Wagons at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show

All the rage in Europe, wagons lost their luster in the U.S. about the time Chevy Chase was starring in National Lampoon’s "Vacation." With faux-wood paneling and ponderous road manners, America’s wagons of the Seventies and Eighties killed demand for the useful bodystyle for generations to come.

Today’s wagons are nothing like the meandering road kings of the past. Vehicles like the small Audi A3, compact Mazda 3 wagon, midsize Subaru Outback and large Ford Flex are practical and comfortable vehicles that drive like similar-sized sedans.

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Most wagons are powered by four-cylinder or V6 engines. A couple have turbo V6s or V8 engines. Front-wheel drive is the norm, as the layout helps increase cargo area, but a few offer all-wheel drive as well.

Some people might confuse a wagon with a crossover-utility vehicle. The main difference is a crossover has a higher ride height than a sedan. So a vehicle like a Subaru Outback, which is basically a Legacy sedan with an expanded cargo area, should be considered a wagon. The Subaru Forester, on the other hand, has a taller build, more ground clearance and a more upright stance, so it’s a crossover. Though in most cases it’s not the difference between apples and oranges, it’s the difference between McIntosh and Granny Smith.

Wagons come in all sizes and prices. Some of the small ones are direct imports from Europe, while the larger ones are built exclusively for the American market. Either way, whatever your need there’s a wagon for you. You can find the following wagons on display at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show or at the Vehicles on Display section of the auto show Web site.