There comes a time when even, we, gearheads have to start thinking about a more practical form of transportation. It’s clear that the low-slung sports car or the sketchy project car won’t be any good as a family car. But what if we are looking for that one car to do it all – be dependable and practical, but also fast and engaging enough? Luckily, there are plenty of manufacturers who are thinking the same way.
For decades, some of our favorite legacy automakers have been providing more family-oriented consumers with petrol circulating through their veins, with appealing propositions that blend the practicality of a station wagon with the performance of a sports car. In fact, many of those cars are proof that you don’t necessarily need a performance SUV to fulfill all your needs. Combining sensibility and high performance may seem like an unlikely mashup, but the last two decades have given us some truly iconic performance cars that are also great for families. Here they are.
10 2008 BMW M5 E61 Touring
What’s crazier than a high-performance, luxury sedan, powered by a Formula One-derived engine? The same thing, but in station wagon form. The BMW E60 M5 is often referred to as “the best M-car you shouldn’t buy”. That’s mostly down to the F1-derived, 5.0-liter, naturally-aspirated, S85 V-10 engine, which is glorious when it works, but its maintenance and less-than-ideal longevity could bankrupt some owners.
The E61 M5 Touring came out in 2008, with the E60 facelift. Naturally, it packed the same engine with 507 horsepower and 383 pound-feet (520 Nm). Unfortunately, the seven-speed SMG transmission was the only option, although manual conversions are available. The most bonkers thing is that despite the plentiful cargo capacity, the M5 Touring was just as quick as the E60 M5, sprinting to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.6 seconds, on to a de-restricted top speed of 205 mph (330 km/h).
9 2005 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
Chrysler’s LX platform was officially put to rest with the retirement of the long-lived, dinosaur-burning Dodge Challenger and Charger models. LX-Based Chrysler 300C came before the retro-futuristic Muscle cars, along with the Dodge Magnum – a station wagon that really should have sold better, but for some reason didn’t. The model was exclusive to North America while European buyers got a Chrysler 300C station wagon, dubbed Touring, which was the same car, but with a different front end.
Right from the get-go, an SRT-8 version of the was offered. The big American boat got a 6.1-liter, Hemi V-8 good for 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet (569 Nm), mated to a Mercedes-derived, five-speed automatic. The Dodge Magnum was by no means, a small vehicle, as it tipped the scales at almost 4,300 pounds (1,950 kg). Even with all that junk in the trunk, the Magnum SRT-8 could sprint to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.
8 2004 Lexus IS300 SportCross
Lexus is not a brand known for station wagons, but for a short period of time, the first-generation Lexus IS was also offered as a shooting brake, dubbed the SportCross, and is one of the coolest Lexus cars ever. At first glance, there isn’t anything particularly striking about the car’s performance. There was a six-speed manual version, but that was only available on the 2.0-liter engine. Still, the IS300 came with a 2JZ-GE engine – a powerplant that doesn’t need an introduction.
Although it was the naturally-aspirated version and was exclusively paired with a five-speed automatic, the performance potential is there. Even the non-turbo 2JZ is capable of great power with the right parts and the ability to swap a Getrag V160, six-speed manual (from the Supra) is just a recipe for an epic sleeper waiting to happen. The cargo capacity is not the greatest at 16.8 cubic feet (475 liters), but it’s enough for most.
7 2008 Audi RS6 Avant
It was Audi that founded the performance station wagon segment, thanks to Porsche, which helped create the RS2 Avant. Everything snowballed from there and today, Audi makes some of the most versatile and fast station wagons on the planet. The RS6 is fast in all generations, but the C6 model introduces a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V-10. The engine is very close to the naturally-aspirated unit used in Lamborghini’s entry-level models.
In the German luxury car, the motor is good for 580 horsepower and 479 pound-feet (650 Nm). The car manages its power well in all weather conditions thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive and a ZF, six-speed automatic. Despite the RS6 Avant being a 4,465-pound (2,025 kg) tech-fest, it sprints to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. De-limited, it will do 191 mph (307 km/h).
6 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country
Volvo is mostly known for its safety, but there’s a lot more to the brand. While we can talk about one of the Swedish carmaker’s Polestar-infused models, we think this one is more interesting due to its uniqueness. While carmakers are no strangers to the niche segment of “lifted” station wagons, a few years back, Volvo introduced a sedan with off-road capabilities.
Like other models of the brand, the Volvo S60 Cross Country featured 40mm higher, heavy-duty suspension, and body cladding all-around to make it better suited for light-to-medium off-roading. Just don’t go rock-crawling with it. This second-generation S60 is also among the last Volvos to offer iconic five-cylinder engines. The T5’s, turbocharged inline-five was good for 254 horsepower and 265 pound-feet (360 Nm) – enough for a 6.7 –second sprint to 60 mph.
5 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon
The second-generation Cadillac CTS is the first GM model to feature the Alpha platform. The new chassis was a big step in infusing some athleticism in GM’s models, including the Camaro. Between 2011 and 2014, the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive Cadillac was offered as a station wagon, dubbed the Sport Wagon, and is one of the 10 best Cadillac V-Series performance cars.
There is a lot to love about it as it took the C6 Corvette ZR-1’s 6.2-liter, supercharged, LS9 V-8 engine, albeit in de-tuned form, and paired it either to a six-speed automatic or a Tremec 6060, six-speed manual. In this application, the pushrod V-8 pumped out 564 horsepower and 551 pound-feet (747 Nm). This was enough to rocket to 60 mph (97 km/h) in a factory-claimed 3.8 seconds. Without the 175 mph (282 km/h) limiter, the CTS-V Sport Wagon will hit 186 mph (300 km/h).
4 2016 Kia Stinger GT
Can we just take in the fact that Kia was the last carmaker we expected to make a car like this, and it turned out to be unexpectedly good? The exterior and interior are well-executed and, in most areas, the Stinger GT looks and feels no cheaper than the German trio it’s competing with (for significantly less money). The 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 is based on a tried-and-tested platform and produces 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet (510 Nm).
Mated to an eight-speed automatic, the 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint happens in 4.6 seconds. The lack of a speed limiter means a top speed of over 169 mph (270 km/h). The hatchback tailgate reveals a massive opening to the 23.3 cubic feet (660 liters) cargo area, which can grow to over 40 cubic feet (1,133 liters) with the rear seats folded.
3 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat
You are probably familiar with the classic Muscle car formula – taking a normal family car, cramming the biggest engine possible, and maybe giving it improved handling. Out of the big American three, Chrysler seems to have remained most faithful to the old ways, although handling has certainly improved. In 2015, Dodge introduced a game changer – the Hellcat engine.
Over the next couple of years, this spawned a variety of fast MOPARs, but if you wanted a fast car that could double as a family hauler, the four-door Charger Hellcat was as crazy as they came. With a plethora of exciting versions, packing up to 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet (59 Nm) from the 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8, the practical Hellcat was able to power through to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.5 seconds, on to a top speed of 203 mph (327 km/h).
2 2021 Mercedes AMG GT63 S E Performance
We could have just as easily put the AMG E63 S, especially considering it also has a wagon version, but the four-door AMG GT is even crazier. In 2021, Mercedes gave the four-door coupe a hybrid powerplant, which turned it into an even more brutal Autobahn missile. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 was now part of a complex Plug-in hybrid powertrain, which added an electric motor along with a dedicated transmission. The end result is 843 horsepower 1,032 pound-feet (1,400 Nm).
While even the non-hybrid AMG GT63 S is quicker than you need, the E Performance variant does the 60 mph sprint in 2.8 seconds – 0.2 quicker than the non-hybrid car. With 16.3 cubic feet (461 liters) of cargo capacity, the AMG GT63 S E Performance is practical enough for most. If you don’t opt for the executive lounge rear seats package, the rear seats fold.
1 2020 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S
Porsche is a renowned sports car manufacturer, but that doesn’t mean the brand hasn’t dabbled in more practical configurations for some time. The Panamera was Porsche’s entry into the four-door coupe segment (even though it’s technically a hatchback). It wasn’t the first, but it was still successful, which is why Porsche branched out and created a shooting brake version of it, called the Sport Turismo.
Naturally, Turbo S is the sportiest trim and if you tick the E Hybrid option, you got 700 horsepower and 642 pound-feet (870 Nm). That said, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 is potent enough, which meant the non-hybrid Turbo S is quicker to 60 mph, taking 2.9 seconds versus the Turbo S E Hybrid’s 3.0. The non-hybrid Turbo S also boasts more cargo capacity – up to 47.9 cubic feet (1,356 liters) versus the E Hybrid’s 45.45 cubic feet (1,287 liters).