon was redesigned again in 2005, and sold through 2010 in the United States. The Jetta wagon’s redesign in 2008 to add a new chrome grille, greater interior space and an independent rear suspension made it one of the most popular wagon model Volkswagen has ever sold in the United States.
For 2015, the Jetta wagon was replaced by the modern Golf SportWagen, built off the dynamic MQB chassis, offering improved handling, space and fuel efficiency. Two years later, the Golf Alltrack arrived for wagon fans looking for a more rugged, all-wheel-drive variant.
Volkswagen plans to extend production of the popular Alltrack for the United States through December 2019 to ensure that everyone who wants to experience an affordable, European-designed wagon has the opportunity to do so.
In the coming years, an expanded lineup of SUVs and the future ID. electric vehicle family can bring the opportunity to combine style and space in a variety of ways. As the ID. BUZZ Concept shows, the flexibility of future EV chassis means that there’s always a chance for a favorite body style to make an electric comeback.
Concept vehicles are not available for sale. Specifications may change. Fuel economy will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition. See www.fueleconomy.gov for details.