The Non-Plethora of Wagons

by  Anthony Fongaro

If there is one type of vehicle that us Americans adore, it’s SUVs. It doesn’t matter the size, SUVs have become the most dominant segment. This trend doesn’t look like it’s going away, either. Although there are “proper SUVs” that can go off-roading, most are crossovers that are essentially jacked-up hatchbacks. You can get a new SUV for as little as $15,000 or as high as $500,000 for a Rolls Royce. If you want a vehicle that can haul kids, stuff, and possibly perform like a sports-car, an SUV is the way to go. Or is it?

Back when Nirvana released Smells Like Teen Spirit, SUVs weren’t the trend. The 90s were a simpler time and there were two vehicle segments that were dominant. Those were sedans and wagons. Nowadays, manufacturers still make both, but the variety of new wagons you can buy in the United States is staggering. This is not in a good way. Want to know how many manufacturers have wagons? 10. Ten manufacturers have a grand total of around 13 wagons here. It’s pretty rare to see a wagon in most areas.

I understand the appeal of an SUV, especially if you need seating for six or seven, but wagons just make more sense. They’re almost or more practical, usually have all-wheel-drive, and drive better since they’re car-based. Pricing for wagons is all over the place. Some cost significantly more than their SUV counterpart while others slightly undercut their counterpart. This doesn’t help the sale of wagons. Also, the stigma of wagons being “uncool” and thoughts of wagons from the 70s and 80s sway consumers away from wagons. With all of that said, I like wagons. I know the automotive journalist’s cliche of wagons is better than SUVs but they are my preference. Not only are they better to drive but they’re also quite rare. Go to a dealership and you may see a few new wagons.

Since there aren’t that many wagons, going through a few of them is quite easy. When looking at the list of manufacturers, all but two are European brands. One is an American-branded wagon with roots back to Germany. The other is the only Japanese brand that has a wagon here. There’s a huge price-gap to get a wagon. You can go as low as $20,000 and as high as over $200,000! When we get to the wagon that starts around $190,000, you may be surprised who makes it. Most of these wagons can have advanced safety features, leatherette or Nappa leather, high-performance engines, and fully integrated infotainment systems. All pricing only reflects standard vehicles without options. With that said, let’s take a look at some good wagons.

Starting with the least expensive wagons, there are the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and Alltrack. Although these are the same wagons, the Alltrack has standard all-wheel-driving and is raised higher. You’ll see this trend in a few other wagons we will look at. While the SportWagen can have a 1.4 or 1.8-liter turbocharged I4, the Alltrack has a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 with 168-horsepower and 199 lb-ft. You can also get either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Alltracks also have a specialized Off-Road Mode for when you splash around in some puddles. If you go beyond the base S trim, you can get heated seats, backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, and panoramic roof. Pricing spans from $21,000-$36,000.

Subaru has had the Outback in the United States for years and continues to sell it here. This rugged wagon has Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive which is one of the best all-wheel-drive systems available. A 2.5-liter flat-four is standard with 182-horsepower and 176 lb-ft while higher trim levels get a 260-horsepower and 277 lb-ft 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four. Unfortunately, both engines are connected to a CVT. That said, all Outbacks get Eyesight Driver Assist Technology standard. Eyesight combines adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, sway warning, pre-collision braking, and pre-collision throttle management. The fact that these safety systems are standard is staggering! Heated seats, power tailgate, and power-adjustable seats are standard on all but the base Outback trim. Pricing spans from $27,000-$40,000.

Out of all the luxury brands here, only one has constantly had at least one wagon in their lineup. Volvo currently has four wagons in their lineup which is amazing! Both the regular V60 and V90 have Cross Country with higher ground clearance. All models have a 2.0-liter I4 with four three output and available all-wheel drive. T5 models make 250-horsepower and 258 lb-ft, T6 models make 316-horsepower and 295 lb-ft and the V60 T8 Polestar hybrid makes a massive 414-horsepower and 494 lb-ft. All of these models have lane-keeping assist, back-up camera, and touchscreen infotainment system. Pricing for V60s is between $40,000 and $68,000 while the Cross Country is $45,000. V90s span from $51,000 to $60,000 while the Cross Country is $55,000.

Surprise, surprise, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz both have wagons. Audi’s regular wagons include the A4 and A6 Allroad while Mercedes has the E-Class wagon. All of these have standard all-wheel drive and a few different engines. The A4 Allroad uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 248-horsepower and 273 lb-ft. Audi’s A6 Allroad uses a 3.0-liter V6 with 335-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Mercedes’ V6 uses a 362-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Audis use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic while Mercedes’ has a nine-speed automatic. The A4 Allroad start at $45,000 while the A6 Allroad and E-450 start at $65,000. Since these are all more expensive than their sedan counterparts, all of them have more powerful engines.

We actually aren’t done with Audi and Mercedes, along with one more German brand. These three brands have a high-performance model with more than 600-horsepower thanks to 4.0-liter V8 engines! Audi has the RS6 while Mercedes-AMG has the E63 S Wagon. These are usually loaded with digital dials, various performance upgrades such as drive modes and chassis modifications, and upgraded leather. Although these are powerful, they’re not the most powerful. No, that goes to Porsche and its Panamera Sport Turismo. You can get the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo with a 3.0-liter V6 with 330-horsepower and 330 lb-ft but that isn’t the king. That goes to the long-named Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo E-Hybrid. Combining a 4.0-liter V8 and hybrid power, this produces a massive 677-horsepower and 626 lb-ft. All of these get to 60 MPH around 3.0-3.5 seconds. The RS6 and E63 S wagon start around $110,000 while the Sport Turismo starts around $191,000.

There are some honorable mentions such as the MINI Clubman, Buick Regal TourX, and Jaguar XE Sportbrake. Although they are wagons, they aren’t special enough to go into more detail. That said, wagons are fantastic vehicles. They combine the comfort of a regular sedan along with powerful engines and advanced safety features. Some of them also have increased ride-height that should sway consumers away from SUVs. Will they sway consumers away from SUVs? Oh, of course not. High driving positions and towing instantly make consumers snub wagons. While I wish we have more wagons, it’s nice that we have wagons that can be used for almost every situation. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want some crazy 600-horsepower monster?


  1. A great crossover article for the PLN Rolex and station wagon pieces would be my favorite station wagon... The Paul Newman Volvos with the Ford engine. Here's a link...

  2. Good article on the lack of station wagons. That is why I am hanging on to my classic Ford.