No bones about it, most of the American public has no love for anything wagon-shaped. For too long they’ve carried the image of ugly, frumpy boxes—sort of the Lena Duhnam of cars (sorry Lena, I am not a fan). They got a particularly bad rap back in the 70s when the worst of it was prevalent (though admittedly the 70s was not a great time for car design across the board) and the stigma, unfortunately for wagon sales, has stuck.
That being said, some manufacturers still made some of the most the bad-ass wagons in the last few years—and if you can find them they are the fantastic buys now. Here’s why: wagons often have as much room (if not more sometimes) than SUVs. They get better gas mileage than most SUVs out there (even the hybrids), their center of gravity is lower (making them less likely to tip over), and they are lighter than most SUVs or minivans so they are more maneuverable, and wagons are usually cheaper to maintain and drive.
A rare unicorn vehicle but downright incredible, the CTS-V wagon is a driver’s (and an auto journalist’s) dream come true. Cadillac made them from 2011 to 2014 and they came complete with a 6.2L supercharged V8 engine that made 565 hp. I drove one a few years back when I was looking for a new car (and they were running a fantastic deal on it) and regretfully, did not pull the trigger. I should have. Nowadays a good deal is just a hair under the original retail price of around $60,000 and they are downright tough to find—but so very worth the hunt.
You can get this wagon in two flavors, gas or diesel (so far there’s no Dieselgate here). Go for the 328i or the 328d. Either version gets all-wheel drive included. The gasoline variant uses the 2.0L turbo 4 and gets 240 hp and does the 0-60 hustle in 5.8 seconds. While the diesel gets better fuel economy, the gas version still gets an EPA rated 33 mpg.
Existing in that weird space somewhere between actual wagon and real (gasp) minivan, the Ford Flex has been around since 2009 and as Car and Driver notes, it’s basically a “1965 Ford Country Sedan thrown into a blender with a Jeep Wagoneer and a modern Range Rover.” It's quiet and big enough for your minivan sized crew—and it gets Ford’s 365-hp EcoBoost engine which also means it’s pretty damn efficient too.
The E-Class Wagon stays true to Mercedes-Benz’s design language while providing enough space to have a (small) third row seat. Oh, and if you are so inclined, you can get it in the souped up E63 AMG spec which gives it a 0-60 time of just 3.6 seconds. Simply put it’s downright good looking—and not your mom’s boxy wagon.
This is another wagon that is at the top of my want list. It’s quick, understated, and has plenty of room for at least a pair of large dogs and four adults. Trust me, I’ve transported that many humans/animals very comfortably on long road trips in a 2013 model. The 2009 Audi A4 Avant got U.S. News & World Report’s top rating as a used car. Reviewers liked the balanced handling and luxury cabin materials in the Avant and it comes with all-wheel drive.
It’s an obvious choice for its slightly higher ride height (hi there, sort-of-SUV) and for the fact that its been at the top of “best of” lists for years. Hardy enough to survive the cold, salt, and sand of Vermont winters, with all-wheel drive and Subaru’s rock-solid four-cylinder Boxer engine, you can’t really go wrong with these cars. They run forever.
No wagon list is complete without (my own beloved wagon brand) Volvo. The Volvo V60 is one of Volvo’s best-looking wagons yet (just wait, there may be more to come) and the 2015 version gets 37 mpg on the highway. Plus you get all the benefits of the Swedish/Chinese brand’s best-in-the-business safety features.
Digital media content producer/consultant & former CNN senior producer, now running CN'TRL : Cars, Tech, Real Estate & Luxury.