It’s weird, isn’t it? You can take almost any saloon car, line it up against its estate equivalent and I bet most of you would take the latter every day of the week. I know I would.
Estates are just cool, and that’s really the end of the argument. By why exactly is that? Why is it that a Vauxhall Vectra can be one of the blandest cars known to man, but a VXR estate suddenly has me surfing Gumtree for a banger of a deal?
I guess you have to put it mainly down to looks. The elongated rears and reworked proportions of an estate versus a saloon seem to sit well with many petrolheads. In a similar way to ‘long tail’ racing cars always being prettier and easier on the eye than their standard sister cars, estates simply supply more metal real estate to look at.
One estate that performed particularly well in this regard was the E60 BMW 5 Series. The standard saloon was an already handsome car, but once you clocked the side profile of the V10 M5 estate, there was no going back.
‘Estating’ (my new word for today) transforms new cars such as the CLA and the Kia Ceed into some of the prettiest ‘normal’ cars on sale, simply down to a sleeker roofline on the CLA shooting brake and proportions that make the Proceed stick out from the countless boxy SUVs and monosyllabic saloons kicking around.
My next hypothetical reason is that being niche is cool and always has been. People have forever bought fewer estates than saloons, with most folk struggling to justify the increased luggage capacity. Although, I reckon most people are mistakenly put off by length, as they assume an estate must be longer than the saloon alternative. In reality, the two cars can often be exactly the same length, give or take a millimetre.
Besides that, they’re often only bought by enthusiasts and people that genuinely love an estate for its extra space, meaning they are a rare breed, especially in a world now dominated by SUVs.
Take one of the few cars that Clarkson, Hammond and May all love as an example – the Ford Mondeo ST200 estate. The saloon is a cool fast Ford that is quickly becoming sought after, but it is blown away by the muscular and rarely-seen estate that has taken on an almost unicorn state of exclusivity.
And that V6 beast brings me onto the next coolest thing about estates – there are almost always fast versions. Manufacturers are more than happy to cram their most powerful engines into their estate cars, knowing that a select audience will snap them up in an instant.
AMG Mercs, RS Audis and Alpina BMWs are the usual culprits, with even more niche examples being the Vauxhall Monaro VXR8 Tourer, Jaguar XFR-S and the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. All of them can safely move large pieces of furniture around and still hit 180mph while doing so, and if that isn’t practical motoring then I don’t know what is.
Finally, there’s the motorsport factor. Taking estates to the track makes for one of the greatest juxtapositions you’ll see in racing. The most notable entry in this particular category was Volvo with its TWR-built 850 estate in the British Touring Car Championship back in 1994 – a bespoke, five-cylinder cuboid that looked like a tank compared to its saloon contemporaries, and yet was a seriously capable machine on track.
Subaru has kept that fire burning with its Levorg BTCC machine, which is also proving itself to be a capable car this season. It must be massively satisfying taking an unassuming shape like an estate and sticking it on a podium against smaller, seemingly nimbler cars time after time.
So that’s all I’ve got as to why estates are still revered as one of the coolest shapes a car can take. But maybe I’ve missed some out. Why do you love estates? Is there a particular car that started your love? Let me know in the comments below.