It can be a struggle coming to terms with midlife. The compromises, the responsibilities… the having to be so blooming grown-up. But help has arrived in a most unlikely form: the posh family estate. The latest releases join a fleet of super-svelte, exhilarating and very driveable vehicles. It’s as if the manufacturers have got together and thought: “What can we do to cheer these poor sods up? Let’s build them a proper station wagon.” Here’s a magnificent seven…
MERCEDES-BENZ CLS SHOOTING BRAKE
£49,360, MPG 47.1, top speed 155mph
One of the most eye-catching estates you’ll see on the road and a supreme example of space with pace. Notice it’s called a “shooting brake”, not an estate. You wouldn’t want anyone to think you were in, say, the Chatsworth Estate off Shameless…
AUDI RS6 AVANT
£77,000, MPG 28.8, top speed 189mph
Revealed at last month’s Geneva motor show, this Audi takes what was already a very fast estate, the S6, and makes it even faster. The race-tuned twin-turbo V8 will blast you towards the double ton, but it still has five seats and 1,680 litres’ worth of storage space.
BMW 5 TOURING
£34,120, MPG 57.6, top speed 138mph
There’s no longer an estate version of the thunderous M5 with its remarkable V10 engine, so you’ll have to make do with this. But even a second-string 5-series is better than almost anything else you’ll drive. And in terms of BMW for your buck, this huge car is the best deal on the road.
£31,940, MPG 54.3, top speed 134mph
The last time Jaguar attempted an estate was the X-Type. Four years on, Coventry has introduced another big-bottomed cat – this time it’s the XF. Svelte, lithe and elegant, this is a proper load-lugger concealed as an upmarket family wagon which could pass as a proper exec limo.
£22,445, MPG 53.3, top speed 127mph
Yes, yes, a Mondeo. But in a competitive market, the Mondeo not only offers the best value for money, it’s bloody good, too. This Ford can guarantee you three things: it’s well built, cheap to run and very reliable – which sounds like a Lonely Hearts ad you should follow up.
£21,195, MPG 47.1, top speed 124mph
Time was when Volvo = boring. But how things have moved on. With the V60 you get a bucketful of hip Scandi style, a wagon-load of safety gear and plenty of driver aids. This car will shake you awake if you drift off, brake itself under 20mph and keep an eye out for jaywalkers.
£20,240, MPG 49.6, top speed 124mph
The saloon version was crowned European Car of the Year in 2009, and the estate has followed up on those winning ways. It’s stylish and it’s built in Germany. The load bay is huge: fold down the back seats and you have room to stretch out for a siesta. Family life is tiring, after all.