Crossovers and SUVs are the popular vehicle to purchase currently. After all, they offer a higher seating position compared to sedans, easier entry/exit compared to coupes, and higher profit margins for automakers. What if I told you there is a vehicle class that offers a comfortable and engaging driving characteristics, easier cargo loading compared to those high-up SUVs, and the same or better fuel economy than crossovers. Enter the station wagon / estate / saloon / kombi / long roof or however you call them depending where you live. Let’s dive into why wagons are far superior than SUVs or crossovers and highlight some wagons still available on the market today.
Comfortable / Engaging Driving Characteristics
While SUVs offer the allusion of eminent domain over other drivers on the road by a high seating position, station wagons enable you to be a courteous, nimble driver. The lower center of gravity also serves as a safety feature, as wagons are typically built on car platforms, and enable the car to handle emergency situations with more confidence. I have seen multiple SUVs rolled over along I-70 in Colorado, and I attribute part of it to the high center of gravity when traversing the mountain passes.
Since wagons share platforms with sedans, you can find them more fun to drive compared to SUVs. Let’s consider the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon. The AMG E63 S wagon shares the platform and handling characteristics of the E63 sedan. The AMG GLE 63 shares its bones with the GLE-class SUV, which is catered to cushioned high-seated driving. The GLE will feel top-heavy in cornering due to its taller design, while the E63 S wagon handles corners with the agility expected from a high-performance German sports sedan or in this case, sports wagon.
Easier Cargo Loading
Due to the lower and sleeker roofline, station wagons are the ideal travel companions for adventurers. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, skis are all easier to load onto the roof or into the back of a wagon compared to SUVs. Also, if you are dog owner, your “best friend” can easily hop into and out of the back of the wagon. They will sure enjoy it!
With seats folded, station wagons also offer comparable cargo capacity compared to their SUV counterparts. For example, the Volvo V60 Cross Country has an overall wheelbase of 113.2 inches compared to the XC60 with 112.8 inches. Also, the V60 Cross Country has a similar cargo capacity of 60.5 cubic feet compared to 63.3 cubic feet in the XC60.
Comparable Fuel Economy
Due to their better aerodynamics compared to their SUV brethren, station wagons can help save you on fuel costs compared to SUVs with the same amount of horsepower and torque from the same engine. Take the Audi A4 allroad and the Audi Q5 45 TFSI. These vehicles are both equipped with the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 pound feet of torque.
However, due to sharing a platform with the A4 sedan, the A4 allroad weighs more than 200 pounds less than the Q5. This equates to increased fuel economy of 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway (EPA est.), with a combined 26 mpg, compared to the Q5’s 23 mpg city / 28 mpg highway (25 mpg combined). To further sway your decision, the A4 allroad comes standard with the 45 TFSI engine, which is an option on the Q5. More standard power, quattro all-wheel drive, better fuel economy, and classic wagon styling – the A4 allroad is a sure bet!
Station Wagons To Consider In 2022
Since I covered a few of the reasons why station wagons are far superior to their SUV counterparts, let’s highlight the few wagons that are still available for the U.S. market in 2022 in alphabetical order.
The Audi A4 allroad combines the nimble attributes of the A4 with the utility found in the Q5. Standard with the 45 TFSI engine, as noted above, the A4 allroad launches to 60 miles per hour (mph) in a brisk 5.5 seconds, shifting through its 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. The A4 allroad also boasts a tighter turning radius compared to the Q5, coming in at 38.4 ft. curb-to-curb. The A4 allroad also bests the Q5 with a lower starting price when equipped with the same engine. When stepping up to higher trim levels, the price difference between the A4 allroad and the Q5 becomes more substantial, all the while equipped with nearly-identical features. The Audi A4 allroad starts at $45,500.
The 2022 Audi A6 allroad deserves more praise than it receives. Returning to the USA in 2020, it slots in as the competitor to the Mercedes-Benz E450 4matic All-Terrain and the Volvo V90 Cross Country. It is offered with the 3.0-liter six cylinder engine producing 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, sending this to 60 in 5.1 seconds. In line with the market, the A6 allroad is a mild hybrid with a 48 volt battery. It has a 30 cubic feet cargo volume with the rear seats up and a combined fuel economy of 23 mpg. The A6 allroad serves as the reincarnation of the Audi Allroad from the early 2000s but with better reliability than the original Allroad. The A6 allroad starts just under $67,000, which includes the notable Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium Sound System.
RS 6 Avant
The RS 6 Avant needs no introduction. Consumers begged for a return of the high-performance wagon from yesteryear, and Audi actually listened to their clientele and debuted the RS 6 Avant for the U.S. market. The RS 6 Avant offers a staggering 591 hp, 590 lb-ft of torque, and rockets to 60 mph in an eye-popping 3.5 seconds, all powered by a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The RS 6 Avant offers an RS-specific tuned air suspension system with controlled dampening to enable a spirited drive through mountain passes and to the nearest grocery store.
For weight-saving and better braking, you can equip the RS 6 Avant with optional ceramic brakes to handle your spirited jaunt to the grocery store. The Out of Spec team had the privilege to test out the RS 6 Avant, and wagon lived up to its RS name easily maneuvering the Angeles Crest Highway. The RS 6 Avant starts at $116,500.
E 450 4MATIC All-Terrain Wagon
A Mercedes-Benz wagon, synonymous with old money, has received some lifts to better compete with the crossover market while still retaining its wagoness through the E 450 All-Terrain wagon. The E 450 All-Terrain combines the utility and practicality an E-Class wagon is known for with the soft-road capability to get you to your ski chalet without any fuss. A 3.0 inline-6 turbo engine powers the E 450, much to the delight of Mercedes-Benz owners who fondly remember the silkiness and durability of the M103 engine.
The new inline-6, known as the M256, also has a mild-hybrid component to it by way of a 48-volt battery. This engine produces 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, sending the wagon to 60 in a sprite 5.3 seconds. Utility is not an afterthought in the E 450, as the wagon boasts a 35 cu ft. of cargo capacity with seats up, more than the GLE-Class SUV! The E 450 4MATIC All-Terrain features something not available on any other wagon – a 3rd row jump seat, boasting seating capacity to 7 occupants. The E 450 4MATIC All-Terrain wagon starts just under $70,000.
AMG E63 S Wagon
Though unavailable for the 2022 model year due to supply chain challenges, I would be remiss if I did not mention the AMG E63 S wagon. The AMG E63 S wagon can do it all – provide a thrilling driving experience, effortless freeway cruising, and quickly handling carpool duty. Powering this beast is a hand-built AMG 4.0-liter V8 biturbo engine producing 603 hp and 627 lb-ft. of torque, rocketing the car to 60 in an estimated 3.4 seconds. Unfortunately, you are unable to option this wagon with the third-row jump seat, but any passenger would enjoy the thrills only a Mercedes-AMG wagon can deliver. Here’s to hoping the AMG E63 S wagon reappears for the 2023 model year.
Volvo, safety, and wagons could be synonyms. Volvo has been offering wagons to U.S. customers for over 60 years since the Duett, and for 2022, customers have three options to consider to satisfy their wagon desire. If you are not ready to buy a Volvo wagon in 2022, have no fear – Volvo has committed to continue to offer wagons as other automakers plan to phase them out.
V60 Recharge Polestar Plug-In Hybrid
As Volvo transitions to all-electric propulsion for its vehicles, customers have the option for a plug-in hybrid in the mean time with the V60 Recharge. Using the Scalcable Product Architecture platform used across the Volvo range, the V60 Recharge is the Polestar Engineered performance wagon for the longroof enthusiast. The V60 Recharge produces 415 hp and an impressive 494 lb-ft of torque, propelling the wagon to 60 in 4.3 seconds. In Pure Electric mode, you can drive the car without any tailpipe emissions on a short commute. The V60 recharge affords the driver both agility and comfort through the advanced Öhlins Dual Flow Valve shock absorbers and Brembo six-piston brakes. The V60 Recharge Polestar Engineered Hybrid starts at $69,090.
V60 Cross Country
The V60 Cross Country, in its 2nd generation, offers buyers more nimble handling and equal/better cargo capacity compared to the XC60. Available since 2020 in the U.S., buyers have one engine option, the T5 variant producing 250 hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque, and it is only available in gas-powered, AWD form. Buyers can opt for the Polestar Performance software optimization that bumps torque up to 295 lb-ft while maintaining its 31 mpg highway estimate. For the adventure seeker, the V60 Cross Country offers 8.2 inches of ground clearance to easily navigate mild offroad endeavors. I have driven the V60 Cross Country and found it engaging and rather sporty to drive compared to my 2005 XC70. The V60 Cross Country T5 AWD starts at $46,200.
V90 Cross Country
As the successor to the venerable XC70, the V90 Cross Country has been offered since 2017 for a larger wagon alternative to midsize SUVs. For 2022, the V90 Cross Country receives the mild hybrid electrification alongside the majority of the Volvo lineup. The 2022 V90 Cross Country only is available in one form – the B6 powertrain. Though down on horsepower (308 vs. 316) compared to the previous T6 powertrain, you receive increased fuel mileage at 25 mpg combined.
The 2022 also receives a new infotainment system powered by Google Auto instead of the in-house Sensus system. Drivers may find the Google Assistant voice recognition feature more natural compared to the Sensus system to control navigation, communication, and cabin environment. I highlighted why the V90 Cross Country is the ideal winter companion in a separate article, but it can be your all-season vehicle regardless of geography. I have driven the V90 Cross Country T6, and I found it true to its Volvo wagon roots as a P2 XC70 owner. The V90 Cross Country B6 AWD starts at $56,200.