In a few years the station wagon might be confined to cave paintings in some deep underground decrepit car dealership, and only a few people still alive may remember the legend that once was.
Slowly the station wagon as we know it is being transformed into modern classifications like crossover SUV or sport wagon. Until the transformation is complete, we can all still enjoy the versatility and convenience of the proper station wagon.
Generally when you’re shopping for a wagon you’re looking for a ton of space on top of a nimble platform, and you can find one at just about any price range.
Here are the best used station wagons:
A powerful and great presence on the road is the Mercedes E350 Wagon. It’s not the cheapest car in the world, even four years later at just under $33,000, but that cost is packed with everything you could want in a car that fits somewhere between an F-150 and a Fiat. The E350 has more than 57 cubic feet of cargo space (back seats down) and is equipped with AWD. Mercedes’ E350 wagon handles turns at moderate speeds with extraordinary confidence.
That coupled with the 3.5-liter V6 power plant, which is more than capable producing 300 horsepower and over 270 lb-ft of torque, means this wagon can carve through a mountain with a house in tow. Gas mileage is acceptable at more than 20 MPG combined city and highway, and the E350 has a driving mode where the car literally drives itself, including its brakes, throttle and steering.
Volvo’s V60 from 2015 lies somewhere between the Mercedes and the BMW 328i xDrive in the spectrum of relatively recent station wagons. It costs less than the Mercedes but more than the BMW, weighs about the same as the BMW yet has more horsepower than both, and gets around the same mileage as the Mercedes. It’s got AWD, a tow rating of 3500 pounds, however it offers less cargo space at around 43 cubic feet.
The V60 scored a perfect five-star safety rating from NHTSA. This is most likely due to its various safety features, including the City Safety system, which includes a low-speed forward collision warning upon automatically applying the brakes. Optionally the V60 may come with parking sensors, a rearview camera, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, and a traffic sign recognition system.
Lighter, cheaper and more gas efficient than the Mercedes E350 is the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon. It’s also more of a mouthful to say. Like the Mercedes it’s equipped with usual refinements including AWD and lots of cargo space. BMW provides just over 52 cubic feet, which just shy of the Mercedes’ aircraft carrier-like runway of a trunk, still provides all the room you’ll need for anything from nap time to moving day.
The BMW uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower. That's considerably less power than the Mercedes, however it still moves the car and manages to get the car something close to 25 MPG combined city and highway, most likely due to the extra gear found in its transmission.
If ever there was an estate car that could win drag races from the factory, the Dodge Magnum SRT8 could very well be it. 6.1 liters produce 425 furious horsepower underneath the hood of the Magnum, and really that’s all the car is good for. It gets less than ideal gas mileage at an abysmal 15 MPG combined, weighs quite a bit more than the BMW and is only RWD (the R/T model can be equipped with AWD). However despite its shortcomings the Magnum can tow 3800 pounds and its back half is a cavern at an intimidating 71 cubic feet, with the seats down.
In the vein of reliability, unfortunately the Magnum doesn't exactly impress. Without taking into consideration the Magnum’s involvement with the recent Takata airbag recall, the Magnum was a victim of defective transmission linkage, as well as insubordinate axle hubs. Both of those recalls surfaced in 2008, so if you decide to go with a Magnum use NHTSA’s recall lookup resource and make sure some previous owner addressed the recalls.
The genuine article station wagon still belongs to the Subaru Outback. It’s light, has decent power, can tow a solid 3,000 pounds, and has 65 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down. It does all of this with a 3.0-liter boxer-six engine that makes 245-horsepower. The Outback is AWD and only comes with an automatic transmission, but offers a combined 20 MPG which is decent for an older car.
There’s plenty of room for five passengers, and with more than 50 total inches of hip room in the back seat you can fit at least a couple of car seats, maybe even three if you get creative. Reliability-wise the Outback scores better on average, that being said it did fall prey to the Takata airbag fiasco, like the Dodge Magnum.
If you want a fun and robust station wagon for tooling around town, going grocery shopping and picking up the kids, the Mercury Sable is a solid, albeit now dated, option. It’s only got 200 horsepower out of its 3.0-liter V6, but that’s enough to bomb it up and down mountain passes all day long. It’s FWD, so it might not be your first choice for off-roading, but it’s got more than 80 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats down, and it’s got a third back-facing row of seats that emerges from the trunk.
In terms of reliability the Sable only has one recall that surfaced in 2016, where aftermarket Bosch brake pads might need to be replaced. Other than that, drivers have reported transmission problems but not in LS trim. The Sable LS reportedly gets an estimated combined 20 MPG.
As you can see there is a station wagon for just about any price range. It’s getting more difficult to find a true station wagon as time goes on, which means these cars are only getting older, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still viable options as utility vehicles.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.