September 06, 2019 at 9:49 AM
The rise in popularity of SUVs in the UK has resulted in estate cars often being overlooked by car buyers, especially when looking for a car with 4-wheel drive (4WD).
4-wheel drive cars provide extra grip in adverse weather conditions such as snow and ice. Power is directed to the tyres that need it to get the car moving and keep it stable on slippery road surfaces.
Estate cars are typically lower to the ground than SUVs and lighter which means they have better fuel consumption figures and cost less to run on a day-to-day basis. A large, flat boot provides a spacious load area that is unrivalled by other car classes.
Although SUVs are designed to look rugged with a higher ground clearance - making them perfect 4x4 vehicles - there are plenty of 4x4 estate cars on the UK market.
9. Volvo V60 Cross Country
Volvo is famous for its estate cars and the V60 benefits from the typical Swedish laid-back approach that prioritises a comfortable ride over an exciting driving experience.
4WD is only available in the Cross Country model which has a slightly raised ride height and adds plastic cladding to make it look tougher, chunkier and more robust. This version has a bespoke off-road drive mode and hill descent control if you want to test its 4x4 capabilities.
The latest second generation V60 uses the same running gear as other Volvo models including the V90 and XC90. It comes with a beautifully designed interior that is dominated by the 9" colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard.
8. Mercedes E Class Estate 4MATIC & All-Terrain
The Mercedes E Class Estate is the largest estate car on the UK market with a boot space of 640-litres in the latest version, which is actually down from 695-litres in the previous model.
Mercedes' 4MATIC 4-wheel drive option is available on all three petrol engines and two of the diesel units (E 220d and E 350d). As a 4x4, it's comfortable off the beaten track, travelling on muddy tracks and driving on slippery roads.
The All-Terrain version is a separate model with some big visual changes, including matt-black plastic wheel arches, chrome-plated aluminium skid plates and prominent scuff guards. It sits in between the E Class and GLE SUV for car buyers that face challenging road conditions and don't want a bulky SUV.
7. Subaru Outback Estate
This pioneering model was the first estate car with the looks and capabilities of a 4x4 off-roader to be sold in the UK. The original Subaru Legacy Outback went on sale in 1996, with the Outback becoming a standalone model in 2004.
Now in its fifth generation, the Subaru Outback remains a capable 4WD car with sharper exterior looks, an upgraded interior and more modern technology. Although it's not as stylish as its European counterparts, it has a 200mm ride height and panels on the underside of the car to help protect against rough terrains.
What the Outback lacks in terms of design and responsiveness handling, it makes up for in reliability and and its ability to handle difficult road conditions.
6. Volvo V90 AWD & Cross Country
Much like the smaller V60, the Volvo V90 estate focuses on comfort and premium styling - particularly in terms of the interior. The latest version is smaller than its predecessor and most other rivals, but that's not to say it's lacking in space with 560-litres of boot space available as standard.
4WD is only available with the D5 diesel engine which is the most powerful unit on offer, unless you choose the plug-in hybrid T8 option - but that doesn't have 4x4 capabilities.
Alternatively, you could opt for the V90 Cross Country which comes with 4WD as standard. With its rugged body cladding and raised ride height alongside the premium interior and advanced safety features, it bridges the gap between a practical and stylish family car and a tough 4x4.
5. Audi A4 Avant Quattro & Allroad
The A4 Avant is the estate version of the popular Audi A4 saloon car. It shares all the positives of its smaller sibling with the added advantage of more passenger and boot space.
4WD models from the German manufacturer are labelled 'Quattro' - for the A4 Avant, the Quattro models have been very popular, so finding one on the used market should be relatively easy.
If you're looking for something more robust, the A4 Allroad version provides a 37mm higher ride, thicker tyres and a tough stainless steel panels underneath to protect the engine.
Audi are famed for their interior design, using a range of soft touch materials throughout to create a comfortable and relaxed driving environment. As you would expect, the A4 Avant comes packed with modern technology and safety features.
4. Volkswagen Passat Estate 4MOTION & Alltrack
The Volkswagen Passat Estate has been in production since the 1970s and is currently in its eighth generation. On the latest version, the 4MOTION 4-wheel drive system is only available on the range topping 2.0-litre BiTDI diesel engine.
Alternatively, you could turn to the Passat Alltrack which comes with 4WD as standard. 4MOTION is a part-time 4-wheel drive system that automatically activates when the car's electronics detect wheel slip of any description.
The Passat Alltrack comes with a number of off-road enhancements, including an extra 27.5mm of ground clearance, silver skid plates for the front and rear bumpers, matt-finish roof rails and plastic cladding on the wheel arches.
Volkswagen have positioned the Passat Estate in between affordable rivals such as the Skoda Suberb Estate and premium models from BMW and Mercedes. This makes it the perfect choice for car buyers looking for a more upmarket 4x4 estate without the budget for a prestige brand.
3. Skoda Superb Estate 4x4
The biggest selling point for the Skoda Superb Estate is the sheer amount of space it provides. The boot in the latest version offers a 660-litre load area which is on par with cars like the Mercedes E Class estate. Despite such cavernous carrying capabilities, there's still plenty of room for rear passengers to travel in comfort.
4-wheel drive is available on selected models and helps to make the Superb feel more secure on the road. The estate version was built to be a hauling machine, so having a 4x4 version really improves its towing capabilities.
The Superb represents excellent value for money - few 4x4 estates offer as much for so little. It delivers high levels of comfort when you're cruising on the motorway and a great ride quality when the road conditions are less than ideal.
2. BMW 3 Series Touring xDrive
Undoubtedly, the BMW 3 Series Touring is the most exciting 4x4 estate to drive with sharp, involving steering alongside punchy engines. Since its arrival on the UK market back in 1987, it's been the estate car to beat for car buyers looking for a fun and premium load-lugger.
Now in it's sixth generation, the latest 3 Series Touring was released in 2019 with a slightly bigger boot and subtle exterior updates. Underneath the bonnet, BMW's xDrive 4-wheel drive system is available for the 320d and 330d diesel units as well as the M340i petrol engine - all of which provide additional grip to effortlessly handle difficult road conditions.
As you would expect, the 3 Series Touring gets a smart interior and is packed with technology including the iDrive infotainment system, one of the best infotainment systems on the market.
1. Skoda Octavia Estate 4x4 & Scout
If you're on a tighter budget but don't want to compromise on space or reliability, the Skoda Octavia Estate 4x4 is an excellent option. It's a fantastic all-rounder that delivers a spacious boot, plenty of leg room for rear passengers and competitive fuel economy.
Skoda's 4WD system is only available on the 2.0-litre TDI 150 diesel engine. It's worth investing in the 4x4 model because it only comes into play when the car detects it's struggling for grip - under normal driving conditions, the car is only driven by the front wheels.
However, if you regularly drive in difficult conditions, you should consider the Skoda Octavia Scout Estate which comes with 4-wheel drive as standard. It has additional body cladding, increased ground clearance by 40mm and a slightly raised suspension for extra grip and reassurance over rough roads.
Based on the Volkswagen Golf platform, the Skoda Octavia Estate benefits from the German manufacturer's running gear, while simultaneously offering more versatility and practicality, especially as a 4x4 estate.