Buying Guides

5 Best Station Wagons Offer Roominess and Driving Fun

A dying breed shows it still has some good signs of life

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Station wagons once roamed the American landscape in much bigger numbers, but that that heyday is gone, and it may never return. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get excited about wagons because they're the best they've ever been. Gone is the notion that wagons need to be big, ugly, ponderous and have wood paneling on the sides. Now, they're some of the most versatile cars around and damned good-looking, too. Sure a lot of carmakers have ditched many of their wagon models. The Caddy CTS Sport Wagon is gone, as are the Audi A4/A6 Avants,

2017 Audi A4 allroad

 
  • PROS: Crisp new refreshed metal looks racy compared to the last model, authoritative acceleration, better to drive than a CUV, great quattro AWD system, quick shifting dual clutch transmission, beautiful interior.
  • CONS: Fake front skid plate reveals hardcore off-road limitations, expensive when optioned out, not an A4 Avant.

While the Allroad ($44,000 base MSRP) might cater to American tastes, it's quite good at managing mild off-road duties while combining those abilities with good on-road manners. 252 horses from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine means it's also quick off the line, and the 7-speed dual clutch transmission works seamlessly alongside. The Offroad driving mode lets the revised quattro system work pretty well in snow, mud and loose gravel, in spite of the transition to the loss of the center differential.

2017 BMW 330i xDrive Sports Wagon

Best

for the Driving Enthusiast

  • PROS: Superb handling, best-looking 3-Series wagon in a while, slick interior, feels rock solid, heavy respect from other Bimmer owners.
  • CONS: No stick shift available anymore, some interior bits feel cheap, lacks the steering feel BMW has been known for in the past.

This is a wagon you might want to get your hands on before it's gone forever. The 330i xDrive Sports Wagon ($43,945 base MSRP) is destined to end production in 2019, so there's only two years left to buy one new. If you do take the plunge, you won't regret it because it's one of the best around. It drives like a nimble 330i sedan but has a solid amount of cargo room and a high level of exclusivity since practically no one buys it.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC Wagon

Best

for the affluent family

  • PROS: As quiet as a library on Sunday, upstages the sedan in the looks department, effortless cruising, all-seasons traction, the ultimate premium family hauler.
  • CONS: Pricey as hell when optioned out, COMAND infotainment system is complex and outdated.

There isn't a better luxury wagon around, and the E400 ($61,000) is now better looking, better driving and as decadent as ever with its S Class-like interior. Hop inside, and you wonder why the $61K base price isn't higher because it's quiet, incredibly comfortable and spacious. The 329 hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 drives moves all four wheels very quickly, and the self-leveling air suspension manages all road surfaces brilliantly. The fact that this amazing wagon still exists in a struggling segment is baffling but totally wonderful.

2017 Subaru Outback

 
  • PROS: As comfortable as cars costing twice as much, truly spacious for occupants and gear, excellent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system gives it good off-road chops, great safety scores, upgraded interior materials.
  • CONS: Base 2.5-liter engine is weak, mushy brake pedal, conveys the suburban soccer mom image.

The Outback ($25,645 base MSRP) is more mainstream than ever, meaning it's more like a crossover than a tall wagon. It also happens to be better-looking than the last Outback, and Subaru is stronger with its brand identity. The interior is also much improved in terms of layout and materials quality, and the steering has been improved for better feel. A backup camera is now standard on all trims, and the available safety features get bumped up, too, and now include Starlink Connected Services with emergency assistance and automatic collision notification, as well as Safety Plus and Security Plus upgrades, which add remote vehicle access, remote vehicle locating and stolen vehicle recovery.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Best

for the weekend warrior

  • PROS: The elevated styling isn't overdone, quick shifting dual clutch transmission, as practical as the SportWagen but with more attitude, virtually all torque can be routed to the back wheels, damned entertaining to drive.
  • CONS: Too much glossy plastic trim, infotainment system is sluggish to respond, small center stack control knobs and buttons.

The Alltrack ($26,950 base MSRP) is all-new for VW, and goes to show that if you're going to build a wagon, you might as well put it on stilts. Americans love that, as evidenced by Volvo's Cross Country and the Subaru Outback. The excellent "Off Road" driving mode enables hill descent, and ground clearance is bumped up by 0.8 inches. The Alltrack drives incredibly well with sharp steering and enough off-road capability to suit most everyone, and it looks as good as it drives.

Why buy a station wagon

  • Wagons handle turns better thanks to a lower center of gravity
  • They can compete with some crossovers in terms of space and cargo room
  • Many wagon designs look better than their sedan counterparts

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