After seven years with my 3.6R 2011 Subaru Outback, I am looking for something (most definitely not an SUV) that is equally practical, and is reasonably stylish and fun to drive. I have been looking at the Audi A4 Allroad Technik – it’s close in size to the Subaru. I am also looking at the 2018 Mercedes C-Class station wagon, which is quite rare, and at the new Volvo V60. What are your thoughts? – George, B.C.
Lightstone: George, I feel like you and I would be fast friends. Wagons! You love wagons! And those are some excellent choices there. I’m going to start with the Mercedes-Benz C 300 Wagon because I just stepped out of one, so it’s fresh in my mind. Also, it’s the best looking out of the three. It has less horsepower than your Subaru (at 241 hp), but there’s much more pull with 273 lb-ft of torque on hand.
Richardson: Wagons – blech. But there’s something for everyone and we do still have some wagon choices in Canada. There’s a reason why that Mercedes is rare, though – it’s expensive, isn’t it, Miranda?
Lightstone: Just like anything in life, it can be expensive when you start adding in all the extras that you’ll inevitably want. My particular C 300 4MATIC wagon with a 9-speed automatic transmission and the 4-cylinder engine started at $46,000. After a few bells and whistles – like a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, and premium package upgrades – the final tally was $56,865.
Richardson: The C 300 is already a good $4,000 over the price of a brand-new, top-trim Subaru Outback 3.6R if George wants to give the Subaru another shot. It’s a whole new model with plenty of upgrades and a better-feeling drive.
Lightstone: First off, George said he was tired of a “boring drive.” The Merc falls into the same price bracket as the Volvo V60, and is a little less than the basic Audi A4 Allroad.
Richardson: George didn’t give us a budget, but that loaded Audi Technik model starts just over $56,000, so let’s assume he’s okay with that. I just hate wasting money on stuff you don’t really need. Like a heated steering wheel. Wear a pair of gloves for two minutes, already!
Lightstone: How on earth am I supposed to use the touchscreen buttons with a pair of thick winter gloves on? #thinkofthemillenials … But if you forget the heated steering wheel, the Merc suddenly becomes more affordable. And while I did really enjoy my time with the C 300, I have to admit I’m a bigger fan of the Volvo V60 George mentioned. Thoughts on the Swedish option, Mark?
Richardson: It’s my choice of the three. The new V60 starts just under $45,000 and, like all the new Volvos, benefits from significant research and development to compete in its class. It’s satisfying to drive and very practical, and doesn’t look out of place as a wagon.
Lightstone: The Volvo V60 just recently benefited from a total revamp. It now has the functional and well-designed centre stack with the 9-inch touchscreen that Volvo claims you can use even with gloves on! However, if George wants his all-new V60 sooner rather than later, he’ll have to wait a bit. He can only pre-order at the moment.
Richardson: Volvo says it won’t arrive until at least October, but George doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. If he can wait, the Volvo’s tech will be cutting-edge: there’ll be a regular turbocharged engine, but also an available 316 hp 2.0-litre that’s both turbocharged and supercharged, for an extra $4,000. This also means that if he buys a 2018 V60, which ain’t chopped liver, he might get a better deal from a dealer looking to make space on the lot.
Lightstone: It might not be chopped liver, but it’s no prime-cut steak either, especially not compared to the 2019 model. Once George knows what he could get in the newer model – that turbo/supercharged engine is a blast to drive, and a big boost over the Audi and Benz – he won’t want to “settle” for the previous generation. I wouldn’t.
Richardson: Maybe you could if there was a generous incentive to clear it off the lots.
Lightstone: Which is iffy, at best. Dealers haven’t been stockpiling the current V60s. So, if he can’t possibly wait for the new V60, then what about the available-right-now Audi A4 Allroad?
Richardson: The A4 is tried and true, and the Allroad is basically the wagon version of Audi’s very successful sedan. It has almost 200 litres more cargo space behind the seats over the Mercedes C 300 wagon. From what George says about the Audi being fun to drive, I think he’s really just waiting for us to give him the nod to buy it.
Lightstone: We do get a lot of questions like that, don’t we? Buying a car is a major purchase and many times, people find what they want fairly quickly. But then, they just want us to tell them it’s okay – to know they’re not messing up or missing out on something else.
Richardson: In this case, the A4 Allroad is okay, but like Mercedes and Volvo, you can always buy a non-premium version from another brand for a bit less money, without the premium feel of the trim. George is impressed by the top-of-the-line Allroad, though, which is hardly a surprise. It’ll be $60,000 out the showroom door, and so will all these wagons once they’re loaded.
Lightstone: I wouldn’t turn down an Allroad if the keys were handed to me – Quattro AWD and all that exterior style and flare, oh my! – but I think George should hold out for the next generation Volvo V60. It will have the luxury and fun-to-drive he seeks, plus the new generation looks great, and the inside is loaded with cutting-edge tech. It will be the smart decision in the end. Look at me being all sensible now.
Richardson: The Volvo’s probably the best of the three for all those reasons, and especially for its more powerful upgraded engine. But the Audi is the safer bet, because it’s not brand new and we know George already likes it. It’s got the size he wants over the Benz, and a reputation the Volvo is trying to develop. But drive all three, George, and be careful to watch how the cost of the options add up.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Miranda at email@example.com.