Role of the wagons
I’m in the market for a new wagon, looking at a Subaru Outback 3.6R, a VW Passat Alltrack, Skoda Superb 206TSI or Mazda6 Atenza. I spend a lot of time in my car, driving up to 30,000km a year, so I’m looking for one with creature comforts as well as an enjoyable drive. I’m happy to go with a diesel but it’s not a deal breaker, but I also need to tow a small camper trailer occasionally, which is why I’ve included the six-cylinder Outback. I’m looking to spend $55,000-$60,000 and I prefer the wagon shape and profile over boxy SUVs. Rob Thistlethwaite There are plenty of classy mid-sized wagons despite the growing Australian appetite for SUVs. A sedan-based hauler makes much more sense for a range of reasons — comfort, quietness, safety and economy — and if you do only light allwheel drive work such as towing you don’t need a hulking brute on the daily commute.
CHOICES Subaru Outback 3.6R, $48,490
The updated Outback is a nice drive but the costly 3.6R is not the best one for your needs, as its 350Nm of pulling power is matched by the cheaper (from $36,490) and more efficient diesel variants. It promises 191kW, against 110kW for the diesel, but that‘s at 6000rpm. Fuel economy of 9.9L/100km also looks poor against 5.7L-6.3L for the diesel.
Skoda Superb 206TSI, $52,690
The Superb might have an edge on cabin space and layout, plus some deft details including an onboard torch and umbrella, and it’s great value as an AWD wagon, but it’s only available with a petrol engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (206kw/ 350Nm) claiming 7.3L/100km..
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, $49,290
The classy new Passat package works well with Haldex ondemand all-wheel drive and 2.0-litre turbo diesel that makes 140kW with an excellent 400Nm for towing. It’s the pick from the VW Group, trumping the Skoda with crossover styling that hints at an SUV but provides wagon comfort and class as well as economy of just 5.4L/100km.
Mazda6 Atenza, $46,690
A comfortable and quiet wagon that works well in all conditions, cruising comfortably but also giving some driving enjoyment. But lack of AWD ability could limit access to camps and beaches. The 2.5-litre petrol engine has 250Nm but the diesel, at $49,540, has 420Nm and that means great pulling power.
WILDCARD Holden Commodore SS-V Sportwagon, $52,690
Production ends next year but V8 Commodores still sell well, thanks to a proven package of performance and driving enjoyment. The wagon tail is not the biggest but it works for most people, the V8 cranking out 304kW/570Nm for any job. It lacks AWD and city thirst of 12.9L/100km is a handicap
The heart says Commodore, with the landmark V8 available from $49,190 in the SS Sportwagon, but the head says it has to be the Passat Alltrack. It’s not the cheapest but it’s well equipped, spacious, refined, a car and not an SUV, and will easily handle a bit of getaway camping work.