Car enthusiasts know that station wagons are almost always a smart choice. They pair sedan-like driving dynamics with SUV-like utility. For the way most people use their cars, wagons are absolutely perfect.
Mainstream station wagons generally don’t exist any longer. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Honda all once sold five-door versions of their most popular sedans, but few lasted into the 20th century. If you find a 1996 Toyota Camry wagon, it’s bound to have 200,000 miles on it by now (and has probably lost one of its two rear windshield wipers. The horror!
Relative scarcity means that a good wagon can be hard to find. Fear not, however, as they’re out there — and they’re less than $30,000. Here’s a look at four great ways to experience five-door utility.
No automaker has a better wagon-building reputation than Mercedes-Benz. The 2011-2016 E350 sold relatively well in five-door form and standard all-wheel drive, and even those used as nanny-mobiles in Greenwich have generally been kept up since they commanded $70,000 or more when new. A fire-breathing E63 AMG was sold for most of those years, though the E350 is probably just perfect for most buyers.
The 2011s used a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, which was replaced the following year with a 302-hp V6 with direct injection. Luxury and Sport trims were offered, the former with standard 17″ wheels a soft suspension, and a hood ornament, and the latter with standard 18″ wheels, a slightly firmer ride, and a big three-pointed star in the center of their grilles. Earlier examples are easy to find for less than $20,000, while even the facelifted 2014+ models now command less than $30,000. Find a Mercedes-Benz E-Class on Autotrader
Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Acura is not an automaker one would normally associate with wagons, but parent company Honda has built five-doors for global consumption for years. With its second-generation TSX sharing its design with the European-market Honda Accord wagon, Acura had an opportunity to capitalize on slipping SUV sales when gas prices skyrocketed following the global recession.
The TSX Sport Wagon went on sale in late 2011 for the 2012 model year and lasted just three years — the last ones were sold here for 2014. Only the 201-hp inline-4 and a 5-speed automatic transmission was offered, which helped bump highway fuel economy to 31 mpg according to EPA estimates. Good TSX wagons can be found for less than $20,000. Find an Acura TSX on Autotrader
Buick Regal TourX
Forget the Roadmaster. The Regal TourX is really a European-market Opel with Buick badging, a slightly raised Subaru Outback-style suspension, and a price that’s often discounted. We’ve previously noted that the TourX is a used-car bargain, but even a brand-new example with few options should be easy to find under our $30,000 price threshold. Used or new, just about every TourX on Autotrader is likely to be covered by Buick’s 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The TourX is likely a one-and-done effort for Buick since it was introduced when Buick parent General Motors still owned Opel. With Opel now under the control of a French automaker, Buick no longer has an overseas cousin who speaks with a German accent. Find a Buick Regal TourX on Autotrader
Dodge Magnum SRT8
The Dodge Magnum SRT8 is a muscle car that can haul — as in, haul nearly 72 cubic-feet worth of cargo. Dodge didn’t even call the Magnum a wagon when the model bowed for 2005 with standard V6 and optional V8 power. That tune didn’t change the next year when the 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V8 arrived along with 20″ forged alloy wheels and a buttoned-down suspension in the SRT8.
The Magnum SRT8 is bound to be a classic, though as with most sporty cars many have fallen into less-caring hands. For around $22,000, clean examples can be found on Autotrader and they’re begging to be saved by a caring next owner. Perhaps it’s time to adopt all 425 ponies. Find a Dodge Magnum on Autotrader