With a fast estate car, there's no need to compromise on performance or practicality. Here are ten of the best
Despite their ubiquity today, the fast estate car is a relatively new category in the motoring world. In fact it has barely been 20 years since Audi’s RS2 first combined supercar pace with real world practicality – the mix proved to be very popular with the family man who now had something that excelled both on the school run and on a challenging B road.
Over the years most major manufacturers have since introduced their own line of fast estates, so today having a family no longer means having to putter around in a soul-destroying minivan, and for that alone we should celebrate the fast estate car. While diesel powered variants are by far the more numerous estates plying our roads today, it is the rarer ludicrously overpowered supercar baiting petrol versions that our top ten list will focus on.
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Audi’s long running fascination with fast Estate cars started with arguably one of its best. The RS2 estate was a joint venture with Porsche, combining the best of both companies into an instant classic. Porsche suspension and brakes allied with a tuned version of the characterful five-cylinder turbo lump from the Quattro, producing 311 bhp, made for a massively quick car that handled like a thoroughbred. Supercar slaying acceleration aside, the RS2 could show exotics the way in the corners too. Mint condition examples can sell for over £40,000 these days.
At a time when Volvo’s were mostly favoured by pensioners for their inoffensive image and wide parcel shelf to perch tissue boxes on, there must have been much consternation at dealerships when retirees first took the new 850 T5R out for a spin. With 250 bhp from its turbocharged engine and 150mph performance, Volvo redefined its image in one pacemaker quickening step. Campaigning two 850 estates in the BTCC further demonstrated the packages performance potential. Practicality remained a strong point however and the spirit of this ground breaking car lives on in its modern equivalent, the 345bhp V60 Polestar.
296bhp, 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds. Best get the headline stats out of the way just in case someone calls this ‘just another Golf Estate’. The added convenience of the estate body style comes with few drawbacks, practically matching its hatchback stable mate - arguably the best all-round in acceleration and being just as resolved around the corners. The DSG only gearbox option suits the car’s character well and with four-wheel drive to keep you on the road when conditions get slippery, the Golf R estate is a pretty convincing all-rounder.
With its latest Focus ST Estate, Ford has chosen not to wage a horsepower war with its long-time Wolfsburg nemesis. Instead the 247 bhp ST Estate relinquishes a few seconds in the acceleration stakes against the Golf R Estate and offers buyers a saving of up to £10,000 – definitely trumping the Golf for affordability. Foregoing four-wheel drive means that the front wheels may scrabble for traction but the latest Focus is a very well-balanced car and you will not feel short changed around the twisties. Its overall competence and ability to thrill on even the shortest drive makes the Focus ST Estate our budget conscious choice. It can be had with a manual gearbox too.
If bang for your buck is a top priority than you cannot ignore the Vauxhall Insignia VXR SuperSport Tourer, for around £30,000 its spec list is as long as its name and you will struggle to find a quicker car at the price. The turbocharged 2.8 litre V6 produces a massive 321 bhp, thankfully it is channelled through a four wheel drive system and powers the Insignia to an unlimited 170mph top end. It handles a lot better than Vauxhalls of old too, and can be had with that increasingly rare treat, a manual gearshift. Look for nearly new models for an even more cost effective entry into ballistic estate car ownership.
The E60 M5 was a classic from the start, shoehorning a race inspired naturally aspirated 500 bhp V10 and aggressive seven-speed SMG transmission into an M fettled 5-series tends to do that. The Lamborghini Gallardo levels of performance was allied to a supercar-equalling thirst and low speed gear changes could be less than smooth. These foibles were a small price to pay for what was a technological tour-de-force, the 2007 addition of the rare estate version added a modicum of practicality to the mix. There may be faster cars out there today but at full chat the frenzied wail from the quad tail pipes and relentless surge between the savage gear changes quickens the pulse like few others.
Audi has done more for the ballistic estate car category than most so it gets a second entry in our top ten list with the latest RS6 Avant. Producing 552 bhp it is actually a touch less powerful than the previous V10 car but thanks to intelligent design and an advanced four wheel drive system the new 4 litre V8 is actually even quicker. While some say it is not as engaging at the limit as a few of its competitors, none will do the 0-60 sprint in less than 4 seconds. If you are still worried that your neighbour’s Ferrari may smoke you at the lights, there is always the 597bhp Performance edition to consider.
Mercedes’ take on the fast estate has traditionally been a bit less overtly sports oriented than its competitors, but the E63 AMG S Estate is nothing but an absolute monster. Having said that, it does deliver its performance in a less frenetic, but no more impressive manner than most. 576 bhp is a lot of power in anyone’s language though, and the 0-62 time of 4.2s means that the standard LSD will have its work cut out every time you tickle the accelerator. As the ultimate long distance tourer this AMG Estate has few equals, combining comfort and space in a thoroughly capable package. Oh, and one of the most impressive exhaust notes.> Browse the classifieds for a Mercedes-Benz E63S AMG
Sure the Germans have long ruled the upper echelons of overpowered Estates but there are cars such as the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake which offer a refreshingly different take on the subject. Not pretending to be the fastest or most powerful, the XFR-S instead focuses on Jaguars traditional strong points of smooth, torquey power delivery and a cossetting yet sporty ride. 542bhp is still plenty and the unlimited 186mph top speed will see the XFR-S leave the speed limited Germans far behind on a decent stretch of Autobahn.
Here's our wildcard. While not strictly an Estate, the FF is a unique blend of hatchback and estate that gives it a level of practicality unseen in Maranello’s previous offerings. Four seats, four wheel drive and that unique shooting brake body style make for an especially useable Ferrari regardless of the season. The fact that it can be used year round can go some way in explaining to your bank manager why you need to part with over £220,000 to have it parked in your driveway. Its 651Bhp V12 is unmatched in getting the kids to keep quiet and the dreaded ‘are we there yet’ question is also a thing of the past when your top speed is 208mph.
Words: John Tallodi