5 Luxurious, Economical and Fun to Drive Station Wagons that Make the SUV Irrelevant
Updated March 8, 2017
Probably nothing short of $10 a gallon gas will ever pull North Americans out of their SUVs entirely but Acura thinks that the market for more fuel efficient and fun to drive “premium” station wagons will grow considerably in the coming years. They are so certain that they have just unveiled the all-new 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon which I had the pleasure of road testing at the launch in San Francisco. So what’s it like to drive a station wagon? Well, here’s the thing, it’s kind of like driving a car. If you currently drive an SUV you might remember it as when you used to have fun going places. You remember back that far? Well, if these five wagons have their way you very well could find your way into an SUV-free existence very soon.
2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: (22 city/30 highway)-Let me break it down for you. The 2.4 liter 201 horsepower 4-cylinder and five-speed automatic offer up plenty of power for this stylish wagon and during my time driving it I averaged 28 miles per gallon. The steering, which some have said feels overly light, felt immensely communicative during my drive through the winding roads north of San Francisco. The 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon starts at just $30,950 and comes with leather, moonroof, heated front seats, a 315-watt premium audio system, roof rails, Bluetooth, power everything, USB/iPod connectivity, power/memory driver’s seat, dual zone climate control and pretty much everything a luxury car buyer would ever “need.” Adding the Tech Package takes you to $34,610 and adds goodies like in-dash navigation, the peerless Acura/ELS audio system and a power tailgate among other things. While Acura is aiming its new TSX Sport Wagon at Gen-Y individuals who find SUVs to be uncool since their parents had one, I think a lot of dog owners will find plenty to love in this comfortable, solidly built and low riding (important for older canine ingress/egress) luxury wagon. It also has a multitude of standard latches and hooks in the cargo hold for pet harnesses or crates. All of this and 60.5 cubic feet of cargo room when the back seat is folded completely flat.
2011 Audi A4 Avant 2.0T Quattro: (21 city/29 highway)-Before the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon came along this was my favorite family friendly all-wheel drive luxury sport wagon. The Avant’s 2.0 liter engine is turbocharged so it has more muscle than the TSX and the standard DSG double clutch automatic works beautifully with this motor. Unfortunately, the A4 wagon is also not as well equipped as the TSX and when similarly equipped is frightfully more expensive. I would usually say that it’s worth the extra outlay for an Audi but considering how excellent the TSX Sport Wagon package is there really isn’t any point. 2011Subaru Outback Limited: (22 city/29 highway)
The 2011 Subaru Outback really stands out for having a positively huge cargo area along with a smartly styled if somewhat utilitarian interior. The Subaru Outback also has a reputation for excellent crash safety, decent all-wheel drive fuel economy, bulletproof long term reliability as much go anywhere/haul anything capability as most SUVs. If you want a bit more fun, however, I recommend buying your Outback with the optional 256 horsepower 3.6 liter flat-six motor. The base motor doesn’t cope as well with loads and inclines as the TSX Sport Wagon’s rather zippy 4-cylinder engine so driving enthusiasts might be left wanting with just 2.5 liters and 170 horsepower.
2011 Mercedes E-350 4-Matic Wagon: (16 city/23 highway) Auto journalists often wonder who, exactly, are the people who still buy station wagons? At Mercedes, it is apparently the very wealthy as the average buyer of a 2011 E-350 4-Matic Wagon makes well over $200,000 a year. In case you were wondering, that’s much higher than is true with even Mercedes very own SUV owners. The E-Class wagon only comes with the 3.5 liter 268 horsepower V6 engine mated to an effortlessly smooth 7-speed automatic that keeps things moving along briskly if not exactly at break-neck speed. Also standard is Mercedes 4-Matic all-wheel drive and the ability to carry seven passengers-that last feature isn’t found anywhere else in the station wagon class.
2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring SE: (23 city/31 highway) Just because you don’t even have $20,000 to spend on a new station wagon doesn’t mean you have to settle for something used. You can also order up your Elantra Touring SE with a sweet shifting B&M 5-speed manual transmission that is easily the most satisfying unit Hyundai has ever offered. Otherwise a 4-speed automatic is the only option available as the SE variant comes fully loaded. The top-level Elantra Touring SE comes with leather, moonroof, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, heated front seats, 17-inch alloys, XM satellite radio and much more as standard. You would be surprised how many “premium” brands actually routinely charge extra for some of those features. (Note: I am not above naming names-BMW, Audi and Volvo.)
Categories: Gear Grinding