Station wagon fans have only a handful of choices in the U.S. auto market. Despite this, the station wagon sales have been experiencing consistent growth in recent years, Bloomberg reports. The growth most likely comes from the SUV/crossover market’s overall growth, with sedan sales taking a nosedive. It’s not hard to understand why station wagons are often cheaper, nicer to drive, and more fuel-efficient than their SUV counterparts.
The Volvo V60 vs. XC60
Volvo has a long history of producing station wagons and currently holds one of the most diverse ranges of available wagons in the U.S. market. Their model lineup consists of three different vehicles, often sharing one common platform. For example, the S60 sedan, the V60 wagon, and XC60 SUV all share the same essential components. Despite this commonality, the XC60 far outsells the V60 wagon and the sedan. This is incredibly confusing when you stack them side by side and begin to see how the wagon offers greater value.
Consider this, the V60 and the XC60 share the same basic engine and its 250-hp output. The differentiator is that the XC60 can weigh up to an additional 200 lbs over the wagon. The result is that fuel economy is directly affected, with the wagon offering an average of 34 mpg over the SUV’s 29 average mpg. This makes the XC60 not only more expensive to buy, but also more costly to keep running. It’s not like the interior is a big differentiator either, given that they share an almost identical layout.
The Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Wagon vs. GLE 450
A common advantage given to SUVs over station wagons is their added off-roading capabilities. To answer this, Mercedes-Benz decided to produce the E-Class All-Terrain Wagon with its off-road-ready ground clearance. The standard adjustable air suspension means that while the extra ground-clearance comes in handy when off-roading, it can lower itself during everyday driving scenarios.
The result is that buyers can enjoy off-road capabilities without spoiling the on-road driving dynamics with a high center of gravity. The station wagon’s ability to stay closer to the ground also means that it will be significantly more stable at higher speeds and exhibit less body roll during cornering.
Both the GLE 450 and the E 450 Wagon share the same inline turbocharged six-cylinder engine with hybrid assist. Despite sharing the same underpinnings, the station wagons options are cheaper to add than the SUVs. A fully optioned out E-Class wagon tops out at $88,410 while an equivalent GLE costs $92,620. The station wagon means that buyers can have the capabilities without the added SUV tax.
Performance station wagons are the best of both worlds
Buyers almost always buy SUVs over sedans because of the extra space. Station wagons bridge the gap between the two worlds with their added storage space and sedan-like ride quality. Performance wagons like the Audi RS6 Avant are perhaps the most significant advantage of all. Adding powerful engines to ordinary SUVs often makes them very quick in a straight line but cumbersome during high-speed cornering. The high center of gravity means that an SUV is more likely to lean over due to high g-forces.
To combat this, manufacturers often have to stiffen performance SUVs to the point of being unbearably uncomfortable so they can perform. The low ride height of the performance station wagon means that they don’t need to have the world’s stiffest suspension to be quick. The added benefit of the extra storage means that fast wagons are the most versatile vehicles available.
The Audi RS6 Avant is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces just under 600 hp. The RS6 can reach 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 189 mph. With a starting price of $110,045, it’s both cheaper, and faster than the equivalent RS Q8 SUV.