It’s curious that such a stigma is still attached to the word “wagon.” Perhaps it’s the name that scares people off. After all, that Red Flyer you used to get pulled around in as a kid wasn’t exactly the picture of performance and safety. In Europe, these vehicles are called “estate cars,” a description that evokes images of ladies and gentlemen pulling up to their country manors, not haggard families on the side of the road somewhere in middle America staring at the world’s largest ball of twine.
Lines become more blurred every year with vehicle category definitions. A search for “wagons” today often yields a list of vehicles that are also categorized as “crossovers.” But whatever you call them, sport-inspired wagons are a great choice for those who need more space than the average sedan, but who don’t want to sacrifice the handling, dynamics and overall satisfaction of a performance-oriented four-door. Here are a few worth considering:
2010 Audi A4 AvantEnlarge Photo
It’s rare when the wagon version of a vehicle is even better than its sedan counterpart. But the 2010 Audi A4 Avant manages to pull it off. Like other A4 models, the Avant has one of the best-quality interiors in its class. Leather comes standard (which isn’t true of competitors made by Mercedes-Benz and BMW), as well as a sunroof and power seats. Those inclined to judge a vehicle by its engine size might be put off by the lack of a six-cylinder option, but the 2010 A4 Avant’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four has plenty of get-up-and-go with 211 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. For added peace of mind, the 2010 Audi A4 Avant gets perfect crash test scores across the board.
Side Exterior View - 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon 5dr Wagon 3.6L Premium RWDEnlarge Photo
The recent generation of Cadillacs are known for their extreme and polarizing styling. The CTS wagon is no exception. Comments from passersby range from “cool” to “fugly.” But there’s no denying the 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon is unique. The standard powertrain is a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 270 hp; an optional 3.6-liter V6 boosts output to a healthy 304 hp. The interior for the most part is stylish and elegant (the ambient lighting along the dash, curving around to the doors is especially pleasing), although some surfaces still seem rather hard and plastic-y. Expect to pony up more dough for leather seats, too. But overall, the 2010 CTS Wagon combines capable handling, ample cargo space, and plenty of luxurious touches.
Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Lincoln MKT 4-door Wagon 3.7L FWDEnlarge Photo
While maybe not a wagon in the truest sense of the word, the all-new 2010 Lincoln MKT’s relatively low roofline and overall silhouette make it more wagon-like than some of its crossover competitors. Still, it’s the largest vehicle on this list. Surprisingly, though, those extra dimensions don’t translate to the largest amount of cargo space (a mere 17.9 cubic feet compared to the CTS Wagon’s 25). Although the MKT does offer several inches more rear legroom and a tad more headroom in the front and back. The MKT boasts a sleek, modern design with aggressive, signature Lincoln grille and tail lights. But perhaps most notable is the 2010 Lincoln MKT’s Ford EcoBoost V6, a twin-turbo, direct-injection engine that Ford claims offers 20 percent better fuel economy and15 percent fewer CO2 emissions. The MKT makes an impressive 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque and accelerates with smooth, readily available power. But this … crosswagon, shall we say … is much more of a highway cruiser than a sports car. Handling is relatively responsive and the ride is quiet and comfortable, but with a whopping 40.7-foot turning circle, don’t expect the MKT to set any records through the slalom.