Best SUV and crossover alternatives

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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 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

2018 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.

Research the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Volvo V60

The new 2019 V60, pictured here, promises to bring everything we love about the larger V90 wagon in a smaller, very nicely proportioned package. The good news is this wagon is coming to the U.S., but the bad news is that we don’t know exactly when. We do know that it’ll pack a twin-charged inline-four, making north of 300 horsepower, and likely available in hybrid and AWD formats. Specifics for America are still forthcoming.

Not that the current 2018 V60 is a bad crossover alternative in and of itself. Still, if the mid-size Volvo wagon appeals to you as a handy, sexy crossover alternative, you may want to wait for the new version.

Research the 2018 Volvo V60

2018 BMW 3 Series GT

We love wagons, sure, but if we don’t include the 3 Series GT, what is this gallery other than a big list of wagons? And not everybody loves a wagon, of course. The 3 Series GT offers somewhat sedanish lines, perhaps looking more like a crossover dropped low to the ground than a sedan, but the overall effect is not wagonish. 

The real party trick for the GT is, somehow, even more utility than its Sport Wagon counterpart, thanks to the GT’s stretched chassis (borrowed from the Chinese-market, long-wheelbase model). This creates a passenger space that offers 2.8 inches more legroom than the standard 3 Series sedan. The resulting rear seats offer more foot and knee room than the 5 Series sedan (families with rear-facing child seats, take note). The seatbacks fold to reveal a cavernous trunk one cubic foot larger than that on the 3 Series Sport Wagon. There are grocery bag hooks on the walls, a 12-volt outlet and even hidden storage below the deck floor.

Research the BMW

  • Image Credit: Jeremy Korzeniewski

2018 Audi A4 Allroad

Like its predecessor, the 2017 Allroad is a rather good-looking alternative to a mid-size SUV. It’s based on the lovely A4 Avant, a wagon that isn’t sold in America. The Allroad has a slightly raised suspension compared to its overseas counterpart, slightly higher-profile rubber, standard two-tone paint, roof rails, fender flares, lower body cladding, and a grille with vertical slats to emphasize the rugged point. And for reasons that no automotive purist has ever been able to derive, the look totally works.

The Allroad features a new part-time version of Quattro AWD, but the rest of the drivetrain is standard A4, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The new Allroad is a compelling package if you’re not looking for the visual bulk of an SUV, and you’re just too proud of yourself to drive a Subaru Outback.

Research the 2018 Audi A4

  • Image Credit: Brandon Turkus

2018 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. And now, there’s All4 all-wheel drive, too.

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 Cooper Clubman

2018 Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota claims that this is the best Prius it’s ever made, which is why it was christened the Prime. You can never take PR spin at face value, but it’s hard to combat this particular assertion. It’s more efficient than any other Prius ever made, save for the Eco trim for the new standard Prius, and it comes with 25 miles of electric range from to a new 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery.

Despite some disagreement about the design, especially around the front end, this is the best-looking Prius available. I’m pretty sure it looks better than the regular Prius, from every angle. All that you lose is a fifth seat, a rear wiper thanks to a cool-looking but wonky rear window (Toyota calls it “dual wave”), and some extra money.

Research the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime

  • Image Credit: Chris McGraw

2018 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.



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