In a rational world free of automotive prejudice and immune to the magic of marketing, the estate car would be king. Deliver all of the versatility (and often more) of an SUV, but with the dynamic sharpness and greater efficiency of a saloon, load luggers really are ‘all the car you’ll ever need’.
What’s more, despite the inexorable rise of off-road-themed alternatives, which has come at the cost of other genres of machine, the estate car class retains a healthy diversity. Not only are there plenty of options when it comes to size, the elastic definition of these machines means our kitchen sink carrying cohort includes everything from sleek shooting brakes through to more square-rigged options that value maximum volume above all else.
There’s also a wide choice when it comes to how you want your load delivered. Whether you want cosseting comfort, fuel-sipping efficiency or supercar-chasing performance and handling, there should be an estate car to suit every taste and budget. Some even manage to make a fine fist of combining all these traits.
As has often been said across the Atlantic, there ain’t no substitute for cubic inches. So with that in mind, here’s our pick of great estates.
Best estate cars on sale in 2023
It’s not the biggest estate car money can buy, but as a machine that covers all bases the BMW 5 Series Touring is hard to beat. Elegantly styled, engaging to drive, just about large enough for most needs and packed with enough neat features to suggest the brand has thought hard about how it will be used, the multi-talented German wins this space race.
At 560-litres, boot capacity is about average (it shrinks to 430-litres in the plug-in hybrid), but the load area is well-shaped and the brand’s trademark opening rear glass makes it easier to load smaller items in a tight spot. Fold the handy 40/20/40 split rear bench and there’s up to 1700-litres to play with. What’s more, air-suspension is standard for the rear axle, helping deliver both self-levelling for heavy loads and, combined with optional adaptive dampers, enhanced comfort.
Yet BMW’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ schtick doesn’t come unstuck in the estate transformation, the 5 Series hiding its bulk and mass well with meaty steering, impressive agility and the option of expressive handling if you’re in the mood. The engine line-up has been pared back in recent years, with just four-cylinder diesel and petrol options, plus the lusty six-cylinder 540i. There’s also a 530e plug-in hybrid for business users looking for a tax break. And while there’s no M5 option, official tuning arm Alpina does offer its subtle yet superheated conversions, provided you’ve enough cash to fill a 5 Series Touring's boot.