As types of automobile go, you can’t get much more sensible than a station wagon. Roomier than a coupe or a sedan but more agile and efficient than a crossover or SUV, the noble station wagon is quite possibly the best all-around body style in all of autodom. And we know we speak for many of our fellow American gearheads when we say we dearly, dearly hope our compatriots eventually realize the error or their ways in forsaking station wagons, first for minivans, then SUVs and, most recently, crossovers.
And to help persuade our countrymen and countrywomen that sedan-based-squarebacks deserve another chance, we’ve assembled the following list of 20 sports cars trapped in station wagon bodies. These boom-juice-drinking centaurs truly are the motoring world’s way of having your cake and eating it too, allowing you experience spine-tingling driving dynamics one day, and the soul-uplifting and life-affirming thrill of being able to haul a two-year supply of salad croutons home from Costco the next. Here, without further ado and in a 93% random order, they are.
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Failure to include the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon on this list (never mind include it as the first entry) would be exactly the sort of thing that, in simpler times, would have gotten us burned at the stake. Consider its qualifications: Rear-wheel drive. A choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Available Recaro front bucket seats. A honed-on-the-Nürburgring chassis setup. A supercharged 6.2L V8 making 556 horsepower. And, the cherry on top, Cadillac’s sexy “Art & Science” styling motif. God bless America, son!
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model Wagon
Even before it was absorbed by Mercedes-Benz, AMG was building badass Benz station wagons (S124 Hammerwagon FTW!). But since it was brought completely under the Three-Pointed Star’s umbrella in 2005, the tuning titans at AMG have taken their involvement in the super station wagon segment to another level. And that level is the highest it’s ever been with the new E63 AMG S-Model Wagon, based on the updated S212 (The “S” prefix in a Mercedes-Benz chassis code denotes a wagon version of a sedan; sedan codes usually start with a “W.”) E-Class Wagon.
With a twin-turbo 5.5L V8 rated at 577 horsepower, AMG’s multi-plate wet clutch 7-speed automatic transmission, and a fixed torque split (33% front, 67% rear) version of 4Matic all-wheel-drive, the E63 AMG S-Model Wagon is obscenely quick. In the hands of Motor Trend, it ripped to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and did the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds at 120 mph. Numbers like that soften the blow of the $100k+ price tag (not to mention the fact the rear-facing third seat found in pedestrian E wagons isn’t available) quite considerably, if you ask us.
Volvo 850R Wagon
Even though Volvo was building peppy, turbocharged station wagons before the 850R Wagon (and its predecessor, the 1995 850 T-5R Wagon), and the company even campaigned a pair of 850 Wagons in the 1994 British Touring Car Championship, it wasn’t until this front-drive boom box arrived that the motoring world realized that a hot Volvo wagon wasn’t as far-fetched an idea as many people thought.
The turbocharged 2.3L inline-five made a healthy-for-the-time 240 horsepower when mated to the standard 4-speed automatic transmission, while buyers outside the U.S. could pop for a 5-speed manual transmission which also got them an extra 10 ponies and a trick differential that incorporated both a viscous coupling and a Torsen limited-slip mechanism. Other upgrades over regular 850 Wagons included upgraded suspension and brakes, 17” wheels, aggressively-bolstered front seats and a super stealthy body kit to create one abnormally-spicy Swedish meatball.
Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS
The Nissan Skyline GT-Rs of the 1990s (chassis codes R32, R33 and R34) were some of the baddest – if not the baddest – production cars built in Japan during that decade. But have you ever wondered what they would have been like in station wagon form? Well, you don’t have to, because Nissan and its quasi-independent skunkworks, Autech, built something that came pretty damn close.
The Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS was the most muscular variant of the Stagea midsize estate car (which did in fact share some components and stampings with the R34 Skylines), with the legendary RB26DETT 2.6L twin-turbo inline-six from Godzilla officially pumping out 276 horsepower (The actual number was likely north of 300hp, but a gentleman’s agreement between Japan’s automakers stipulated that 276hp was the max publishable output.) and matched to a 5-speed manual transmission (rather than the R33 and R34 GT-R’s 6-speed) and Nissan’s ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive and all-wheel-steering system with a mechanical LSD in back. It also featured BBS wheels, Brembo brakes and an exclusive body kit. Oh yes, we’re in love.
Audi RS2 Avant
Picture this: You and your buddies are in a pub trivia contest, and you get the question, “True or false: Porsche has never built a station wagon.” You guys, of course, answer “False.” And you are correct…because the Audi RS2 Avant exists. Based on the handsome 80/90 Avant of the late-‘80s and early-‘90s, the RS2 Avant (no sedan or coupe version was offered) packs a turbocharged 2.2L inline-five that’s boosted to the moon, Alice. The result of all that boost is 311 horsepower, which is sent in the direction of all four wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission and quattro all-wheel-drive. It’s not that fast by today’s standards (0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 163 mph), but it’s still pretty damn quick. And it sent the template for all the delectable S and RS Avants that have followed.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Edition 507 Wagon
The current Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Wagon (which, like the humdrum non-AMG C-Class Wagon, isn’t available in the U.S.) is a pretty magnificent brute of an estate car. However, when ordered without the Edition 507 package, it might as well be a puppy-kiss-and-rainbow-powered rickshaw that oozes political correctness from ever orifice and pore. Edition 507-specific equipment includes a vented hood, sport steering wheel and interior trim, stronger brakes, a 174 mph top speed limiter (up from 155 mph) and, oh yes, an extra 56 horsepower and 14 lb.-ft of torque from the angry, atmo 6.2L V8, for peak totals of (Surprise!) 507 horsepower and 457 lb.-ft. If all this sounds like a recipe for awesomeness well, according to at least one of our fellow car journos, it is.
Subaru Legacy Touring Wagon GT-B
Few people have ever accused Subaru of being dull and unimaginative with regard to the design and engineering of its cars. Even its most sensible models, like the second generation Legacy wagon, flouted convention with their boxer engines and AWD. And the convention-flouting-est of the bunch was the JDM Legacy Touring Wagon GT-B. The “B” in the name denoted its use of Bilstein dampers at all four corners, while thicker sway bars, bigger brakes and bigger wheels wearing high performance tires also helped sharpen the handling. As for power, there was plenty of it in 5-speed-manual-equipped GT-Bs (at least 276 horsepower) thanks to the EJ20R engine, a 2.0L twin-turbo flat-four. That’s hot like wasabi!
BMW M5 Touring (E61)
Rare is the sentence that includes both “station wagon” and “Formula 1 inspired” in its structure. But those two phrases can easily inhabit the same clause when describing the last generation BMW M5 Touring (chassis code E61). Like the M5 Sedan, the Touring coupled lower, angrier fascias with fatter fenders and enhanced suspension and brakes, plus the fourth gen Super Fünfer’s party piece: The banshee-wailing S85 naturally-aspirated 5.0L V10 (generating 500 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft of torque), which was teamed with BMW M’s then-latest 7-speed single-clutch paddle-shift transmission.
Tragically, like the E34 M5 Touring before it (The model skipped the E39 generation, though at least one prototype was built.), BMW management saw no need to export this supermarket superhero to North America. Which is probably just as well, now that we think about it: With just 1,025 built between 2007 and 2010, their scarcity probably would have inspired Black Friday sale-like violence among this continent’s leadfooted wagon buffs.
Pontiac Tempest Safari Super Duty
When it was introduced in 1961, the Pontiac Tempest was an oddball, to say the least. Granted, its engine was in the “normal” place (unlike its most famous and infamous platform-mate, the Chevrolet Corvair), but it featured rear-mounted manual and automatic transaxles (a la the Corvair) connected to the engine by a flexible driveshaft that passed under the car in a “U” shape, allowing for a nearly flat floor. Oh, and the base engine was Pontiac’s 389 cubic-inch V8 with the left bank of cylinders omitted, creating a 194.5 cubic-inch slant-four (The aluminum 215 cubic-inch V8 from the Tempest’s Buick cousin, the Special, was optional.).
However, the early Tempests weren’t nearly as outrageous as a small batch of facelifted 1963 models. Pontiac fitted just 14 of its compact models with the mighty 421 cubic-inch Super Duty V8 (rated at a hilariously conservative 405 horsepower) and a “Powershift” transaxle (essentially two Corvair-spec Powerglide 2-speed automatics mounted in series) for the NHRA’s Factory Experimental (FX) class before GM placed a company-wide ban on motorsports (This same ban also doomed the original Corvette Grand Sport program.). Amazingly, a whopping six of those 14 were Tempest Safaris (Safari being Pontiac-speak for wagon), the reasoning being that a) the weight of the extra bodywork over the rear end would provide extra traction, and b) a drag racing station wagon would get a butt-ton of attention.
Audi RS6 Avant (C6)
If a 5.2L V10 is good, a 5.2L V10 with twin-turbos must be better, right? That was probably quattro GmbH’s line of reasoning when it devised the second generation RS6 (based on the C6-platform A6).The non-turbo S6 Sedan and Avant provided the basis for this force-fed monster, with 571 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft of torque being flung toward each tire through a 6-speed automatic transmission and an automatic torque biasing center diff. Bulging fenders, optional 20” wheels and carbon-composite brakes, adaptive sport suspension and a suite of sport-tuned driver aids make this dynamite dreadnaught (which was, unsurprisingly, never offered here) a hoot-and-a-half for the whole family.
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