Crossover and SUV Alternatives
We get it. SUVs and some crossovers generally offer high seating position that affords the driver a great view, and that can feel awesome. But if you don't have something heavy to tow, what else are you getting that these alternatives can't provide?
Wagons aren't just practical. They're also lower, which provides better handling for those who enjoy that, or a greater margin of safety in bad weather for those who don't. And the latest crop is handsome. Just look at this Volvo V90 (which isn't on sale yet as of this writing), which makes the handsome XC90 crossover seem almost homely. Depending on the wagon, you might also get significantly better fuel economy and even a crossover-like ride height.
Don't forget about minivans, or sedans equipped with all-wheel drive. All of these alternatives offer many of the advantages of SUVs and crossovers without some of the compromises. Check them out.
Research the 2018 Volvo V90
2017 Subaru Crosstrek
Subaru developed a magic formula with the Outback (still an excellent car, by the way): jack up a wagon and festoon it with crossover trimmings, and sell it as an SUV. That thinking eventually led to the SUV-shaped Forester and Impreza Outback Sport. All demonstrated that the line between wagon and crossover is pretty blurry, but all were more car than not.
That's the case with the Crosstrek. It's the soft, gentle introduction to wagons for those thinking of stepping off the crossover train. It's a practical, AWD hatchback that's both utilitarian and spacious, but it's wearing a crossover costume. There's a manual transmission for those that like to row their own: a 5-speed with a hill-hold feature. Try finding that on a Mazda CX-3 or AWD-equipped Honda HR-V. If not, the CVT is pretty good. And there's even a Hybrid model, which isn't our favorite Crosstrek but may be an attraction for some.
As of this writing, the 2017 model (pictured) is on the way, but the similar 2016s are on sale now. If you want a hybrid, act fast. It'll be discontinued when the '17s come out.
Research the 2017 Subaru Crosstrek
2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country
Plenty of folks like the idea of a hatchback, but value the security and style of a trunk. For those people, there are plenty of traditional sedans now offered with all-wheel drive, so the choices are plentiful. But crossover shoppers looking for sedan styling don't have many choices. The Volvo S60 Cross Country is one of the better ones – if you can find one.
Volvo isn't selling many of these tall sedans in the US, and the few it is are only offered in a single color and specification. That's ok, because it's fairly well loaded: a T5 turbocharged AWD model in a handsome grey metallic over beige leather. Last we heard, only 500 units would be sold, and we're not sure how many are left. Get on the phone with your Volvo dealer if this rare and interesting SUV alternative strikes you.
Research the Volvo
2016 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon
The picture above is a 2014 model we drove a couple years back, but thankfully the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon on sale today is the same in all the important details. For one, it's a great-looking wagon with tons of room for your stuff, whether that's a weekend trip to the cabin or a weeknight run to Home Depot. It's also just as well appointed and fun to drive as a 3 Series sedan. And all-wheel drive will give it just as much grip as a crossover when the weather gets goofy.
Also, it's a diesel. Don't let that whole VW TDI scandal sway you. We're pretty sure the BMW 2.0-liter turbodiesel, which uses a different type of emissions control device known as urea injection, is clean. And it's a wonderfully torquey motor that also gets great fuel economy. If you're hesitant about the diesel thing, there's a regular gasoline-powered 330i xDrive wagon that's just as good.
Research the BMW
2017 Audi A4 Allroad
You're looking at the upcoming A4 Allroad, which replaces the A4-based Allroad that you can buy now. The new 2017 model goes on sale in Fall 2016.
Not that you'd need to wait for it. The current Allroad is one of the best-looking vehicles in the wagon category, and Audi interiors are legendarily upscale and comfortable. The powertrain consists of the familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission backed up by Audi's signature Quattro all-wheel drive system.
The 2017 model won't stray far from this winning formula, but will carry over some of the updates from the revised A4 sedan.
Research the 2017 Audi A4
2016 Mini Clubman
The new Mini Clubman has, perhaps predictably, grown somewhat in its newest generation. The biggest changes are four real doors (instead of the tiny third door on the passenger side and two conventional ones up front) and a heavy restyling. While some may lament the increased girth, the truth is that this new Clubman adds enough comfort and versatility to take aim at many of the smaller crossovers on the market.
Driving the Clubman should still put a smile on your face. All of the brand's offerings offer at least a modicum of fun and a lot of attitude. In Cooper S trim, it'll make a solid 189 hp, a significant jump over the outgoing model. And a lower ride height than a typical small crossover, paired with those dual side-opening rear doors, mean loading up some gear is easy. If you want more personality than most crossovers offer, the Clubman has it in spades.
Research the Mini
2016 Toyota Prius
And then there's the fuel economy argument. Crossovers and SUVs simply don't get the same kind of fuel economy an otherwise comparable car would, for a variety of reasons including weight and aerodynamic drag. To use (way) less fuel and maintain a high degree of versatility, consider a Prius.
The new-for-2016 Toyota Prius improves upon the original formula of practicality and fuel economy by adding back a more normal driving experience. It's no sportscar, but it's more sprightly yet maintains the miserly fuel consumption of its predecessor. It might be the best Prius yet, and the best crossover alternative for the environmentally-conscious.
Research the 2016 Toyota Prius
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Before the original minivan was introduced by Chrysler in the 1980s, vans were heavy truck-based things better suited to hauling plumbing gear around that shuttling families around. The original minivan triplets, the Caravan, Town & Country, and Voyager, changed the paradigm completely. As the segment has matured, it's also grown.
Now there's the new Pacifica, which combines some of the cleverest features of its predecessor (and a few from its rivals) into an inherently practical and – dare we say – attractive package. The regular Pacifica's 9-speed automatic significant weight loss make it one of the most efficient vehicles this size around, and the upcoming hybrid model should blow the rest of the segment out of the water. It's sort of a cake-and-eat-it-too proposition.
Minivans might not be cool yet, but they sure look compelling when you measure the Pacifica up against its three-row crossover rivals.