It’s Wagon Week! As we spend the next few days celebrating the glory of the station wagon, I figured it would only be right to take a look at some of the greatest factory wagons and estates ever built. From 1950s classics right up to the high-powered long-roofs of today, we’ve seen some amazing wagons over the years, so let’s go back and check them out…
Long before the rise of the minivan and SUV the station wagon was the way to go for people hauling in the USA. During the 1950s and 1960s you could order most American models in wagon form – and one of the most iconic was the Chevy Nomad. Introduced in 1955 the Nomad wasn’t a typical four-door wagon – it was an attractive two-door with a roofline to match its sleek, finned profile.
While the Nomad name would be placed on a number of Chevy wagons over the years, it’s the 1955-1957 cars that are most fondly remembered. If you’ve seen the prices they’ve been fetching lately, you’ll also know the ’55-’57 is one of the most collectable station wagons ever produced.
There were many great American wagons manufactured during the ’60s and one of the most memorable was the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. It was the classic family hauler, and like most wagons if you checked the right boxes when ordering one, it could be had with the same powerful V8 engines that powered the muscle cars of the era. Don’t forget the woodgrain either.
But what set the Vista Cruiser apart from the crowd was its raised roof with skylights, which gave both the exterior and interior a very unique feel. Buick also produced a model called the Sport Wagon which featured the same glass roof panels.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, the station wagon had begun to fall out of favor among American car buyers. With minivans dominating the market, the last full-size wagons available in the US were the Buick Roadmaster and Chevrolet Caprice Wagon.
Being the last of of the traditional American station wagons, the Caprice and Roadmaster are now looked upon fondly by hot rodders and customizers. It also helps that they could be had with an LT1 small block similar to the one used in the Corvette and Camaro. Production ended in 1996.
But that didn’t mean the end of the American wagon. In 2005 the Dodge Magnum hit the market, acting as a wagon variant of the new LX platform Chrysler 300 sedan. With a Mercedes-sourced chassis and an available Hemi V8, the Magnum offered a nice option to one who might be in the market for a cool and unique family car.
Things got even better when the Magnum SRT-8 was introduced. This was a true muscle wagon, with a 425 horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi, upgraded suspension, larger brakes and more aggressive bodywork.
Magnum production ended in 2008 and that’s especially sad given all the crazy stuff Dodge and Chrysler have been doing lately. It would have been really cool to see this car live on. Hellcat wagon anyone?
Thankfully, Cadillac was there to pick up where Dodge left off with the introduction of the CTS Sport Wagon. The CTS Wagon was available in both rear and all-wheel drive, but the big story was the CTS-V Sport Wagon which packed a 556 horsepower supercharged LSA V8 and an available 6-speed manual. It’s simply one of the coolest station wagons ever made.
We’ve yet to hear any info about Cadillac introducing a wagon variant of the new CTS, but here’s hoping they do. You know you want the new CTS-V in wagon form.
Of course, when talking about the great wagons built by American automakers, one shouldn’t leave out their counterparts in Australia, who’ve produced some impressive wagons over the years. It might be the utes they are most known for, but I’ll take hotted-up Commodore wagon myself.Euro Wagon Mania
While SUVs and minivans put an end to the station wagon’s mainstream popularity on the US, it’s been a different story in Europe where the wagon – or estate as its more commonly known – has always been a popular option. Companies like BMW have long offered wagon versions of their popular models; combining world famous driving dynamics with added space for whatever you need to move.
And over the years, there have been a few M models which have been released in the Touring body style, including both the E34 and E60 M5 – the latter of which packed the same 5.0-liter V10 as the sedan.
Whether it’s one of the rare M-Touring cars or a standard model, what’s not to like about the ultimate driving machine with room for the whole family?
Mercedes-Benz is another automaker known for building some tantalizing wagons, some of which wear the legendary AMG moniker. If you are looking for a big, luxurious hauler that can outperform many sports cars, look no further than the AMG E-Class wagon.
With a twin turbocharged V8 sitting beneath its bonnet, the latest E63 AMG Estate is one of the baddest station wagons of all time.
Should I suddenly be presented with an enormous pile of money and had to buy a car for everyday use, this would likely be it. Any kid who grows up riding in the back one of these is guaranteed to be a car lover for life.
But as good as those BMW and Mercedes wagons are, there’s no brand who has embraced the idea of fast and cool wagons quite like Audi has. In fact, it was on the five-door wagon body style that Audi decided to introduce its RS2 Avant in the mid-1990s.
Not only was the turbocharged, all-wheel drive RS2 Avant one of the greatest sleepers ever built, it would be the first in a long line of high performance wagons from Audi. They were fast, had room for anything you’d need to haul and could be used in any type of weather.
Today you can get Audi’s RS6 Avant with the same twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 found in the Audi S8 and Bentley Continental GT, putting it right up there with the Caddy CTS-V and E63 AMG Estate in terms of performance.
Actually, it would be a tough choice between this and the E63 AMG Estate as the ultimate daily driver these days. Either way, we should thank the automotive gods that cars like this are allowed to exist.
Few automakers have been more synonymous with wagons than Volvo though, and while most of their offerings have been more skewed to practicality, there have been some hot ones over the years.
And of all Volvo’s performance-oriented wagons, none are more beloved than the T-5R wagon and the 850R that followed it. With their boxy, yet attractive styling and deceptive performance, these cars did a lot to raise Volvo’s reputation among car enthusiasts.
More recently, Volvo has released the Polestar-tuned V60 Wagon which packs a 345 horsepower turbo inline six, all-wheel drive, and a whole host of performance upgrades. Once again, the idea is to show that there’s a lot more to Volvo than just safety ratings and comfort.
While Volvo is a brand that’s always been known for practical wagons, Jaguar is not. That’s why it was so cool to see them release the XF Sportbrake, and more specifically the radical XFR-S Sportbrake.
With a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 making 550 horsepower, the XFR-S Sportbrake quickly earned a place in the wagon hall of fame and represents a whole new direction for the Jaguar brand. Style, performance, and tons of space. What more do you need?Japanese Wagons
While Japan has recently become a country dominated by minivans and small hatchbacks, it wasn’t always that way. At one point, station wagons could be found everywhere in Japan, and they included versions of iconic cars like the Hakosuka Skyline of the early ’70s.
And while there was never a Skyline GT-R wagon produced, the Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS was essentially a GT-R with a wagon body, packing the same RB26DETT engine and all-wheel drive system. When it comes to JDM unicorns, it doesn’t get better than this.
Of course, when talking about Japanese wagons of the turbo, all-wheel drive variety no one does it better than Subaru. And as great as the sedan version of the Impreza WRX was, it was even better when you got it in five-door wagon form.
Whether it’s Audi or Subaru, there’s just something right about the combination of all-wheel drive, a turbocharger and a wagon body style. Rally DNA with room to spare – it’s a fine, fine thing.
And if you were looking for the same experience with a bit more room. you could step up the larger Legacy wagon which offered all the fun in a larger package.
Of all the Legacy wagons, none were more desirable than the limited production STI S204 with a 2.5-liter turbo boxer four and a whole array of goodies from the STI team. It’s every Subaru fan’s dream wagon.
These days, the Levorg has taken over Subaru’s wagon duties, and while it might not be quite the same car that the older Legacys and Imprezas were, it can still be had with a turbo – and of course AWD – for an engaging wagon experience.
Last but not least comes Mitsubishi, which produced not only one of the coolest, but also one of the rarest performance wagons ever with the Evo IX wagon. As you’d expect, it packed all the goodies from the Evo sedan into a boxy wagon to make for the ultimate sleeper.
So there you have it – a look at some of the greatest factory wagons ever produced. Of course, any wagon can be built into something special, but these are some of the best right off the showroom floor. Got a favorite or one that we happened to miss? Let us know below in the comments section.