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Jetta Sportwagen Expanding VW's Footprint

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Volkswagen hopes to rekindle a little small-wagon love with the launch of the new Sportwagen, which pops onto shoppers' radar in July of this year.

At the press introduction in Washington, D.C., this week, VW execs said that the European flair and compact-car appeal of the new Jetta-derived wagon would give it traction in the marketplace, as consumers shift into smaller crossovers and wagons.

Today's wagon market in the U.S. is nothing like it was in the 1950s -- in 1957, VW says, about 15 percent of all car sales in America were wagons. Nowadays the niche totals about 300,000 units a year, with European automakers taking the big share and the Japanese and Korean car companies making up the difference.

Volkswagen's been a stalwart in the category, selling 700,000 wagons in the U.S. in its brand lifetime, including the Microbus. And while wagons like the Quantum and Fox don't fare so well in the light of history, VW's recent Jetta and Passat wagons have been strong sellers -- even in the secondhand market, VW COO Mark Barnes pointed out during a presentation for the new wagon.

Among the new features for the latest generation of Jetta wagon, the Sportwagen offers either a 2.5-liter in-line five with a five-speed manual or automatic, or a turbo four with 200 hp and either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic. The diesel engine TDI will arrive at the end of the summer with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, minus the paddle shifters found in other cars with the transmission. A huge panoramic sunroof is an option, as is Sirius satellite radio and a navigation system. Pricing will range from about $19,000 to $26,000, depending on the trim level.

Until it arrives, you'll have to content yourselves with this Passat Wagon commercial -- maybe it'll keep you from hitting the horn in traffic.

 
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