These days it's often a game of follow the leader as new (or rehashed) body styles enter the market. First it was minivans, then SUVs, then crossovers, then four-door coupes, and now the five-door, not-quite-a-hatchback big-rear car is taking root at BMW with the 5-Series Gran Turismo and Honda/Acura with the Accord Crosstour and ZDX. But Infiniti and Lexus have decided to opt out of that segment.

We can't say we're disappointed, as so far the cars that populate it do more to make us cringe than salivate. It's a risk for Lexus and Infiniti, however, as form-factor innovation has sold a lot of vehicles over the years. On the other hand, it may be BMW and Acura that are taking the risk, as Americans don't tend to favor wagons or hatchbacks, and either way you look at the 5-Series GT or Acura ZDX, they fall into one of those categories.

Of course, Lexus and Infiniti aren't without their own red-headed step-cars in terms of design and styling (the 2010 New York Auto Show's Lexus CT 200h and Infiniti QX spring to mind) but the fat-hatch segment might be considered adding insult to injury.

There are ways to do the more-useful-sedan look right, however. Though it's not sold in this generation of the car, the Mazda6 five-door hatch was a solid design, and Audi's recently unveiled A5 Sportback is nigh-on stunning. There have even been coachbuilt versions we'd mortgage the house for, including the Maserati Cinqueporte. Porsche's Panamera is something of an oddball in the segment, offering incredible performance with awkward proportions, leaving us on the fence about its viability.

And amidst all of this turmoil there's the renascence of the wagon with fantastically good-looking and even more useful cars like the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon (and its delicious V variant) and the Mercedes-Benz E 350 wagon. Perhaps BMW/Acura/et al have the right idea in constantly bringing new shapes to market, but we're of the opinion that Infiniti and Lexus are on the smart path.

[Edmunds Auto Observer]