The Way Back
Return of the Wagon
Volvo’s V90 Cross Country reinvents the big wagon with equal parts luxury, versatility, and technology.
If you were born prior to the mid-eighties, you likely spent some time in the back—or way back—of a station wagon. Prior to Chrysler’s 1984 introduction of the minivan, and long before we heard the term SUV, wagons were the default family vehicle for a majority of Americans.
Over the last 25 years, minivans, and increasingly larger SUVs, pushed wagons out of US showrooms. Fortunately for us wagon lovers, we now seem to be experiencing a wagon resurgence.
Volvo built its reputation on boxy, reliable wagons that emphasized safety over style. Volvo still leads the industry in safety, but their all-new V90, and V90 Cross Country wagons are gorgeous. Exterior styling is stunning—even by non-wagon standards—and the roomy interior is Scandinavian elegant, with form following function. The large center touch screen houses most of the controls and mimics a smart phone. Power comes from an innovative 316hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that is both supercharged and turbocharged, to deliver plenty of power and torque, while returning up to 30 mpg on the highway. Interior comfort, ride, and handling are on par with European luxury cars. Both V90s are stuffed to the windowsills with technology including Volvo’s “Pilot Assist II” which is one of the best semi-autonomous systems available. The V90 starts at $49,950 while the more rugged V90 Cross Country starts at $55,300 with standard AWD.
Audi’s A4 allroad is the only wagon the company sends to our shores, but boy is it good. Based upon the latest generation A4, the allroad comes standard with Audi’s phenomenal quattro AWD system. The allroad’s ride height is raised over the A4, delivering 6.5 inches of ground clearance so even unplowed roads can be navigated with ease. On the inside, Audi’s excellent interior ergonomics are enhanced with the new Virtual Cockpit infotainment system, allowing each driver to create a personalized delivery of information on the 12.3-inch digital dash. The allroad starts at $44,000
Subaru’s Outback was first introduced in 1994 as the go-anywhere wagon. Today’s much larger version faces a lot of competition, yet it’s still a winner. Reliability and safety are Subaru hallmarks, complimenting the excellent drivability and utility of the Outback. Available with a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines, the AWD Outback delivers up to 32 mpg and starts at only $25,645.
Jaguar is getting into the US wagon market. The British company will begin shipping the sleek new XF Sportbrake here later this year. Fans of the Tour de France bicycle race may be familiar with the Sportbrake as it’s been a favorite support vehicle for pro cycling teams.
Buick has not offered a wagon in more than two decades, but they recently unveiled the 2018 Regal TourX. Aimed squarely at the Subaru’s Outback crowd, the AWD TourX is a real looker. Roadmaster fans might be disappointed since TourX does not have a rear facing third row. Deliveries start in late 2017.
Mini Clubman wagon offers all the driving fun of a Mini, with the increased cargo space and utility of a small wagon. The automatic rear barn doors are an interesting touch and the Clubman is one of the few wagons you can get with a manual trans. Prices for the biggest Mini start at $24,100.
VW offers two fuel-efficient wagons, both based on the excellent Golf platform. The Golf SportWagen is available in FWD or 4Motion AWD while the Golf Alltrack goes the Outback route with standard AWD, increased ground clearance, and lower body cladding. Prices start at $21,580.
BMW’s 328d xDrive Sports Wagon features a 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo Diesel inline 4-cylinder and delivers up to 40mpg highway. Best of all? It drives like a BMW. The Sports Wagon starts at $42,950.
Porsche wagon? Sort of. The 2018 Panamera Sport Turismo adds a wagon back to the spectacular Panamera. Available in five versions including a hybrid and turbo, the Sport Turismo promises to be the wagon for serious hauling, even if it doesn’t carry much. Prices start at $92,600.
Need more proof a wagon is better than an SUV? Take a test drive in the new 603hp 2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S Wagon. If the exhaust note does not hook you, the performance certainly will. With 0-60 arriving in a blistering 3.4 seconds, the luxurious AWD E63 can replace both the SUV and the sports car in your garage.
With new wagons offering sharp styling, superior handling and ride comfort, and better fuel economy, now might be the perfect time to ditch the SUV and jump back into a wagon.
LOAD IT UP In addition to the improved handling, ride, and fuel economy, most wagons ironically have better utility than an SUV. A lower height makes loading the back a snap. And for active types, roof racks and roof boxes can be accessed without a step ladder or standing on seats.