The perfect blend of SUV and wagon.
The world’s gone SUV mad. The era of the family van is almost dead and gone, as manufacturers move to change their product lineups to focus more on high riding crossovers and SUVs. Ford is just the latest brand of many to announce a paring back on other models to focus on SUVs, but it certainly won’t be the last. While there’s much to be enjoyed about an SUV – the high ride height, copious amounts of cargo volume, and of course the domineering feeling of being taller, wider, and bigger than the next guy there are also many downsides to SUVs.
In a world where space is fast becoming a premium asset, SUVs are large and cumbersome propositions. With an array of new technology to monitor parking distances from every angle, blind spots, the works, we’re covering up most of the issues. But in the process we’re becoming reliant on the tech itself and not on our driving ability.The driving dynamics of an SUV, will never match those of a regular car. The high ride height comes with more body roll, less body control, and ultimately lower levels of grip. We overcome this with expensive, trick suspension and big tires, which increase maintenance costs and still can’t overcome the laws of physics.
The larger tires and overall size also negatively affect the fuel consumption and economy of vehicles that are increasingly seen to be daily drivers rather than weekend luxuries. Ultimately though, an SUV will never offer the same handling, rollover prevention, and efficiency as a sedan counterpart might. Of course, there are arguments for the SUV – chief of which is the practicality and the raised ride height. The latter is a particular concern in a day and age where road surfaces aren’t maintained in the way they should be. But what if we told you there was a way to circumvent the SUV madness; a way to reap all the benefits an SUV has to offer, but without compromising on the efficiency and vast handling benefits offered by a regular car?
There’s a not so well kept secret among automotive enthusiasts that sedans are great, sports cars are better, but the best type of car you can get is a wagon. Station wagons in general offer the perfect means of transporting a family with room to spare for all the luggage requirements you might have. In almost every single way, they’re as practical as their favored SUV brethren. But within the station wagon universe, lifted versions exist with the pure intention of providing buyers with an alternative to the SUV – one just as practical, with just as many benefits, and fewer compromises.
Crossover wagons are fairly few and far between, but as an alternative to the SUV fad, they just can’t be beaten. They offer comparable space inside, a smaller footprint outside, and handling dynamics that are more car-like than SUV-like – what’s not to like? Forget about buying an SUV, here are five crossover wagons you should buy instead…
Audi A4 Allroad Audi has been building stylish Avants for what seems like an eternity, pioneering the crossover wagon segment with the 1999 Audi A6 allroad quattro. Car-like driving dynamics meet gorgeous proportions and ample capability in the latest allroad quattro model: the B9 Audi A4 Avant. Featuring quattro permanent all-wheel drive, a 252-hp 2.0-liter motor, raised suspension with adaptive damping, underbody protection, and Audi’s Drive Select with tailored off-road drive modes, the A4 allroad quattro perfectly bridges the gap between station wagon and SUV. And with up to 58.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, the A4 allroad is more practical than a Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Volvo V60 Cross Country If any brand is as famous as Audi for station wagons, it must be Volvo. The Swedish brand has a penchant for making great looking wagons, and is even famed for racing them in European touring car championships in the 1990s. The V60 Cross Country may be based off an aging V60 model line-up, but it still provides superb car-like handling dynamics, high levels of specification, and great styling. All-wheel drive comes standard with the 240-hp 2.0-liter engine, and though the V60 CC might be down a little on cargo volume compared to some, its 43.8 cube maximum is still more than enough for the whole family, including the dogs.
Subaru Outback With a nameplate that you can trace back to 1994, the Subaru Outback is one of the oldest crossover station wagons in the game. Famed Japanese reliability meets Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive and boxer engine combination for one of the most well rounded crossover wagons you’ll find on sale. Though we don’t get the brilliant diesel variant in the USA, the 3.6-liter model offers 256 hp and 247 lb-ft, which pairs with a continuously variable transmission for efficient economy, and ultra smooth towing capabilities. With one of the most well sorted suspensions of any vehicle on the market – the Outback is truly the crossover wagon for any road you come across.
Buick Regal TourX Despite its young age, the Buick Regal TourX deserves to be on this list more than almost any other wagon. All-wheel drive with a torque vectoring rear differential pairs with a clever 8-speed automatic gearbox to give the TourX traction and control on any surface. A 250-hp turbo engine gives you all the performance you need, while the extra 0.6-inches of ground clearance and underbody cladding gives it that go anywhere appeal. The maximum cargo volume of 73.5 cubic feet is simply mammoth – offering nearly as much as a BMW X5. Also, have you looked at the TourX? It’s arguably the most stylish family car around.
Volvo V90 Cross Country Last on our list is the latest offering from Volvo – the V90 Cross Country. Based on the V90 wagon and built on Volvo’s latest Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), the V90 Cross Country features all-wheel drive and suspension bits borrowed from the XC90 SUV. With dedicated off-road modes, hill descent control, all-terrain tires, and 8.4 inches of ground clearance, the Volvo V90 Cross Country is ready for anything. Two engine options give buyers extra choice, with the T6 offering impressive performance paired with Drive-E efficiency.
53.9 cubic feet of cargo volume is impressive – and if none of that has you sold, just stare at it and you’ll fall in love immediately. With car-like dynamics, gorgeous proportions, and SUV capability, this is one of the most complete crossover wagons ever built.
Honorable Mention: Mercedes E400 4x4 Squared So we cheated a little – here’s a bonus sixth one on the list. The Mercedes-Benz E400 4x4 Squared is the product of Mercedes engineers going rogue, taking an E400 All Terrain (not on sale in the US) and swapping out the suspension for full on portal axles like you’d find on the insane G500 4x42. With more ground clearance than an H1 Hummer, a twin turbo V6, and Mad Max styling, how could we not include it? It’s not in production, but if it were you'd definitely want one.