The Wagon Owns This Niche–Add AWD & Great Fuel Economy & Go
By Michael Coates and John Addison
Superstorm Sandy, “Snowmegeddon,” El Nino. You need a safe car or crossover SUV when that 100-year storm hits. These new all-wheel drive (AWD) wagons have the best mileage in the United States in 2016. They range from fun, yet thrifty, from gas-powered Subarus to BMW and and Audi luxury turbo diesels (although we’ve got some footnotes on the latter) to ultra-luxury Teslas. The line between hatchback sedans and wagons is sometimes a thin one, but we’ve opted here to exclude most of those identified by automakers as SUVs, although we realize that can be an arbitrary distinction these days of crossovers and car-based SUVs. Of course, you can also get a variety of AWD sedans. But even with these limitations–the space of a wagon, up to four wheels of traction and great fuel economy, the choices are great. It’s a fun time to shop.
AWD Wagons with Best MPG in USA
Tesla Model X can now be ordered with three varieties, all with All-Wheel Drive. Range for this luxury crossover, which is based on the Model S sedan,
goes from 220 miles for the 70D up to 257 for the 90D. The car’s two-motor system enables more than all-weather, all-road capabilities: it increases torque by 50%. Model X Performance can 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds if you opt for the P90D with a Ludicrous Speed upgrade. It can haul seven people and gear as well. Pricing starts at around $70,000 and can range well north of $100,000 with all the bells and whistles available. Tesla likes to call the Model X an SUV but even with its “falcon-wing” doors, it’s still a wagon to us. Tesla Model X details.
BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon leads the mileage pack for all-wheel-drive wagons with its turbocharged clean diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It will deliver 43 mpg on the highway, 31 in the city and a combined 35 mpg. Along with that fuel economy comes tons of torque for pulling up mountain peaks or anywhere you want to take this compact wagon. We were very impressed when we tested one. Another model (the 328i) features a turbocharged 2.0-liter gas engine that will bring home 33 mpg on the highway, 22 in city and 26 combined mpg. BMW Sports Wagon details.
Subaru Impreza Wagon AWD delivers some of the best mileage of any all-wheel drive vehicle sold in the U.S. with 37 miles per gallon city highway, 28 city and 31 combined (with the
automatic transmission). The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and balanced weight results in handling designed to get you to winter resorts, off-road hike and bike spots in the summer, and get to school and work when the rain is pounding. The 5-door Impreza has a base price of about $19,000 wagon with a five-speed stick (though you lose 1 mpg). The Lineartronic automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission) adds about $1,000 more (all prices in this article are starting points for negotiation, are subject to change, and can be higher due to destination, handling, and options). Subarus can be found clustered in areas where the weather can be challenging. With all-time all-wheel-drive, they’re well suited to deal with sudden rain, snow or sleet. Subaru Impreza details
Nissan Juke AWD delivers good mileage in a four-door subcompact crossover. Some find the styling fun and hip, others don’t like the looks. Because of the slopping roof, the back seat will not be popular with anyone over 5’10”. The cargo is limited to 10 cubic feet, but you can lower the backseat for 36 cubic feet. The Juke AWD, starts at around $22,100 and is rated at 31 highway mpg, 26 city and 28 mpg combined. In addition to the standard models in three trim levels, the Juke offers Nismo and Nismo RS models that bump up the fun and turbocharged horsepower of this cute ute while only sacrificing an mpg or two. We test two different versions of the Juke and liked them both ways. Nissan Juke details.
Subaru Outback AWD is a popular wagon in Subaru’s all all-wheel-drive lineup. It is designed to deliver mileage without needed a hybrid system (Subaru does offer that on its more SUV-like CrossTrek) and optimizes safe handling on icy roads. This wagon has seen its fuel economy bump up in recent years, which has probably been a factor in its ongoing popularity in colder climates. The wagon configured with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and automatic delivers 33 mpg on the highway, 28 combined and, 25 mpg in city driving. Starting at $24,995 this five-door wagon features Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, vehicle dynamics control and a traction control system, all great add-ons. Subaru Outback details.
Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic is Mercedes latest entry-level SUVish wagon. Based off of the marque’s new entry-level sedan, the GLA is wrapped in an contemporary aero look. The AWD
version starts at $34,500 and will give you 35 mpg on the highway and 25 in the city from its 208 horsepower turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder gas engine. The 258 pound-feet of torque helps it to accelerate from 0-to-60 in a little more than seven seconds. Its 10 airbags and variety of safety technology add to the image of a more impregnable vehicle. Of course, since it’s a Mercedes a long line of luxury accessories and upgrades are available, including an AMG model that bumps the horsepower of the engine up to 375 and adds some styling and functional fetures while sacrificing a few mpg. Mercedes GLA250 details.
Volvo V60 AWD continues a long tradition of the Swedish manufacturer with wagons and all-wheel-drive. The V60 is a little smaller than some recent Volvo wagons, but it fits right in and features an efficient powerplant that can deliver more than 30 mpg (31 on the highway) from its 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder. Volvo offers several different AWD models with the best fuel economy coming from the T6 Drive-E R-Design, which starts at almost $47,000. In the city it is rated at 22 mpg and combined is 25. A larger five-cylinder engine is offered in the Cross Country version of the wagon, but that also drops 2-3 mpg from this model’s excellent fuel economy. The V60 does retain all of the traditional Swedish wagon values of spacious cargo space and a comfortable space for passenger. Volvo V60 details. You could also throw the XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid into this mix; it’s still a Volvo wagon although it rides high enough to pass itself off as an SUV. We drove one recently.
Audi Allroad Quattro conveys prestige and elegance in this luxury sedan that seats 5 and can leave the road without fear. German engineering now brings the efficiency and performance of turbocharged gas engine that is just under 30-mpg. Audi has a long history with all-wheel-drive (which it terms quattro or four) as well as with turbocharging and the Allroad gives them a chance to combine the two for a cruiser with a slightly higher ride height. The 2.0-liter TFSI turbo engine promises 28 mpg highway, 21 city and 24 mpg combined. A eight-speed Tiptronic automatic aides on the fuel economy side. The Allroad starts at $42,700 with a variety of luxury features. We also expect Audi will have some of its turbodiesel models back on the market soon after getting caught up the in Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. Audi Allroad Quattro details.
Fiat 500X is the kind of vehicle we expect to see more of in the coming years. Small but spacious, fuel efficient but peppy and available in all-wheel drive. This diminutive crossover is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder Multiair engine that puts out 160 horsepower and allows the vehicle to get 34 mpg on the highway and 25 in the city, but unfortunately you only get that full economy in two-wheel drive. Also, that’s with a six-speed manual transmission. Other models offer larger, less efficient engines and automatic transmissions that drop about 3 mpg. The 500X starts at an even $20,000, but all-wheel drive is an option on most models. We tested the 500X recently. More Fiat 500X info.
Better Mileage for All-Wheel-Drive
For millions who face snow and icy roads 10, 20, or even 40 percent of the year, the all-wheel drive wagons listed about help you safely navigate dangerous conditions and still deliver good fuel economy. Winter storms and expectation of rising fuel costs are making these dual demands more important.
All-wheel drive provides better traction on ice by delivering power to all four wheels when the driver selects or more often whenever the car senses a lack of traction. All-wheel-drive vehicles (AWD) automatically deliver power to all wheels. Winter and mountain safety is further improved with snow tires or good all-weather radials. Added vehicle weight can help. Now you can have AWD that still deliver good fuel economy. Whether you are taking your kids to school in Chicago, getting to work in Washington D.C., or running a taxi fleet in New York, an AWD may help you through the storm.
Yes, the best mileage on this list delivered by an all-electric wagon, but it also carries a hefty price tag. You do not need to spend the extra dollars to get good mileage. Improved designs and more efficient gasoline and diesel engines give you a number of great wagons to evaluate with rough winter driving.
This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable fueleconomy.gov, then reviewing details on the vehicle maker websites. The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45 percent highway and 55 percent city driving, which of course does not reflect the real-world driving of most drivers. According to the Department of Transportation, the average driver does just the opposite–55 percent highway and 45 percent city, which is why we emphasize the highway numbers.
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