Driving a station wagon does not mean surrendering to a boring driving experience. Many wagons on the road today perform as well as some sport sedans. Spending time behind the wheel of wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Acura, for example, will quickly erase the idea that all wagons are slow and floaty.
Today’s wagons are the exact opposite and have engines that enable certain degrees of spirited driving. There are a few sporty wagons that are more budget-friendly, but if you want high performance from a wagon, you’ll likely have to pay a little more money for it.
A number of mainstream wagons are decent performers, though there are a few that stand out from the pack with athletic handling and good power.
Take the Subaru Outback, for example. Reviewers love its sure-footed, standard all-wheel drive (AWD) system because it helps the Outback feel planted and secure, even in bad weather. Reviewers also say the Outback has car-like performance. But if you want more power, skip over the Outback’s base four-cylinder engine and go for the optional six-cylinder engine. It makes 256 horsepower and can help the Outback haul heavier loads and tow bigger trailers.
Wagons are more popular in Europe than they are in the U.S., so it’s no wonder that Volkswagen makes a great one. The VW Jetta SportWagen has a five-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower. Reviewers say that it produces a decent amount of power to keep the Jetta SportWagen moving. If you want more power right off the line, go for the Jetta SportWagen TDI, which beats the base Jetta SportWagen with fuel economy ratings that reach 42 mpg on the highway. It has a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that gives the Jetta SportWagen great acceleration thanks to its 236 pound-feet of torque, though it makes 30 horsepower less than the base Jetta SportWagen. The Jetta SportWagen also has the kind of sporty ride and handling that can only be developed in Deutschland.
If you can increase your budget, there are more options if you’re on the hunt for a top-performing wagon. At the lower end is the Acura TSX Sport Wagon. Starting at almost $32,000, the TSX Sport Wagon is front-wheel drive, but it handles so well that you may not notice that it doesn’t have rear-wheel drive. Its four-cylinder engine makes 201 horsepower, and reviewers say its steering is accurate and has a natural feel.
The Audi Allroad wagon features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 211 horsepower. According to Audi, that’s enough power to get the Allroad from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The Allroad certainly isn’t one of the most powerful wagons on the market, but reviewers like its balanced performance that will suit shoppers who don’t need blistering acceleration. It has a smooth, comfortable ride and is pleasant to drive. The Audi Allroad also comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is usually optional on upscale wagons.
When it comes to performance and luxury, you can find wagons that hold their own next to the best sport sedans in the world – provided you’re willing to pay for them. The Cadillac CTS-V Wagon has the same edgy styling as the CTS sedan and coupe. It may require a second glance to tell the difference between the CTS-V Wagon and the base CTS Sport Wagon, but look under the hood and the difference becomes clear. The CTS-V Wagon packs a supercharged V8 that makes 556 horsepower. That’s more horsepower than a Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and the CTS-V Wagon has space for the kids and dog. Cadillac didn’t just stuff a monster engine under the hood and call it a day. The CTS-V Wagon has an upgraded track-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes that make it easy to control all that power and handle curves with ease.
If you want a wagon that can deliver a true sport sedan experience, you can’t go wrong with the Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon. Like the Audi Allroad, all-wheel drive, which Mercedes-Benz calls 4MATIC, is standard. The E350 Wagon has a V6 engine that makes 302 horsepower that reviewers say will have plenty of power for most drivers. If you want an even more robust engine, there’s the E63 AMG wagon, which has a 518-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 that is one of the most powerful engines available in a wagon.