Raising a family comes with sacrifices. Take your sports coupe, for example. Sure, your parents may have tossed you into the back of their ’70s 911 for trips to Grandma’s, but in today’s world, kids require proper car seats. Massive ones. Ones that can click in and out of an equally massive stroller, which just so happens to dwarf your parents’ old 911. You get the gist. And as the gear required to transport a child grows, so too must the car it’s all carried in.
But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up fun and get into a crossover. In fact, you don’t even need to give up the power, handling, and ground-hugging ride height of your favourite sports car, either. High-end car makers are bringing the station wagon back to North America and giving it a performance-minded twist, essentially creating sports cars that can swallow a stroller or two. And as the list of luxury-minded sports wagons sold in North America continues to grow, we decided to highlight a select few of our favourites.
Audi A4 allroad
Audi knows a thing or two about building a great wagon, but the company typically keeps its good stuff over in Europe. To this day we dream of owning a B7 RS4 Avant or the gorgeous new A6 Avant. But over on this side of the pond, the only Audi wagon we can get is the A4 allroad.
Yes, it tries to look like an off-roader with its tallish tire sidewalls and black fender trim, but at its core, it’s still a long-roof version of the fantastic Audi A4. And it’s the top-of-the-line version, too. Power comes from the potent 248-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo, and Audi’s famous quattro all-wheel drive system ensures that this wagon’s got grip in the corners and in the gravel. It’s damn near impossible to find fault with Audi’s nearly perfect, driver-focused cockpit, too. The only minor drawback is that the Audi A4 allroad has a smaller footprint than the other wagons on this list, so some may find the backseat and cargo space lacking.
Buick Regal TourX
Buick has often felt like an afterthought for GM, the brand being only kept around because its badge carries significant weight in China. With its North American product line consisting of old, rebadged Opels, many recent Buicks even started to feel more low-grade than their Chevy counterparts. But finally, the product planners managed to bring over the good stuff, including the Opel Insignia wagon, known here as the Buick Regal TourX.
Like the Audi A4 allroad we just mentioned, Buick “toughened” things up by adding taller-profile tires and extra black plastic cladding. And also like the Audi, this Buick wagon comes with all-wheel drive. But the Buick’s got some things that the Audi is missing: more space (up to 73.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity), more power (250 horsepower), and more gears (8 to the Audi’s 7). Did we also mention that Opel is a German company? Because it is, meaning they know a thing or two about making a solid driver’s car.
Now, the Buick Regal TourX isn’t as lively or as refined as the Audi, but it’s more than quick enough, and it’s hard to argue with all the extra space it provides. It’s also hard to argue with the cost; the Regal TourX is the cheapest car here, starting at just $29K (USD) and some change.
We’d close by saying that it’s nice to see Buick/Opel stepping up its game, but GM just sold the division to Peugeot. So, if you want an “American” sports wagon, the Buick Regal TourX is probably your last chance to grab one.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Sometimes a car speaks to our wants, needs, and desires so perfectly, we can’t help but wonder if its designers found a way to crack directly into our brains. Such is the case with the Jaguar XF Sportbrake, which is hands down one of our favourite cars ever.
This is one of the few long-roof cars sold here that doesn’t try to project an image of off-road readiness, nor does it care to try. The XF Sportbrake is an elegant machine, its low, long shape exuding a sense of purpose — that purpose being hauling a**, and possibly some family gear as well.
Two engines are available, but we only sampled the 380-horsepower supercharged V6. Yes, it’s fast, with a 5.3-second run from naught to sixty. It’s got that signature Jaguar rasp, and with its rear-bias AWD system, it’s just as fun to fling through the corners as it is comfortable cruising down a wide-open stretch of road. That the XF Sportbrake puts as much emphasis on the word “sport” as it does “wagon” means that the ride is sports-car stiff, so expect to clean up extra messes should you let the kids eat their Gogurt in the backseat.
Mercedes-Benz E63 S Wagon
Few cars are as hilariously fun as the AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz E63 S Wagon. This is one of those cars we unfortunately didn’t get to live with in the real world, but as we instead flogged one on the very high-speed Streets of Willow racetrack, we think we have a good idea of what this German wagon can do.
Yes, it is a “real” AMG, meaning its 603-horsepower bi-turbo V8 was handcrafted by a single, artisan builder in Affalterbach, Germany. Stepping on the gas unleashes a proper, 8-cylinder bark as this wagon seemingly defies physics to hit 60 mph in just a hair over 3 seconds. As with other AMGs, the long-roof E63 is tuned more for Autobahn speed runs than cornering, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t hang on the track. Sure, you’re mostly gunning the engine between turns, but when the car is this much fun, does it really matter that it doesn’t quite corner like a Miata? And at the end of the day, it’s still a proper Mercedes-Benz, so the E63 S Wagon still has all the luxury, refinement, and comfort you would expect from the brand.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
It’s kind of hard to believe that the most amazing sports wagon would come from Porsche, more for the fact that it’s hard to believe that Porsche opted to get into the wagon business. We can understand the desire for the brand to build SUVs, as those more or less gave Porsche a license to print money. But to not only dip into a super-niche market, but build several awesome wagons? If we didn’t know better, we’d go so far as to say that Porsche was trying specifically to become our favourite brand.
The standard Panamera surprised us when it first came out by just how versatile it was. Its seats are spacious. Its cargo area is wide and accommodating. And by sheer virtue of being a Porsche, it drove absolutely beautifully. And the same goes for the new wagon versions, too. Our favourite, of course, is the top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. The name is a mouthful, yes, but the specs more than make up for the clunky badge. Its advanced hybrid powertrain puts out a combined 677 horsepower, and it can make the sprint from 0-60 in just 3.2 seconds. Top speed is a mind-boggling 192 mph. All this in a 5,100-lb. car with over 45 cubic feet of cargo space. It is, by far, the priciest car on this list, but it may very well be the most amazing.
Volvo V60 R-Design
Volvo is best known for cars that are boxy and safe, but to us, Volvo will always be the champion of sports wagons. The brand first caught our eye in the 1990s with a TV spot centred around the 850 wagon it entered in the British Touring Car Championship. And to this day, our dream garage includes a Cream Yellow 850 T-5R wagon. But as those are rare, we’d be happy to settle in the current Volvo V60.
If we’re honest, this entry was a toss-up between the V60 and V90 — and yes, that means Volvo currently sells two awesome wagons in North America today. The design — both inside and out — is impeccable, and as with other Volvos, they feel more like contemporary works of architecture and art. Out of the two, the V60 gets our nod due to the sheer variety of versions available. Our personal favourites are the aggressive R-Design, which features a lower and stiffer suspension. And if you’re fortunate enough to find one, there’s also the 415-horsepower Polestar Engineered plug-in performance hybrid, which is even more hardcore.