We all need a car to get from A to B, but sometimes, that A to B involves great distances, an army of children and a boot load of luggage. For instances such as these, SUVs have become the car body style of choice for many Australians.
The reality is that most SUVs rarely see a hint of dirt or mud in their life – instead, being consigned to a life of school runs and weekly grocery shops. It certainly begs the question, why isn’t the station wagon just as, if not more popular? A favourite of Europeans, station wagons can often provide just as much (if not more) practicality in a body style that is easier to maneuver, is more stable in corners and often more economical.
If anything, they tick more boxes than most other cars, yet rarely see the light of day on Australia’s roads, largely due to their lower-down driving position. We here at DMARGE are big fans of the station wagon (three of the team own one) and would hate for it to become extinct in Australia. We, therefore, felt it time to put together a list of the best station wagons currently available to buy Down Under, many of which combine looks, power, practicality and, ultimately, a fun driving experience.
Audi RS 6 Avant
Fuel Economy: 11.7l/100km
Cargo Space: 565 – 1,680 litres
Price: From AU $233,740 Drive Away
We’re sure many of you will recognise the Audi RS 6 Avant. The fierce, angry-looking machine is one of the leading figures in Audi’s RS line-up and boasts a 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo engine under the hood – delivering 441 kW of power, a top speed of 305km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 3.6-seconds – and some of the largest fenders we’ve ever seen on a car. Inside, however, the experience is a lot more refined. Audi is known for its high-quality interiors that are both luxurious and user-friendly, and the RS 6 Avant is no exception. Fine leather at the touch of all surfaces, bucket seats that hold you tight, and lashings of the latest technologies make for an incredibly pleasant place to sit.
With 565-litres of space in the back, expandable to 1,680-litres when you’re able to get rid of the kids and put the rear seats down, the Audi RS6 makes for a powerful workhorse. To top it off, you get Audi’s sublime Quattro four-wheel drive technology, meaning you can use the RS 6 all year round, with rain and snow (if you head to the mountains) being no challenge for this impressive German monster.
- Not as big as it looks.
- Still has the beefy V8 engine.
- Price… Very punchy.
- RS4 is just as good for a lot less.
Mercedes-Benz C 63 S AMG
Fuel Economy: 10.7l/100km
Cargo Space: 460 – 1,480 litres
Price: From AU $184,438 Drive Away
The second of the ‘big three’ from Germany, the Mercedes-Benz C 63 S AMG. The majority of Mercedes drivers will tell you, once you drive a Merc, you’ll never want to drive anything else, and it’s easy to see why. The German marque’s ride quality, automatic gear shifts and driving experience is superb, and we can’t think of many people who would want to get out of this station wagon in a hurry (unless they’ve been treated to a hot lap around a track).
An AMG-tuned Mercedes is, in our opinion, the only model worth considering, because after all, who doesn’t love a fast estate? And with 375kW of output power, this is one fast estate indeed. Plus, the brutish sound of the V8 engine will be music to the ears of many a petrol head, and one that will put a genuine smile on your face. With enough space for your golf clubs, some luggage or the family dogs, even with the rear seats up, you’ll be at your holiday resort in no time at all.
- Like the Audi, a turbo V8 is just heaps of fun.
- Classy yet raucous all at once.
- Won’t be cheap to keep running.
- The new C-Class will be making its way Down Under soon…
BMW 330i Touring M Sport
Fuel Economy: 7.0l/100km
Cargo Space: 500 – 1,510 litres
Price: From AU $85,150 Drive Away
Rounding out the German invasion is the BMW 330i. The Munich-based manufacturer doesn’t yet have a bonkers in-house version of its station wagon – although an M3 Touring has been confirmed by the brand (and Alpina do a B3 wagon). That said, the ‘standard’ 330i is still a whole lotta car, and a more than worthy contender. What was once seen as a car for real estate agents and sales reps who crunch motorway miles, the 330i Touring’s current looks give it a far sportier edge.
Of course, being a BMW, you’re gifted sublime comfort and handling all the while being cocooned in a cockpit that is practical, ergonomic and relaxing (due to it being incredibly quiet at cruising speed). Full-sized adults will feel well catered for when sitting the back with plenty of legroom, and if you’re planning a trip to the snow, the intuitive 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats mean that two passengers can still sit in the rear, flanking skis and snowboard equipment.
In short, it’s one cohesive package, and while BMW’s SUV line-up may prove more popular with consumers, for our money, the Touring is where it’s at.
- There’s a reason the 3 Series is widely considered one of the best driver’s cars on the road.
- Very healthy equipment list.
- Not a real ‘M car’.
- You’ll have to stump up for an Alpina B3 if you want a wagon with an inline-six in 2021.
Volkswagen Golf R Wagon
Fuel Economy: 7.3l/100km
Cargo Space: 605 – 1,620 litres
Price: From AU $57,990
Coming in at a considerably more affordable price-point than other models on this list, yet still offering plenty of practicality and performance, is the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon. From the outside, the Golf R Wagon is certainly more unassuming than its compatriots, especially those of a ‘hotter’ nature, with the only real discernible giveaway as to this station wagon’s speedy credentials is the R designation on the boot lid.
The 2.0l engine gives out 213kW of power, which sure, is far less than the likes of the Audi and Merc, but at around a quarter of the cost, we’re not complaining. You’ll still be pushed back into your seat when you press your foot down to the floor even when the rear is full of kids a week’s worth of luggage. Of course, take the Golf R Wagon out for a spin by yourself, and you’ll be rewarded with a thoroughly engaging driving experience. A full suite of driver safety features is available alongside a pumping sound system, making the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon the only car you need on your drive.
- Euro performance wagon fun on the cheap.
- Cheaper to run than its rivals.
- Stock is thin on the ground ahead of the MkVIII wagon’s introduction.
- Might be a bit too small for some.
Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo
Fuel Economy: 9.7l/100km
Cargo Space: 487 – 1,356 litres
Price: From AU $236,457
That’s right, Porsche, the famed Stuttgart sports car manufacturer also has an estate up its sleeve in the form of the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. Based on the Panamera platform, the Turismo extends the back end to not only provide enough space for four fully-grown adults, but all their luggage too. Of course, you’re not going to buy the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo solely for its luggage-carrying credentials, but also for the fact it’s a damn Porsche.
That means you not only get incredible performance – 243kW power and a top speed of 263km/h – matched with ride quality and handling that more than lives up to the Porsche name, but a cockpit that is finished with some of the most luxurious materials around. It’s a station wagon you’re going to want to sit in time and time again, and it’s a place that lovingly invites you in every time you open the door.
- One of the best-handling large cars on the market.
- Porsche reliability and refinement is second to none.
- The needlessly low-slung driving position is a little jarring for some.
- Not one of Porsche’s best-loved models.
Škoda Octavia RS Wagon
Fuel Economy: 6.8l/100km
Cargo Space: 640 – 1,700 litres
Price: From AU $47,790 Drive Away
Škoda, while being part of the Volkswagen Group, used to be seen as the runt of the pack. That is certainly no longer the case, as the Czech carmaker is now easily on par with its German cousins (along with Spanish brand SEAT), offering quality builds, plentiful features and technologies and great styling to boot. It also has a very hot wagon up its sleeves: the Octavia RS.
Škoda’s RS cars are revered for their outright performance, especially when you consider the low price you pay for the car itself. It’s very much a ‘if you know, you know’ vibe. The Octavia RS’ 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is the same unit that’s found in the Golf R, albeit slightly less powerful (the Octavia wagon is also longer, heavier and wider than the Golf R wagon).
In recent years, Škoda has shown more of a tendency to diverge from the Volkswagen Group’s cookie-cutter approach and step out on its own a bit more. This is evident in the Octavia’s interior design, which is far more tech and feature-heavy than its siblings. Oh yeah, and you get an umbrella in the door like you do with a Rolls-Royce. Neat, hey?
- A cheaper, practical Golf R Wagon.
- Looks awesome, especially with those five-spoke rims.
- Where’s the manual?
- Škoda brand doesn’t have the same cache as VW… Depreciation will probably sting.
Volvo V60 Cross Country
Fuel Economy: 7.3l/100km
Cargo Space: 529 litres+ (TBC)
Volvo and station wagons go together like two peas in a pod, with the Swedish carmaker’s late-90s V70 wagon being an icon among people-moving workhorses. Today, the company is at the top of its game when it comes to design and safety features, and these are both evident in the upcoming 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country.
The V60 Cross Country features all-wheel-drive and a high-riding stance, perfect for off-road wagon action. Power will come from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, paired to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system for a combined total of 184kW, in line with Volvo’s plans to quickly electrify their fleet.
And, as expected, hailing from Scandinavia, the Volvo is a thoroughly good-looking car, exhibiting clean lines and minimalist design. We can’t wait for it to arrive Down Under.
- Safe as houses for the family. It’s a Volvo.
- Impressive all-terrain capability.
- Volvos will never be sexy.
- Hybrid powertrain might be offputting for some.
Mazda 6 Atenza Wagon
Fuel Economy: 7.6l/100km
Cargo Space: 506 – 1,648 litres
Price: From AU $56,156 Drive Away
Finally, a non-Euro entry! Like most other Japanese car marques in Australia, Mazda’s primary source of revenue comes from its SUV range. The Mazda6 is the sole wagon in its repertoire and can be had in one of four variants. We’ve gone for the range-topping Atenza variant, which gains all the specs and features of the three models beneath it, but adds a larger 7-inch digital driver display, ventilated front seats (to keep your tushy cool in summer) and Nappa leather upholstery at every turn.
Elsewhere you get a loud and proud Bose sound system and a shed load of safety technologies. All that in a package that costs less than $60,000. A bargain if you ask us. As for performance, you’ll hardly be left wanting. It obviously won’t rival the performance wagons for outright speed, but for refinement it’s up there with the very best. You’ll appreciate the handling in corners all without the distraction of wind and tyre noise, which are kept to a mind-boggling minimum.
The Mazda brand may not win you as many cool points as some others either, but if you’re on a budget yet need something practical, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity.
- Luxury and refinement that rivals (or betters) Euro options for a fraction of the price.
- Incredibly reliable and cheap to service.
- Not Euro, and not really a luxury marque… It’s a hard sell.
- No manual option, and the automatic gearbox + engine management is rather sedate.
Peugeot 508 Sportswagon
Fuel Economy: 6.3l/100km
Cargo Space: 530 – 1,780 litres
Price: From AU $64,513 Drive Away
French automaker Peugeot is one that has undergone a dramatic image shift in recent years. What was once seen as perhaps more of a budget brand now comfortably holds its own against the biggest names in the game. With improvements in all areas including design, ride quality and features offered as standard, Peugeot is not one to be overlooked any more.
The 508 Sportswagon is a prime example as to why. If it’s cargo space you’re after, it’s virtually unchallenged, with nearly 1,800-litres of space on offer when the rear seats are folded. A 165kW engine provides enough power to get up to – and cruise at – highway speeds (this isn’t a performance wagon, remember) and with Nappa leather, roof bars and an impressive sound system from fellow French brand Focal to pump tunes around the cabin, you definitely get your money’s worth.
Make no mistake, this is a good looking and cool car, too. Frameless doors mean the roofline can be lowered to give it a much sportier guise, and mean it won’t look out of place when pulling up outside the fanciest of inner-city hotspots.
- Zippy and full of flair.
- More reliable than the Gallic reputation might suggest.
- Hard to justify the price.
- Limited dealer/service network can be a hassle.