When shopping for a new car, you might have to choose between one with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. While they might sound like the same thing, they aren’t. And, the differences can be confusing.
Most vehicles today come with AWD rather than 4WD. But if you like to go off-roading with your vehicle, 4WD is the better choice. Many AWD vehicles have that drivetrain on at all times, but with a 4WD vehicle, you can change the drivetrain on the fly.
The best wagon: Subaru Outback
Why you should buy this: It’s the jack of all trades.
Who it’s for: Motorists seeking a car that can do it all.
How much it will cost: $26,645
Why we picked the Subaru Outback:
Most automakers axed their station wagons during the 1990s and filled the voids with SUVs. Subaru stuck the course; it figured out it could continue to profitably sell wagons by putting them on stilts, and making them look a little bit more rugged. Decades of experience make the Outback the best station wagon available new in the United States.
The Outback tries to be everything to everyone; for the most part it succeeds. It’s relatively affordable, reasonably efficient, and hugely capable thanks to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. It’s new for the 2020 model year, and the updates include an available 11.6-inch touchscreen displaying Subaru’s StarLink infotainment system. Users can rearrange the icons on the home menu, just like on a smartphone, and an available Wi-Fi hot spot keeps every passenger connected on the go. The Outback’s tech can help you disconnect, too. Its infotainment system comes preloaded with an app named Chimani that provides information about more than 400 national parks in the United States, including the history and highlights of each location.
Getting to one of the parks shouldn’t be a problem thanks to 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Cargo capacity checks in at 32.5 with four occupants aboard, and 75.7 with the rear seats folded flat.
The entry-level engine is a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter flat-four that makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. That’s not a lot for a vehicle of this size, so buyers can step up to a turbocharged, 2.4-liter flat-four rated at a more generous 260 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. Both four-cylinders shift through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The best affordable wagon: Mini Clubman
Why you should buy this: You want a wagon that won’t break the bank.
Who it’s for: Buyers seeking fun and space.
How much it will cost: $30,900
Why we picked the Mini Clubman:
Many of the station wagons left in the United States are expensive niche models decked out with SUV-like styling cues. The Mini Clubman proudly bucks that trend; it stands out as the most affordable long-roof model in America, and it hugs the road like a hatchback. That doesn’t mean it’s a basic, stripped-out car that feels like a penalty box. It’s a comfortable place to travel in thanks to niceties like a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, and a leather-upholstered steering wheel. Standard rear parking sensors ensure you don’t make it any shorter than it already is.
The Clubman is not as mini as its name suggests. Its cargo capacity checks in at 17.9 cubic feet with four passengers on board, and a crossover-like 47.9 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. We wouldn’t put four NBA players in the Clubman for a cross-country drive, but it’s roomy enough for four average-sized adults and their gear. You can even squeeze a fifth passenger on the rear bench.
With 134 horsepower from a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, the entry-level Clubman Cooper won’t win any races. If you need more power, you can move up to the John Cooper Works-badged model which offers 300 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbo four. It’s a seriously quick machine, and it delivers the go-kart-like handling Mini is famous for. Mini also offers a mid-range model called Cooper S with 189 horsepower.
The best wagon for road trips: Buick Regal TourX
Why you should buy this: You want the space of an SUV but not the ground clearance.
Who it’s for: Motorists with an active lifestyle.
How much it will cost: $29,370
Why we picked the Buick Regal TourX:
Buick is one of the automakers that gave up on wagons during the 1990s. It unexpectedly knocked on the segment’s door for the first time in nearly 20 years when it released the Regal TourX. This long-roof has dual citizenship; it’s an American answer to the
The TourX sits lower than the
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard, and buyers who need to stay connected on-the-go car order an optional in-car Wi-Fi hot spot. Buick also offers an app that lets motorists lock the TourX, unlock it, start it, and check the tire pressures remotely. Act fast if you want one: Buick confirmed the Regal will retire in 2020.
The best high-tech wagon: Volvo V90 Cross Country
Why you should buy this: You love how the Swedes do wagons.
Who it’s for: Buyers who want comfort and peace of mind above all.
How much it will cost: $54,550
Why we picked the Volvo V90 and V90 Cross Country:
Volvo’s experience in the wagon segment is second to none. But while the long-roof 240 you carpooled in during the 1990s defined the term utilitarian, the V90 Cross Country allies form and function better than any of its predecessors without forgetting about tech. Volvo’s infotainment system is intuitive to use, and we love that it’s displayed on a tall, portrait-style high-resolution touchscreen.
Safety is a core part of every Volvo. In addition to numerous airbags, the V90 Cross Country comes standard with Pilot Assist (which keeps the car from veering out of its lane), automatic emergency braking, a road sign information function, and adaptive cruise control, among other features. This wagon has your back when the going gets tough.
The gorgeous design is the cherry on top of the cake. Viewed from the outside, it’s elegant and understated; it’s one of our favorite interpretations of Volvo’s current design language. Inside, it looks and feels like a five-star hotel in Scandinavia.
Note that Volvo also offers a regular V90 without the rugged-looking add-ons, and with less ground clearance. It’s a special order-only model, however, while the Cross Country is widely available across the nation.
The best-handling wagon: Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
Why you should buy this: It hauls like a wagon but goes like a Porsche.
Who it’s for: Motorists who need a really quick way to get to Ikea.
How much it will cost: $98,000
Why we picked the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo:
We bet you didn’t think you’d see the name Porsche appear on the list of America’s best station wagons. We didn’t think we’d ever include the German firm until it released a more spacious evolution of the second-generation Panamera named Sport Turismo. It’s based on the Panamera sedan, and the two cars are almost identical under the sheet metal, but the Sport Turismo offers up to 49 cubic feet of trunk space with the rear seats folded flat.
Close the trunk and settle into the driver’s seat to find a high-resolution, 12.3-inch screen for the infotainment system. It’s an easy-to-use unit with quick response times and, for the most part, relatively shallow menus, especially considering the wealth of information programmed into the software. Apple CarPlay compatibility comes standard. Porsche continues to resist Android Auto, though it might cave in the not-too-distant future.
Porsche offers the Sport Turismo in five different flavors ranging from the base model to the range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid. We’d pick the GTS, which strikes a delightful balance between everyday usability and performance.
The ultimate wagon: Ferrari GTC4Lusso
Why you should buy this: You’re looking for the ultimate station wagon.
Who it’s for: Anyone who needs to haul people and gear as quickly as possible.
How much it will cost: $300,000
The best luxury wagon: we picked the Ferrari GTC4Lusso:
The Ferrari GTC4Lusso is the absolute, be-all-end-all of new wagons. It’s markedly lower and shorter than the typical long-roof model, and it only has two doors, but it still falls into the station wagon category.
Ferrari packed the GTC4Lusso with tons of technology in the name of safety, convenience, and cutting-edge performance. It also comes with all-wheel drive, so you can haul your skis or snowboards to your favorite ski resort without having to worry about getting stuck at the bottom of the mountain. Cargo capacity isn’t what Ferrari is typically known for, but the GTC4Lusso has 28 cubic feet of trunk space, which should be enough for a weekend’s worth of gear.
Power comes from either a naturally-aspirated, 6.3-liter V12 engine that develops 680 horsepower, or a twin-turbocharged, 3.9-liter V8 with 610 horses on tap. It takes 3.4 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop in its quickest configuration, so you can safely bet you’ll reach the slopes before other skiers.
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