The Greatest Performance Wagons Ever Built

Car Culture / 42 Comments

The fastest and most practical vehicles of all time.

We're hoping that we are on the cusp of the very beginning of the wagon making its comeback. It's not that we don't like crossovers; many of the smaller ones are basically raised wagons or hatchbacks anyway. But wagons are sleeker and arguably just as functional when it comes to utility. And when it comes to performance, there's no question that wagons have superior vehicle dynamics compared to utility vehicles. Because of this, they're more suited to having the kind of performance variants that can thrill the entire family, the dog, and a weekend's worth of luggage in one hit.

We've seen some fantastic performance wagons over the years, both in the United States and as forbidden fruit available on other continents. We're hoping this list will inspire just one or two people to investigate the idea of one of the few fast wagons currently out there.

Holden Commodore Sportwagon RS-V

The first thing we should do is remove our hats and say a few words about the soon-to-be departed Holden Commodore Sportwagon. Holden is done and dusted in Australia and, once the 2019 models are sold, that's it. The Holden Commodore is an Aussie icon, and, in its Sportwagon guise, it can be had with a rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive drivetrain. Power in its last generation comes from a 3.6-liter V6 for the sporty RS-V model making 315 horsepower and 281 ft-lb of torque.

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Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

There's no way that we couldn't mention the now-legendary Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. The list of ingredients are perfect: Take one Supercharged V8 engine, add a manual transmission, make sure the power goes to the rear wheels, add some high-performance brakes, then tune the hell out of the suspension. The forced induction 6.2-liter V8 produced 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque and made it from 0-60 mph in just four seconds. However, our favorite accomplishment for the CTS-V Wagon is, according to the EPA, being the least fuel-efficient small wagon in America in 2014 with a rating of 14 mpg.

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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon

If you have the patience of a big game hunter and spend enough time in Japan, you could see one of these on the road. It doesn't look much, but the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Wagon is exactly what the name suggests - one of the fiercest sedans ever made, but with a liftback. It took nine evolutions of the Evolution before Mitsubishi realized that people who grew up with the iconic road car would be having families. All the ingredients of the standard Evo were there, from the 286-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine to the Recaro seats and Momo steering wheel. But the extra room is perfect for getting the kids and all their gear to school in the mornings.

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Volvo 850R

Current Volvo wagons in R-Spec form and the twin-charged four-cylinder engines are potent vehicles. However, the mid-1990's Volvo 850R was the start of performance Volvo's and is still the benchmark. America did get the 850R, but not the most desirable version that included a heavy-duty transmission and a viscous coupling limited-slip differential. With that fitted, the fast wagon got a bigger turbo attached to the 2.3-liter 5-cylinder engine and made just over 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.

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Audi RS 6 Avant

We've spoken about the iconic RS 2 from the 1990s at length before, and will again. However, the RS 6 Avant is the fastest Audi wagon you can buy, and it's finally available here in the US. It packs close to 600 hp with 590 lb-ft of torque with the 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Audi claims it will pop zero to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds, and it comes with all the comfort, technology, and even more space than the luxurious Audi A8 sedan.

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Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon

For the last word in fast luxury wagons, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon packs a 603 hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter AMG V8. It also generates a massive 627 lb-ft of torque that sends the luxurious family wagon from 0-60 mph in a stunning 3.4 seconds. This super wagon also hugs the road using a continuously variable air suspension, but will happily break traction and smoke up the tires in its new drift mode. After all, who doesn't want to go sideways in something more comfortable and well-equipped than most apartments?

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Dodge Magnum SRT8

The last car using Dodge's Magnum name was a badge-engineered station wagon version of the Chrysler 300. In R/T trim, it had a 340 hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 under the hood, but, in SRT8 form, it featured a 6.1-liter V8 making 425 hp. It was a big, comfortable wagon that could hit 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, 100 mph in 11.7 seconds, and do the standing quarter-mile in 13.1 seconds at 108 mph. The modern equivalent would be for Dodge to take the Charger, give it a liftback, and drop the Hellcat engine under the hood.

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BMW M5 Touring (E34)

The E34 generation of BMW M5 Touring was a perfect blend of power, performance, comfort, and utility for its time. Only 891 were actually built, and none came directly to the US. It was part of the last generation of M5 models to be hand-built, has that classic BMW aesthetic collectors love, and a smooth, high-revving 3.8-liter straight-six. The engine is the last iteration of the legendary BMW M1 supercar's power plant and made 340 hp in the M5.

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BMW M5 Touring (E61)

The E34 generation was the standard-bearer for the fast BMW wagon, but the later E61 BMW M5 was an absolute beast. It largely gets forgotten due to the stigma of Chris Bangle's design work at the time, but if you can pass that, this is one of the best M cars yet. Under the hood is a screamer of a 5.0-liter V10 making 500 hp as it revs up close to 9,000 rpm. If the idea of a V10 wagon isn't whetting your appetite, it also makes 384 lb-ft of torque and comes with a six-speed manual transmission. With only 1,025 units having been built, the E61 BMW M5 Touring is a unicorn that could easily lead to financial ruin, but it would be one hell of a fun and weirdly practical way to go broke.


Saab 9-3 Turbo X

Another rare performance wagon is the Saab 9-3 Turbo X. It only came in black and with an upgraded version of the Saab 9-3 Aero's turbocharged 2.8-liter V6. Extra boost takes it to 280 hp, and the car is lowered and stiffened for grip and handling. The brakes are also upgraded with bigger discs, and the X denoted that it's all-wheel-drive, which fixes the 9-3's habit of understeering in front-wheel-drive form. Only 600 were sold in the US, with 243 equipped with a manual transmission, and 122 as wagon variants.

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Audi RS 2 Avant

The RS 2 Avant was the car that started off the RS performance line for Audi, and it was a wagon. It was developed with Porsche and featured a bunch of Porsche parts, and a warmed up 2.2-liter inline-5 making 311 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque in 1994. The Quattro technology is agricultural by today's standards, but the Torsen center differential splitting the torque front-to-rear and manually toggled rear differential lock is still effective and helped make the RS 2 Avant a performance legend.

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