Fall in the Pacific Northwest is glorious. The weather is still sunny and warm, and people feel a sense of urgency to get out and enjoy the natural splendor that surrounds us before winter begins. At the same time, the approaching winter means that ski season is not far away.
When it comes to outdoor recreation, no one can argue with the ‘Utility’ part of the ubiquitous SUV. However, some of us seek more ‘Sport’ in our daily driver. If you enjoy tackling sweeping curves and tight switchbacks on the way to your favorite kayaking spot, a wagon is a great solution. The best wagons provide the composed ride and taut handling of a performance car without sacrificing the flexibility of an SUV.
Wagons are much more popular in Europe, where they often fill the role occupied by SUVs in the United States. Consequently, there are a number of appealing wagon variations available across the pond that we at Tred wish were available to our American customers. Here are five of our favorites:
1. Mazda 6 Tourer
Consumers and journalists alike rave about the attractive styling, sprightly performance, and great gas mileage of the new Mazda 6 sedan. If you like the Mazda 6 but need a car that can fit a mountain bike in the back, look no further. The Mazda 6 Tourer offers the same affordable combination of handling and fuel economy that made the Mazda 6 sedan one of Car and Driver’s 10 Best while adding the versatility and cargo capacity of a wagon. It’s even available with Mazda’s latest Skyactiv diesel technology, delivering an incredible 46 mpg city/64 mpg highway.
2. Audi S4 Avant
No, it’s not as quick as the red-hot RS4 Avant, but the S4 Avant provides the best combination of practicality and sportiness in the A4 line: handsome looks, an upscale interior, five-doors, all-wheel drive, and sports car-like performance (the 333 hp supercharged V-6 hustles the car 0-to-60 in under 5 seconds). It manages all this without guzzling gas, delivering a respectable rating of 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway. If you enjoy driving to your favorite mountain lake as much as you enjoy being there, the Audi S4 Avant is an enticing option.
3. Subaru Outback Diesel
The Subaru Outback is a Northwest favorite (and a Tred company car), but the diesel variant provides an interesting twist. By swapping out the standard 2.5-liter boxer engine for a 2.0-liter diesel unit, the Outback improves its already strong gas mileage to an impressive 31 mpg city/42 mpg highway and extends its range for those long drives to remote camping spots. Excellent fuel economy combined with Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive makes for a great road trip car that you can use in any season.
Some say that wagons aren’t popular in the U.S. because Americans don’t like their dowdy styling. However, not even James Bond would dare to call the Jaguar XF Sportbrake ‘dowdy.’ Jaguar has taken the handsome appearance and serene driving experience of their popular XF luxury sedan and sculpted it into a more useful package. The V-6 diesel model even gives you the punch to pass on mountain roads while still delivering an impressive 31 mpg city/47 mpg highway. If you want to arrive at the trailhead in luxury and style, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is tough to beat.
5. Audi RS6 Avant
It doesn’t get great gas mileage and it certainly isn’t cheap, but the RS6 Avant is the only car on this list that can make a 911 driver think twice about a drag race. A 560 hp twin-turbo V-8 rockets this wagon 0-to-60 in under 4 seconds, and Audi’s excellent torque vectoring all-wheel drive allows you to drift effortlessly through both snow and the hairpin turns at your local racetrack. For those who need one car than can convincingly play the part of both supercar and SUV, the RS6 Avant is without equal.
Although we can only hope these bad boys will make their way to the States, there are plenty of great wagons that are readily available for your liking without the wait.
– Guest Post by Miles Pengilly