Once an indispensable mode of family transportation, the station wagon fell out of favour with North American consumers around the time the minivan as we know it today was introduced in the mid-1980s. Buyers then flocked to SUVs and crossovers as they became consistently less truck-like and more refined.
Although they were decidedly uncool at one point, wagons are enjoying something of a renaissance, attracting those who want the proportions and driving characteristics of a car with added practicality, utility, and cargo capacity.
Of all the wagon models currently available in the Canadian market, our jury of more than 20 automotive experts made the difficult decision of whittling down the list to five finalists: the Volvo V60/V60 Cross Country, Mercedes E-Class Wagon, Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen/Alltrack, Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, and Mercedes C-Class Wagon.
A varied selection of vehicles ranging widely in price and purpose, each model may have its own benefits and drawbacks depending on whether you’re looking for luxury, utility, a family hauler, or a hot hatch. The good news is there’s a wagon for every budget and need.
Considering factors such as comfort, convenience, innovative technology and safety amenities, ergonomics, fuel efficiency, practicality and overall value for the money, our dedicated team of experts will vote to narrow the list down to a single award winner on January 20, 2020.
Mercedes C-Class Wagon
Available in Canada, the Mercedes C-Class Wagon isn’t sold south of the 49th parallel since Americans don’t seem to be buying anything but trucks and SUVs these days. Their loss. We even get two options to choose from – the C 300 or the more potent C 43 AMG version. Both are available exclusively with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Manual shifting is available on the nine-speed transmission via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The C 300’s propulsion comes from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder making 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the AMG gets a 3.0L biturbo V6 making 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque at as low as 2,500 rpm. Zero-to-100-km/h times are 6.0 seconds and 4.8 seconds, respectively. And the best part? Comfortable seating for five adults and 460L of cargo capacity or 1,480L with the rear seats folded down.
Updates for 2019 include a new grille, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs and a revised quad exhaust. The C 43’s interior now offers optional digital gauges, new interior upholstery and trim options, as well as a new standard 10.2-inch infotainment screen that is controlled by a rotary dial or the touchpad above it.
There’s a long list of standard features and optional equipment, including carbon fibre goodies and trim, active park assist, rear side window sunshades, a 360-degree-camera, navigation, heads-up display, the Burmester surround sound system, a foot-activated power tailgate, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The AMG’s steering is more precise and direct to match its added performance.
Multiple drive modes allow the driver to customize their preferences for suspension, steering, and throttle response. Its adaptive, multimode suspension features three-stage electronically controlled shocks. It also features active exhaust and auto-stop/start functionality. C-Class Wagon pricing starts at $47,700.
Mercedes E-Class Wagon
Known as an “Estate” in Europe, the E-Class Wagon is offered in Canada as an E 450 4MATIC, or if you fancy stepping up to AMG territory, the E 53 and E63. The E 450 4MATIC gets a smooth and responsive 3.0L V6 biturbo mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. A generous 362 hp at 5,500rpm and 369 lb-ft at as low as 1,800 rpm help the E-Class sprint from a standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 5.2 seconds.
Boasting bigger wheels and brakes with more robust transmissions and suspension, the AMG E 53 gets a turbocharged 3.0L inline-six cylinder good for 429 hp and 484 lb-ft of torque while the E63 Wagon makes 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of toque from a handcrafted AMG 4.0L V8. Zero-to-100 km/h comes in 4.5 and 3.5 seconds, respectfully.
Adaptive air suspension is self-levelling and self-lowering but also driver-adjustable through one of the five drive modes (Eco, Sport, Sport +, Comfort and Individual) that allow the driver to customize the driving experience through inputs to chassis and drivetrain.
Interiors combine leather, stainless steel and wood along with 64-colour LED accent lighting. Offering a host of advanced safety technology like blind spot assist and active braking, if the vehicle senses an impending collision it will emit what the company calls a “pink noise” through the audio system to prepare occupants’ ears for the loud noises of an impact. Active side bolsters inflate to keep passengers in place during spirited turns, as well as if the vehicle senses an impending side collision to help brace occupants for impact.
GPS navigation includes 3D maps and even lane suggestions before a turn. The touchpad controls a 12.3-inch infotainment screen on the dash and another optional one within the instrument cluster. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard. Pricing starts at $75,900.
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
The 2019 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo features a longer roof, larger cargo area and more headroom for rear passengers over the standard Panamera. Rear seats split
40/20/40 to fold down for more space. In typical Porsche fashion, customers have an almost overwhelming number of trim choices, ranging from the 4, 4S, GTS, Turbo, to the 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid. Each rung of the ladder brings more amenities and options, including a panoramic moonroof, air suspension, heated steering wheel, massaging seats, 360-degree camera and even leather climate control vents should the mood strike you.
Offering a high level of build quality and comfort, it’s a luxurious grand tourer that’s engaging to drive, particularly when paired with the speed-sensitive steering (Porsche calls it Power Steering Plus). The 2019 model year also adds the option of a heads-up display, an anodized black interior finish, new stitching choices and a redesigned steering wheel on Turbo models.
Available exclusively with all-wheel-drive capability and a swift shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, each powertrain offers increasing level of performance, from the 330-hp turbocharged V6, a 457-hp twin-turbo to the 462-hp gas-electric E-Hybrid. Not enough for your grocery getting needs? Perhaps the 550-hp Turbo or 667-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid may be more your speed.
Available carbon ceramic brakes bite down on gargantuan discs with 10-piston calipers up front for even more swift stopping power. Optional rear-axle steering, and active anti-roll bars assist with handling dynamics. Hybrid versions provide added levels of fuel efficiency with virtually no perceivable transition between power sources.
The Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo offers all the safety technology you’d expect from a luxury wagon of its stature, including lane warning and assist, adaptive cruise control with automated emergency braking and even a night vision. A stunning wagon for fancier folks who prioritize driver satisfaction, this Porsche starts at a hefty $111,700 and goes all the way up to $219,800.
Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen/Alltrack
Canadians looking for a vehicle that offers practicality and room for a family may think that an SUV is their only option, but the Volkswagen Golf offers a selection of body styles and trims to suit a variety of needs. Versatile and affordable, the Golf Sportwagen may retain the driving characteristics of a sedan but it offers lots more cargo space.
The Sportwagen may be larger and heavier than the standard Golf, but it retains the supple ride and civilized road manners of its smaller sibling. It also feels more expensive than it actually is with an excellent build quality and higher-end materials throughout.
Available in three trims, Comfortline, Highline and Execline, a 1.4L four-cylinder engine putting out 147 hp is standard with the option of a 1.8L four-cylinder engine making 170 hp. Both are available with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel drive. Choosing the Execline trim means getting the 1.8L four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic DSG and all-wheel drive capability. A long list of standard equipment is offered, including heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Pricing for the Sportwagen starts at $24,400.
The Alltrack comes with a more substantial price tag starting at $31,200, but also gets an extra 1.5 cm of right height thanks to longer springs and dampers. It also gets different bumpers, body cladding, aluminum mirrors, and skid plates underneath. The Alltrack also has an Eco mode as well as an Offroad mode, which isn’t found on other Golf models, that modulates throttle and braking input to retain traction in situations with steep grades or compromised traction.
Introduced as a new model for 2017, active and passive safety features were added to the suite of standard equipment for 2019, including automated emergency braking, front-collision warning, pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Volvo V60/V60 Cross Country
The brand that once brought you the “boxy but good” aesthetic is now making elegant and efficient cars and SUVs. The brick-shaped wagons of old now a distant memory, the V60 and V60 Cross Country are a smart-looking pair of vehicles offering buyers intuitive technology and a suite of passive and active safety equipment for which the brand has become synonymous.
Built on Volvo’s SPA (scalable product architecture) platform along with the XC60, S90, V90 and XC90, the V60 also incorporates the family’s handsome and understated styling cues. Volvo has made the leap to exclusively using four-cylinder engines, offering a number of Drive-E powerplants that are both turbocharged and supercharged for low- and mid-range power.
Opting for Momentum trim gets you the T5 engine making 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque but can only be paired with front-wheel drive. Moving up the ladder to R-Design and Inscription gets you a T6 all-wheel-drive configuration upping the ante to 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Fuel consumption understandably increases, with an estimated rating of 11.1 L/100 km city and 7.3 on the highway using premium fuel. The T8 plug-in hybrid available in other models across the lineup is currently not offer in the V60. Pricing ranges from $43,900 to $55,400.
The V60 Cross Country comes in a single trim while the only powertrain offering is the T5 mated to all-wheel drive. Visually, the Cross Country gets some extra plastic cladding for a more rugged appearance, revised chassis and suspension that adds an extra 75 mm of ride height and all-wheel drive as standard equipment. It also offers hill descent control and an off-road drive mode. Pricing for the Cross Country model starts at $48,900.