Estate Of Play: Fast Wagons

No matter how much we like rapid cars, most car enthusiasts will go through a practicality crisis at some point in their lives. Many of us will get genuinely sensible and throw in the performance towel in favour of something that's more white good than motor car, although you may be able to keep something more appealing tucked up in a garage for high days and holidays.

But for those petrolheads who are unwilling to compromise their yearning for pace in the face of their need for space, there is a solution - go and buy a fast estate. It's a combination that's currently winning quite a few friends in the PH office at the moment, and editor Chris-R is particularly fond of the PH Fleet C63 AMG estate's ability to lug copious amounts of kit along at improbably high speeds. Provided you can afford to foot the fuel bills (the C63 is quite capable of descending to MPGs in the low teens) it's an intoxicating combination.

Curiously, though, the idea of providing a vehicle that can haul an entire family's stuff along at a committed and rapid pace is one that mainstream manufacturers took a long time to come around to. Pedants may argue that the performance estate theory was espoused by models such as Reliant Scimitar GTE in the late 60s or the Lancia Beta HPE in the 70s, but it wasn't until the 1990s that car makers were really turned on the performance wagon pound.

You could argue that the Subaru Legacy Turbo wagon kicked off the modern fast estate era in 1991, but the Legacy's (for want of a better word) legacy is really about powering a certain young Scot through the world's rally stages. So we have decided it can't come and play in our informal group test. Likewise, the 1992 E34 BMW M5 Touring was a modern performance estate pioneer, but that was only available in left-hand drive.

More to the point, we're not pretending that the five cars assembled here are a definitive collection of the best or most significant fast estates (although each one is significant and/or brilliant in its own way), but they are indicative of the variety of possibilities, should you decide to point your hard-earned in the direction of a fast estate.

So, alongside the PH Fleet Mercedes C63 AMG on a sunny Surrey lunchtime we gathered, courtesy of some tame (and very kind) PHers, a random(ish) sampling of the rapid wagon genre in the form of an Audi RS4, an Audi RS2, an MG ZT-T V8 and a Volvo 850 R.

It's quite a disparate bunch, really. The cheapest car is worth a little less than £2k, while our Merc (when it was brand-new) tipped just beyond £71.5k with its various options. Meanwhile you can choose between front-, rear- or four-wheel drive, five or eight cylinders, and turbochargers or natural aspiration. The only thing that really connects all the cars (apart from the two Audis; that link is fairly obvious) is a shared goal - to move around large amounts of luggage at equally large speeds...

So what do their owners think of them and, perhaps more importantly, what do they think of everybody else's cars...?

Chris - MG ZT-T 260

"It's an absurd car that should never have been made - but I'm glad they did!" says Chris about his not-so-subtle green and determinedly rear-drive V8 MG

Power: 256bhp
0-60mph: 6.3secs
Top speed: 155mph

Read more about Chris's V8 MG ZT-T




Jeremy - Audi RS2

"The RS2 is still the granddaddy of fast estates - it's a modern icon" says Jeremy of his beloved Audi - and with 315bhp, four-wheel-drive and the magic fairy dust of Porsche sprinkled all over it you'd have to say he's got a point.

Power: 315bhp
0-60mph: 4.8secs
Top speed: 162mph

Read more about Jeremy's Audi RS2



Gareth - Volvo 850 R

"I reckon it's pretty much the best value performance estate you can buy at the moment" reckons Gareth. "A newer car might be more reliable, but when you're having fun who cares?" Who cares indeed, especially if you're driving around in a car that's the direct spiritual descendant of the one that shook up the BTCC in 1994.

Power: 240bhp (auto) 250bhp (manual)
0-60mph: 7.6secs (auto) 6.7secs (manual)
Top speed: 153mph (auto) 156mph (manual)

Read more about Gareth's 850 R



Smita - Audi RS4 Avant

"It's just so composed and refined," says Smita, "and I think that even after four years it still feels fresh - to look at and to drive." It certainly doesn't feel outgunned, with 414bhp from its naturally aspirated V8...

Power: 414bhp
0-60mph: 4.5secs
Top speed: 155mph

Read more about Smita's RS4



Riggers - PH Fleet C63 AMG estate

"The C63 is so fast it almost seems impolite - especially since this one is fitted with the performance Pack" says, er, me. They surely can't be allowed to make engines like this for much longer, so the 6.2-litre V8 in our beloved Merc could well make it one of the last of a dying breed of German muscle car.

Power: 478bhp
0-60mph: 4.5secs
Top speed: 155mph

Read more about the PH Fleet C63 AMG


Pics: George Williams













Comments (149) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Max_Torque 19 May 2011

    someone's gonna to say it, so i may as well be first:

    "where's the M5 touring"???? biggrin

  • ZOLLAR 19 May 2011

    Mmm O/T just noticed something...

    Harry Hill



  • Great Pretender 19 May 2011

    Max_Torque said:
    someone's gonna to say it, so i may as well be first:

    "where's the M5 touring"???? biggrin

    No fast estate test is complete without one.

    Glad to see the 850R make an appearance though; they're laugh out loud fun to drive.

  • Max_Torque 19 May 2011

    ZOLLAR said:
    Mmm O/T just noticed something...

    Harry Hill


    Which is better?? There's only ONE way to find out..... FIGHT !!!!

  • George H 19 May 2011

    I'll take the RS2 please smile

View all comments in the forums Make a comment