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27 July 2017

Five fast wagons that'll make you rethink that SUV purchase

By Tom WhiteTom White
Slick, understated, most importantly - not an SUV.

I need more space.

It’s the four words that have ended many a sports car relationship. But before you up and sell your MX-5/Focus RS/M3 and buy something stupid in the category that starts with S and ends with UV, consider the alternatives.

Namely, the sporty wagon. You know they exist, but they’re better than you think and the performance figures on these five smart buys from our classifieds will ensure no matter why you need the space, you’ll always be driving around in a big bad sleeper.

To make this list fair, we’ve considered cars in every price bracket.

The big spender – 2016 Audi RS6 Avant ($194,990)

Shiny, practical, V8 what's not to love? Shiny, practical, V8 what's not to love?

Okay, in all likelihood, you can’t afford this car. But in the grand scheme of wagons, this is about as mean as they come. How mean? How about a four-litre V8 pumping out 445kW and 700Nm. Aroused? You should be. Kicks that SQ5 you were looking at right in the fake exhaust ports. This one is in a very fetching blue and is marked down from over $280k so all things considered it’s a neat buy.

See all Audi RS6 Avant listings


Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG wagon

+ RWD madness
- One of the worst upmarket multimedia systems

The JDM enthusiast – 1998 Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4 Type-S ($13,900)

Looks way more cohesive than a Stagea, but be careful. Looks way more cohesive than a Stagea, but be careful.

Want something truly unusual that’ll make less savvy people scratch their heads before getting creamed at the green-light rally? This car is for you. The Legnum was Japan’s alternative to the Magna, but is renowned as basically being an Evo wagon, complete with a ton of Evo running gear. This Type-S for example has the Evo IV’s Active Yaw Control rear diff. Power comes from a twin-turbo V6 and is rated at 206kW/367Nm when stock.

Many have been modified and abused, so take care when searching for one. This one in Victoria is extensively rebuilt, but looks very tidy.

See all Mitsubishi Legnum listings


Nissan Stagea AR-X Turbo

+ More modern
- More ugly

The sensible purchase – 2006 Subaru Liberty 3.0R-B ($9,900)

Scare your kids with 180kW. Scare your kids with 180kW.

It looks like you’re ready for the school run, but low-key might just be what you want. The 3.0-litre boxer hides 180kW/297Nm worth of performance away from your other half, and you’ll be okay in the corners thanks to low-profile tyres and Bilstein dampers. It might not be the top performer on this list, but it’s still capable and comfortable. All this comes in at under $10k.

This one has a small dent in the back, but that’s the beauty of this car, it’s not pretty – so you don’t have to care.

See all Subaru Liberty 3.0R listings


Volvo V50 T5

+ Five-cyl makes it a neat sleeper
- Somehow manage to look even less cool

The bang-for-buck thrills – 2013 Commodore SS Sportwagon ($34,990)

Big eight and a much-improved interior. Big eight and a much-improved interior.

One of the more expensive buys on this list, but the VF improves drastically on the VE’s successful formula of massive V8 power, big depreciation and generous interior space. The VF is far more plushed-up than its predecessor and loses nothing in the process. Power is 270kW/530Nm from a 6.0-litre V8. 

Sadly, without reaching to a VFII you’ll miss out on the LS3 V8 with 304kW, but those are still significantly more expensive.

See all VF Commodore SS listings


BMW 530i Touring

+ Depreciation hit these like a brick
- Expensive to maintain

The Euro-flavour – 2013 Renault Megane GT 220 ($21,555)

It ain't as big as the others, but if you're coming out of a hot hatch, that'll suit. It ain't as big as the others, but if you're coming out of a hot hatch, that'll suit.

Is life prying a hot hatch from your cold, dead hands? These other big-sixes and eights leave a nasty taste in the mouth? Be bitter no longer, here’s a darn-good hot hatch in a Wagon package. To boot, it’s got a mean black paint on black alloy look and you can shift the gears yourself thanks to a famously tight Renault manual. The little ‘220’ 2.0-litre engine isn’t a true 202kW ‘RS’ tune as available in the mad RS275 hatch, so you'll just have get by with a slightly less hair-raising 162kW.

Still, you get basically a hot hatch with wagon practicality, beggars can’t be choosers.

See all Renault Megane GT 220 listings


Volkswagen Golf R wagon

+ Compromise less with a true ‘R’ 218kW tune
- Very rare, no manual

Have we swayed you away from an SUV yet? Tell us what you think in the comments.