Family vehicle

The New ‘Family Truckster:’ Crossovers vs. Station Wagons

If you’re in the market for a family-oriented vehicle, you’ve got more choices than ever. Crossovers, with their spacious interiors and SUV-like capabilities, make a lot of sense for a number of car shoppers. However, some automakers have continued to refine their station wagons as well, and there’s no doubt that they’ve come a long way since the Griswolds famously hit the highway in their Family Truckster in the 1983 comedy “Vacation.” With so many choices out there, is a crossover or a station wagon the right choice for you?

Seating Capacity

If you’re old enough to have sat in the way-back of a wood-paneled Ford Country Squire station wagon, you may think that wagons are a shoo-in here. However, many crossovers offer innovative second- and third-row seats that you just can’t find in a wagon. Crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox feature a second row that slides forward and backward, which can come in handy when bigger kids need more legroom, or if parents want to keep a car seat closer to the first row. With seating for up to eight, three-row crossovers offer even more versatility, as models like the Toyota Highlander offer second-row seats that slide and recline for added comfort.

Maximum Cargo Space

You might think that crossovers offer more cargo space than wagons, especially if you’re checking out cavernous three-row models like the GMC Acadia or Honda Pilot. However, smaller crossovers and wagons are often a close match when it comes to cargo-carrying capability. If you compare wagons like the Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70 with crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, you’ll notice that all four vehicles are closely matched, offering a bit more than 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.

All-Weather Capability

Just about every crossover on the market is available with all-wheel drive, which may make them a little more capable if you find yourself trekking through rain, snow or ice. However, wagons like the Audi Allroad, BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon and Subaru Outback all come standard with all-wheel drive. Additionally, wagons like the Volvo XC70 offer all-wheel drive as an optional feature.

Fuel Economy

When it comes to delivering great fuel economy, hybrid and diesel powertrains currently give wagons an edge that crossovers may not be able to match; models like the Toyota Prius v and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen can both deliver 40 mpg or better on the highway. But, that doesn’t mean that all crossovers are like the gas-guzzling SUVs of yesteryear. The Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester all get at least 32 mpg on the highway, while the Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers three rows of seats and 28 mpg.

Fun Factor

Although most crossovers offer a car-like ride, some luxury automakers build station wagons with powerful engines and sport sedan handling, too. Cadillac’s CTS-V Wagon comes with Brembo brakes and a 556-horsepower supercharged V8, while Mercedes-Benz’s E63 AMG wagon features all-wheel drive and a 577-horsepower twin-turbo V8 engine. With wagons like these, you’ll be ready for a track day — or that last-minute trip to Costco.

So, Which Should I Buy?

Picking a vehicle that suits your needs is ultimately what matters. Whether you need the passenger and cargo space of the GMC Acadia, or the fuel economy of the Toyota Prius v, there’s a crossover or wagon out there that should be a good fit for you.

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