The station wagon is on the verge of extinction. Only a handful of automakers continue to sell vehicles in this body style. Despite our affinity toward wagons, which combine the versatility of an SUV with the more engaging handling of a sedan, the market for these vehicles continues to shrink.
In an attempt to reverse this cycle and attract would-be SUV buyers, many of today’s wagons wear plastic body cladding and faux skid plates that mimic the rugged nature of their more upright SUV counterparts. Some even pair their visual addenda with mechanical upgrades to improve their off-road capability.
Still, not all wagons resort to this approach. Take the 190-mph Audi RS6 Avant for example. It shoots to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, which is seven-tenths quicker than a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS sports car. But you’re more likely to bump into the Wienermobile on the highway than spot one of these fiery four-ringed chariots. Yet, the fact Audi sees a business case for such a model in America gives us hope yet for the wagon’s future on our shores. Whether it’s an off-road- or performance-oriented wagon you’re interested in, the awardees on our 2023 Editors' Choice list ought to scratch your wagon-loving itch. Each of these wagons was put through our detailed testing regimen to ensure these machines truly live up to the hype.
Its lifted ride height and tough-looking exterior allow the 2023 Subaru Outback to blend in among SUVs, but its station wagon body gives you added practicality. While it can venture further off-road than a traditional station wagon, you won't see the Outback tackling trails in Moab next to Jeep Wranglers or Ford Broncos. Shoppers have the choice of either a nonturbo or turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but all Outbacks come standard with all-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Rivals including the Audi A4 Allroad and the Volvo V60 Cross Country offer similar looks, but the Outback has the lifted-station-wagon aesthetic and capability for thousands less than those luxury cars.
Audi A6 Allroad
Using the A6 sedan as a starting point, Audi added an adjustable air suspension, rugged styling cues, and a station wagon shape to create the 2023 A6 Allroad. All-wheel drive is standard and the A6 Allroad has extra ground clearance to help it go places the standard A6 cannot. This formula isn't a new one, as other rugged wagons such as the Mercedes-Benz E-class All-Terrain and the Volvo V90 Cross Country also target this niche. But the Audi uses its superb road manners, tech-forward interior design, and upscale curb appeal to float to the top of the class. A smooth turbocharged V-6 provides ample power and the A6 Allroad's ride is plush on all but the most potholed roads. The extra space behind the rear seat afforded by the wagon body style also gives the A6 Allroad a chance to attract would-be SUV buyers looking for something a little different. The downside is the A6 Allroad's starting price, which is higher than the regular sedan model. If the A6 Allroad is out of reach, you could also consider the smaller but more affordable A4 Allroad.
Audi RS6 Avant
In a sea of performance SUVs like the BMW X5 M, the Audi RS6’s rakish profile, hunkered-down stance, and supercar driving character are rare and special. Powered by a 591-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8, this station wagon is a performance beast, shooting to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds and capable of a 190 mph top speed. That’ll make Costco runs a lot more interesting. At the same time, the long-roof body style can comfortably seat five while carrying nearly as much cargo as chunkier, less athletic SUVs. And though the RS6 leans heavily towards sporty driving, the interior features a classy design, sumptuous materials, and all of the latest technology. Along with the high-riding performance SUVs, the RS6 Avant does battle with other pricey performance wagons like the Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. If you dig the RS6 Avant’s performance credentials but want a sleeker, less family-oriented look, Audi also offers the mechanically identical RS7 hatchback.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S
We adore wagons. We love high-performance wagons even more—give us the sweet sounds that accompany the firing of eight boisterous cylinders and the sensation of turbos building boost. Mix all that together–plus a dose of top-shelf luxury–and you've got the dreamy, steamy Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. The way this five-door delivers thrills and performance, comfort, curb appeal, and pragmatic functionality in a holistic package is borderline phantasmal. There aren't many vehicles that can live up to the practical demands of daily life while offering almost limitless thrills for those who love to drive for the sake of driving. The E63 S Wagon does. Superwagon's 603-hp twin-turbo V-8 and 4Matic all-wheel drive system enable rocket-propelled launches that take you to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Go ahead, challenge that Corvette to a drag race. The Wagon pulls 1.00 g of cornering grip on the skid pad as if it thinks it's a Porsche. And it'll haul a load of mulch as effortlessly as it hauls ass. The only thing bringing down our collective high about the E63 S Wagon is that 2023 is set to be its final year of production. Mercedes has not yet revealed details about the nameplate's future, but we anticipate it may return with a hybridized powertrain similar to that of the 2024 AMG C63 or—better still—the 831-hp GT63 S E-Performance. Maybe we won't miss it so much after all.
Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain
Formerly known as the E-class station wagon, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain delivers SUV-like practicality with a more elegant overall design and carlike ride and handling. Sitting on an adjustable air suspension, the E450 All-Terrain can navigate many of the same obstacles as your average crossover and its 362-hp turbocharged inline-six engine provides more than enough grunt to satisfy lead-footed drivers. The cabin is downright posh and comes standard with a rear-facing third row of seats if you need room for more than five riders. While we prefer the simpler look of the E-class wagon to the All-Terrain's faux-rugged design, we understand why Mercedes took the car in this direction, as rivals such as the Audi A6 Allroad and the Volvo V90 Cross Country are popular for a similar blend of wagon usefulness and adventurous styling.
Volvo V60 / V60 Cross Country
For car buyers who want something larger than small hatchback but don't want to park an SUV in the garage, the 2023 Volvo V60 and V60 Cross Country are a rare pair of compact station wagons that can address that need. We love wagons; they ride lower to the ground, often weigh less than similarly sized SUVS, and tend to handle better—so they’re more fun to drive. If you’re mind conjures a dowdy image at the mention of the “w” word, know that the V60 models are anything but drab. Upscale exterior styling gives way to a luxe interior with ample tech features. Driving enthusiasts with distinct wagon tendencies will drool over the hottest Polestar Engineered model and its punchy 455-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain, but the base engine in the V60 Cross Country will likely be more than adequate for everyone else. If you need more room for cargo, the larger Volvo V90 Cross Country offers a similar luxo-wagon vibe—and luxury station wagons from other makers, such as the Audi A4 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E-class All-Terrain, are worth a look too.
Volvo V90 Cross Country
Volvo didn't invent the station wagon, but its boxy people haulers from the 1980s and 1990s kept the body style kicking into the SUV age. Their modern-day analogue, the 2023 V90 Cross Country, is one of few remaining station wagons on sale today and it deftly blends traditional longroof styling, a raised ride height, and deluxe cabin trimmings to hold on to its place at the top of the brand's lineup alongside the flagship XC90 SUV. Rival luxury wagons such as the Audi A6 Allroad and the Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain follow a similar formula, but neither one can match the V90's Scandinavian appeal. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a 295-hp engine, and the V90 Cross Country's extra ground clearance means it can venture off the beaten path—although we'd stop short of taking a completely unbeaten one. Like other Volvo models, including the smaller but similar V60 Cross Country, the V90 comes standard with many driver-assistance features including an adaptive cruise control system with lane centering and an automated emergency braking system with pedestrian detection.
Porsche Taycan Cross / Sport Turismo
Wagons aren't the bestselling body style in the United States, but the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo and Sport Turismo prove popularity isn't everything. These are the longroof station-wagon alternatives to the swanky electric Taycan sedan, which we review separately, and they offer a bigger back seat and added cargo space over their more traditional counterpart. Unlike the sedan, however, the wagons come only with dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrains. Max driving range is an EPA-estimated 235 miles. Horsepower ranges from 469 for base Cross Turismos up to 750 horses in the Cross Turismo Turbo S. There's also a 590-hp Sport Turismo GTS that ditches the Cross Turismo's body cladding and additional SUV-inspired ride height. A high-quality interior makes both wagons a pleasure to ride in, and the Cross Turismo's additional ground clearance might make for an easier passenger exit for some. Both the Cross and Sport Turismo models deliver less range than the normal Taycan, however.
Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.
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