Can the modern crossover really compete on space and value compared to the good old wagon?
In the strictest sense of the word, a crossover is built using a car based platform while an SUV uses a truck chassis. While this is not always adhered to, in general smaller high-riding off-road capable vehicles tend to be crossovers while the big Ford Expeditions and Chevy Tahoes of this world are most definitely SUVs. These smaller crossovers have become massively popular of late and we took a closer look to unearth whether they indeed are the better option to the once ubiquitous wagon.
The VW Golf Sportwagen is a solid entry-level wagon equipped with a capable 170-hp 1.8-liter engine and enough space for a family of four and their luggage. You get an impressive 66.5 cubic feet of load space with the rear seats folded flat. At a starting price of $21,995 you will struggle to find more space for the price.
VW has another wagon called the Alltrack that adds VW's 4MOTION AWD system and raises the ride-height a bit. It comes in at $25,995 before options and does anything that a crossover can do only a little bit closer to the ground. The AWD system will actually get you further than most base crossovers as those tend to be FWD.
VW refers to the Tiguan as a compact SUV but it is clearly a crossover. Costing the same as the Sportwagen it seems like a bargain. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four is also a tad more powerful at 200 hp but the fuel economy suffers as a result and the heavier body shell means that performance is no better. You will have to pay extra for AWD but even with it equipped it undercuts the Alltrack. The real cost of going with the Tiguan Limited is the reduced cargo area and the fact that it is the old model which means that safety and available tech will be far from class-leading.
But wait, the new Tiguan offers all of the latest safety and tech. Surprisingly though its 2.0-liter turbo motor makes 184-hp instead of the older cars 200 but economy and torque are better. It can also be loaded with 73.5 cubic feet of your stuff with the seats folded. All good news then, even the price is reasonable at $24,595. Less than the Alltrack but it is worth noting that if you go for the top SEL Premium AWD model your wallet will be $37,550 lighter. Stick to the base model and it may well be the best option from our choices.
The A4 is a solid sedan trading blows with BMW and Mercedes in terms of performance and technology. While Audi's fast wagon reputation is firmly entrenched in Europe we are offered a single wagon in the form of the A4 allroad. It offers an adjustable ride-height, 53 cubic feet of load space, AWD and comes packed with all the kit you would expect from this premium brand. $44,500 is not exactly cheap, but this car is equally at home on and off the road.
The Q5 is all-new for 2018 and it offers the absolute latest in technology. Its 252-hp turbo motor is shared with the A4 allroad and is strong and frugal but performance and economy figures are slightly down thanks to the extra weight. It does offer slightly more cargo capacity at 54.7 cubic feet. At $41,500 for the Premium trim it is $3,000 cheaper though and with not much of a difference in specifications to justify it, the Q5 takes another victory for the crossover.
Right then, surely the venerable Mercedes-Benz wagon can claw back some points. In E-Class trim you get the sensible E400 4Matic ,which at $63,050 comes packed with the prerequisite tech to justify its price tag. You get 64 cubic feet of space behind the front seats, handy for when you need to move house. The 329-hp twin-turbo is quite nice too.
The GLE 350 SUV (although in the strictest sense it is car based so it is a crossover) comes in at a reasonable sounding $52,200. That's a big saving over the wagon and at 80.3 cubic feet of rear-seat folded cargo capacity, it is more spacious too. You get a slightly anemic 305-hp 3.5-liter V6 though, which struggles to lug the heavy GLE around and uses more fuel than the wagon too. You will need the big-boy 385-hp GLE 43 for some proper performance, but then the price shoots up to $67,750 and the fuel economy is not so great either. So, a win for the E-Class Wagon. Finally.
'But what about the GLC 43?' I hear you say. Its 362-hp twin-turbo motor makes it even quicker than the E400 and it uses hardly any more fuel while going about its business. At $56,250 it also costs a fair bit less than the wagon, but aside from more rear legroom, the E-Class is bigger inside and isn't that what a crossover / SUV / wagon is all about? On that note, the 56.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity also trails the E400.
Volvo has raised its interior design game to a level that has left the rest of the field choking on its Scandinavian style. The efficient engines and class-leading safety systems just rub salt into the wounds; the brand new V60 is a perfect example of the breed. 306-hp, AWD and lots of tech are on offer. What has fallen by the wayside is the load-lugging boxy old wagon shape, replaced by a rear hatch that cuts into the cargo space giving a total of just 43.8 cubic feet. The outgoing model started at $38,000 so expect the new V60 to add a few digits to that figure.
The XC60 is also a very recent addition to the range and in the US it can be had with a range of engine options. The base 250-hp T5 starts off at $41,500 which should be similar to the new V60's pricing. It too suffers a bit in the cargo-carrying stakes thanks to the tapered tail but you can still load 63.3 cubic feet of goodies in the back. Less than a VW Sportwagen but more than a V60, so the crossover wins this battle too.
In the final reckoning, the popularity of the crossover seems well-deserved. For a small sacrifice in fuel economy and performance you get the benefit of a higher driving position, more cargo carrying capacity than an equivalent model in the range, and as we have found, you are not always penalized on the pricing either. Now if driving dynamics were taken into consideration perhaps the outcome would have turned out differently.