The world of high-performance wagon enthusiasm is mainly focused on European models. The Mercedes AMG wagons, the Audi S and RS models, the BMW M Tourings. There’s also a Jaguar, a Ferrari, a couple of Porsches. Admittedly, a few outliers exist – like that Cadillac whose taillights are approximately the size of a snowboard, including the rider and the chair lift – but mainly, the fast wagon game is owned by the Europeans.
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Enter the Nissan Stagea 260RS Autech Version, which a fast wagon that is both a) not European, and b) very stupidly named. Ignore the name its manufacturer gave it, and instead think of it like this: a Nissan Skyline GT-R … wagon. Yes, that’s right, the famed Nissan Skyline GT-R – beloved, historically significant, now roughly as valuable as an entire city block in Omaha – once came in wagon form.
Here's how it happened: aside from the GT-R, which was really fast and earned the nickname “Godzilla,” the rest of the Nissan Skyline lineup was just basic, boring family transportation, and maybe it should’ve been nicknamed “Capybara.” This lineup included a station wagon model, called the Stagea, which was merely a longer Capybara – until someone from Autech had an idea: why not put the GT-R engine in the wagon model? (Autech, for those wondering, is Nissan’s in-house tuning company, not to be confused with Nismo, which is Nissan’s OTHER in-house tuning company. And now we’ve covered the causes of Japan’s 1990s bubble economy.)
Anyway, the Autech Stagea 260RS Whatever-It’s-Called was made, and I drove it. And it’s an absolute blast.
Here’s the basic situation: You’re sitting in a wagon that is long and boxy and designed for practicality, and then you put your right foot down and you’re met with the rush of the famed twin-turbo RB26DETT, which is also not European and also very stupidly named. It is fast, though, making significantly more power than its 276 horsepower “rating” would imply – probably more like 320, and the power comes on perfectly: smoothly and fantastically in the middle of the rev range, with very little lag (especially for a 1990s engine) and increasing muscle as you give it more gas, perfectly responding to your accelerator inputs with surprising speed. The RB26 was an impressive powertrain back then, and it’s still amazing today – and if you spend enough time with this engine stock, you start to wonder why anyone would modify it.
Then there’s the handling. The Autech 260RS Version Stagea Nissan Wagonzilla isn’t a “true” Skyline GT-R, so it hasn’t had the full GT-R treatment under the skin – but ‘90s cars in general have a certain enjoyable quality to the way they steer and handle, thanks to hydraulic steering and lower curb weights. That’s certainly the case here; the 260RS is fun to hustle around corners despite its heft, and steering feels connected even if not as precise as sporty cars that came after. You feel like you’re in direct control, much more than today’s performance cars; the 260RS delivers a nicely analog feel that so many drivers say they want.
The look is neat, too, with a body kit and a spoiler and some more aggressive wheels that distinguish the 260RS from the standard Stagea in a very 1990s way: enough that it stands out, but not so much that your neighbors say things about you when they encounter one another walking their dogs. There are no fender vents. The brake calipers aren’t gold. It’s sporty, but it’s also classy.
And it’s Japan’s contribution to the high-performance wagon world. You get big power in a standard, run-of-the-mill Nissan wagon – the way to a wagon enthusiast’s heart. Ignore the drumbeat of the Audi RS Avant and you could get into this: the Skyline GT-R Wagon.