I’m a bit obsessed with station wagons. They can be land boats or sports cars, and the best balance practicality with strong driving dynamics. Our Teutonic brethren have consistently made the most interesting station wagons around. Sadly, wagon sales have tanked in the U.S. in recent years, as SUVs and crossovers have taken much of their market. This is a shame, since wagons consistently offer just as much cargo space and are much more pleasant to drive. Here are four German wagons that have piqued my interest over the past few years. I suspect that I will buy something like one of these when my beloved 2008 Honda Fit Sport, Gureum, gives up the ghost.
1. Mercedes-Benz W123 300TD
A modern classic, built from 1976-1985. One of the most handsome designs in automotive history, in my opinion, the W123 body style looks particularly sharp as a wagon. Of course, it is slow and handles like a tank, but these can last forever if properly attended to. Owning one now would involve considerable and constant maintenance as various small things fray and crack and fail. Still, the engine will last forever.
2. BMW E34 M5
The Motorsport version of this 5 Series wagon was produced between 1992-1995. Perhaps this is due to my age (late 30s), but I think this was the peak era of BMW style. Unlike the Mercedes above, this was not sold in North America. The non-M version was sold in small numbers, apparently. I’m sure this was a ton of fun to drive back in the day, but owning one now would most likely be a headache of constant, expensive maintenance. There’s a reason why you still see a W123 from time to time but see very few E34s from this era on the road.
3. Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
Perhaps you’ve noticed that all of the wagons on this list after the W123 have been fast. This is because if one has to have a favorite wagon, it may as well be both beautiful and extremely fun to drive. The W123 was the exception here, since it is both the prettiest and the oldest.
On to the AMG. I seriously considered buying a roughly five to ten year old E350 Wagon recently, but after driving it and thinking it over I decided against it (with good advice from my brother). I found the car sluggish and heavy and not particularly fun to drive (the E500 probably would have been better). That, in addition to the expected costs of ownership, steered me away from it. All that said, while I haven’t driven the E63 AMG, I feel confident that my impression of sluggishness would be overcome immediately. It isn’t as good looking as the previous two, but it is the fastest, which counts for something, and I still find it quite handsome in this W212 body style.
4. Volkswagen Golf R Variant/Estate/Wagon
I drove my friend’s dad’s Golf R this past summer in Northern Ireland, and found it exhilarating. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, and once I got the hang of it I could concentrate on having massive amounts of fun driving this car. It was the standard hatchback and not the wagon, but I’m sure the wagon is nearly as pleasant on the road. While I haven’t driven the lower temperature versions of the Golf, I am excited to and suspect that I may purchase a Golf wagon of some sort in the future. The R wagon is not sold in North America, (and probably never will be) but we do have the standard Golf Sportwagen and the Alltrack, both of which are worth considering. I suspect that the Alltrack drives much better than the Subaru Outback, which I find to be extremely boring in both the 4 and 6 cylinder engines.