Station wagons were once maligned as being only for large families living in middle America. They were given wood paneling on the sides and turned into rolling boats with sloppy steering. During the 90’s the wagon underwent a renaissance during which time many high-end manufacturers began creating wagons that branched out into arenas other than toting around a passel of screaming kids. Wagons at that time became sporty and fun to drive, with tighter handling and more options for stashing cargo and adventure gear in the back. Enhanced suspension and further upgrades became common as more car makers discovered that a bigger back end didn’t prevent a car from being amazing.
All through the aughts and into the teens, wagons kept getting makeovers, with luxury options as well as choices for rough-and-tumble off-roading making it onto the scene. With every brand under the sun jumping on this bandwagon, it can be hard to determine which ones are good, and which will leave you high and dry.
To make your car shopping experience easier, we’ve found the 12 best sport wagons to satisfy the most voracious wanderlust.
Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TSI
Renamed, Revamped: The Golf Sportwagen began life in 2015 as a Jetta. The name change came because they overhauled the chassis, making changes throughout so that it now more closely resembles the Golf’s platform. It has excellent driving dynamics and an immense cargo area for a compact utility vehicle.
2016 Subaru Outback
Grandfathered In: Subaru basically invented the “sport utility wagon” with the Outback, and now they’re trying to pass it off as a crossover. Whatever they call it, the mixture of a reasonable ground clearance and a reduced loading height make it far more wagon than SUV. The interior has been upgraded and reimagined for a more comfortable ride, but otherwise it’s the same bombproof, economical performance you expect from a Subaru.
2016 Mini Countryman Wagon
Small Wonder: The subbest of the sub-compact wagons, you’re only going to be able to nab 16 cubic feet worth of cargo space in the back, but that’s still enough for a weekend trip. Using the advanced ground clearance and tougher suspension, this is not your average hipster Mini. Using ALL4 all-wheel drive, the Countryman has been bestowed withaward-winning safety features, according to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). It’s a safe scrambler as much as a sweet little sedan/wagon. [Edmunds]
Mellower Model: The XC70 isn’t meant for your heavier sports but rather for some light off-roading or tooling around town during a particularly severe winter. What it does have is more than 72 cubic feet worth of cargo space which leaves SUV crossovers in the dust. You can still get to decent hiking or camping spots without much trouble, and you’ll get there in sublime comfort and exceptional safety, per Volvo’s usual bailiwick.
BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon
Sedan-esque: The Plain Jane version of the 3 Series is one of the finest sedans on the road today, and that’s translated over into the wagon version. The same nimble handling and quiet luxury are there for the taking, now with about as much space as a compact SUV. There’s a more spacious interior for passengers as well, reducing back seat incidents of “He’s touching me.”
Domestic Duty: Though the wagons that Audi offers in North America are inferior to those presented abroad, they’re still exceptional. The Allroad is a wagonized A4 sedan complete with greater clearance and tires with a much enhanced profile. What it can do is tackle tough, rutted routes that run over the hill and through the woods, with the hope you’re going somewhere much more exciting than grandmother’s house.
Volvo V60 Polestar
Better Than a Milkmaid: There aren’t many of these to be had with the United States only receiving 265 out of the 750 that Volvo plans to produce, but this Swedish beauty is worth the hunt. An inline 6, Brembo brakes, and an optimized suspension along with striking looks in sapphire, ice white, and silver make the Polestar both an attractive commuter vehicle and a Friday night runner.
Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S 4Matic Wagon
Sleeper: Mercedes-Benz makes some of the most striking vehicles on the road, which is why the traditional look of the E63 Wagon is a little disappointing. Though it does lack traditional flair on the outside, beneath the hood it has 577 ponies worth of power and all-wheel-drive that works in any weather and all conditions. A little sticker shock is to be expected, but perhaps you can get the Lord to buy you one…
Wagon Adjacent: While technically a shooting brake, the FF is as close as you’re going to get to a sport wagon that has the famous Ferrari pony dancing on the front. The emphasis with this 12 cylinder chrome rocket is more on the sport than on the wagon, but at 16 cubic feet, you’ll be surprised how much can fit inside. Fully 4-wheel drive and a 4-seater, it’s hard to believe there’s 651 horses powering it to a top speed of 208; but pressing the gas will make you a believer.
International Incident: Mazda has determined that in the United States wagons aren’t popular enough for them to bring over their beautiful revamp of their Mazda6; now with storage space for camping, rock-climbing, or surfing gear. The sleek body looks more stunning than the sedan model and comes in a choice of inline 4-banger with SkyActiv or diesel. We say: smuggle it in. [Review]
Audi RS6 Avant
Switch Hitter: Another horseless carriage that won’t be making its way to the United States, the newest iteration of Audi’s Avant has a full V8 with twin-turbos that they borrowed from the Bentley Continental GT. For the more casual driver, there’s also a cylinder deactivation mode that will give you about 24 miles to the gallon. Goes to 60 in about 3.5 seconds, yet can still move furniture…fast.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Secondary Market Sweetheart: There’s a temptation by some to call this a ‘Waguar,’ but if you manage to track one down, you’ll just call it the find of the century. Only produced in 2015, the XFR-S Sportbrake didn’t make an appearance stateside, but has blown up on the used market thanks to the 5.0-liter, 550 horsepower supercharged engine that can reach 186 mph when you get it on the Autobahn.