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Station wagon choices

Am looking toward replacement of my 2006 Subaru Legacy wagon with more modern station wagon. At present the VW Jetta/Golf and Volvo wagons have the desired lower roof height and length and rackability to haul 2 sea kayaks on roof as well as trips to Lowes/HD. I am seeking first-hand experiences with these two from years 2012 forward as to reliability and known issues. Any other manufacturer suggestions appreciated to yield a solid wagon for daily hauling and kayak transport. To me the modern Subies are too tall with poor rack choices either factory or after market.

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Comments

  • I'll be watching this thread with interest, even though I won't be buying in the very near term.

  • My wife and I settled on those two as the best choices for the same reasons. I will also note that the newer model Volvos are slowly going up in height, sigh.

    We ended up going with a VW Alltrack Wagon, 2017 model year. It has worked just the way we hoped. The roof height is great for lifting kayaks into J Cradles. We got Yakima Hood Anchors for the front and rear tie down points. We think it is a very well designed car, though a bit spare on storage places in the front. But lots of nice features, for us at least. We have had it for almost a year at this point.

    Regards

  • You don't want my vote for a Subaru, but I'll still put in my 2 cents worth. It appears that Subaru has solved the head gasket problem, so I went ahead and got a 2014 Forester which is the year the Foresters changed dramatically. Yes, it is taller ... so we got a pair of hullavators. At nearly 78 years old I was moving in that direction anyway. The car came out earlier than usual (June 2013) and we've used it as our kayak hauler ever since. I have the under-the-hood anchors for the front tie downs and have a trailer hitch in the back for stern tie downs. My crossbars are Yakimas, inherited from our old 1999 Subaru. Both my wife and I prefer the slightly taller Subaru to lower versions anyway. I didn't like the roof rack setup on the 2014 Outback.

  • I can't say I like the roof rack, but I love the looks of the new Buick wagon! OK, I must be getting old. :)
    I really find it hard to put my finger on the difference between a station wagon and a compact utility vehicle or a crossover.
    Anyway, my wife's Toyota Highlander has nice roof rails but with the method we've got to load the boats on the Silverado, we usually take the pick up truck for ease of loading and hauling gear.

  • Don't mean to hijack but is there anything that comes with a naked roof? We might go with another Forester.. We have had them for nearly 20 years and no head gasket problem .. The first one got hail damaged at 180000 miles and the 2009 we have now has 140,000 miles even though at 4000 miles it suffered 9 grand of damage from hitting a bear in New Jersey
    We lament the demise of the stick shift but have to accept that.. The bare roof is still a quest

    We load boats onto a capped pickup from the rear and 60 lb boats are not an issue.. The saving grace is faux raingutters But the Subie does better for mileage on errands even though we have very few traffic lights.. Pretty much go everywhere at 55 but its hilly

  • @kayamedic said:

    "....and the 2009 we have now has 140,000 miles even though at 4000 miles it suffered 9 grand of damage from hitting a bear in New Jersey."

    55 and a black bear!!!?
    Bet you RU A BUS parked there.

    (Sort of what your SUBARU, logo and car, must have looked like. As for the Joisey bear? Well, he's probably still running strong and in a panic, what with FatElmo in rut.)

  • Naked roofs are available on the base no frills version in most likely brands and models that paddlers may like.

    The problem is that they likely will come with rails once you get the features most want - comfort features, safety stuff etc. Getting a car with the middle tier equipment and features and no roof rails - that is just likely to be on any lot.

    Some rails may be easy enough to dismount. They were on our old Taurus and Sable wagons. Asking about that may be the best bet.

  • RexRex
    edited November 2018

    Dang. I just bought a new Crosstrek. I realize it's a little tall but I could still get a manual transmission and roof rails. I hear Consumer Reports likes the new Impreza... a Crosstrek is just an Impreza on steroids.

    https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/subaru/impreza

  • I have a 2017 Outback. Get the Touring model and it comes with Thule rails. I have the standard rack and haul two 17 ft seakayaks without extra bow and stern lines, a kayak/canoe trailer and a big roof box not necessarily together . The rear rack can move back several inches. It's in technique. Not available to some users.

  • edited November 2018

    @tjalmy said:
    but with the method we've got to load the boats on the Silverado, we usually take the pick up truck for ease of loading and hauling gear.

    What method? I greatly prefer loading boats on my 1999 Mercedes E320 4Matic wagon compared to loading on my pickup truck. My 2000 Silverado has a standard cab and unsecured bed with soft tonneau, so my secure storage for gear is practically non-existent and I can't use my rack and the tonneau at the same time, so the bed is open when I have the racks mounted.

    I may be getting a used topper for the truck tomorrow, so maybe my semi-secure gear storage will improve. Soft tonneau covers can be a beast to use in temperatures under 40 degrees F.

    Edited to add that I almost always load boats by myself.

  • Volkswagens are nice when they are new but fall apart quickly. Terrible reliability. Look at the Acura TSX Wagon. Nice car and good Honda dependability.

  • @canoeswithduckheads said:

    @kayamedic said:

    "....and the 2009 we have now has 140,000 miles even though at 4000 miles it suffered 9 grand of damage from hitting a bear in New Jersey."

    55 and a black bear!!!?
    Bet you RU A BUS parked there.

    (Sort of what your SUBARU, logo and car, must have looked like. As for the Joisey bear? Well, he's probably still running strong and in a panic, what with FatElmo in rut.)

    It was 35O lbs with four broken legs. still alove in foul mood and the Joisey State Trooper said he had to wait for Fish and Wildlife to come shoot it
    Troopers are not supposed to. IMO thats a bunch of BS. Who wants to stand by angry bear in pain?
    Kinnelon NJ 2009

  • not sure why the bear came running FROM a Jersey diner

  • My neighbor had a VW wagon in his driveway. It got replaced with the Impreza. VWs are in the shop for repairs way too much.

  • What about a Hyundai Elantra GT? At least they are guaranteed for 10 years, or 100,000 miles. That is the drive-train, but it's bumper to bumper for 5 years.

  • I've been waiting for Citroen to get their C4 Cactus approved for the US market which they have been working on for a while. Rented one when I was in the UK last year and loved it. Price point in the UK now is around $20,000 to $24,000 in US dollars. Has a relatively low roof and the feel of a larger car in the interior and on the highway. Totally a blast to drive (even with the stickshift on the left!).


  • Kia Sorento.My son has had one several years and it is still going strong.

  • @willowleaf said:
    I've been waiting for Citroen to get their C4 Cactus

    Those are the most unique door panels I've ever seen. I think I'd prefer smooth though. I wonder if they fair better with shopping carts and other car doors?

  • What Magooch said... Hyundai Elantra. They quit making my wagon, the Elantra Touring, so maybe they offer the new GT with roof rails? Anyway, my ET was great with the 5 speed manual transmission. If I lived in the country where I could stash cars here and there I'd still have it.

  • edited November 2018

    Sparky: The 2018 and 2019 models of the C4 have shrunk the door protection panels to about a 1/4 of their size, probably due to people's complaints about them (saw them referred to as "Lego bricks"). Honestly, I liked them -- I live in a city where I always have to park in tightly spaced lots (including grocery lots) and the doors of my cars always get dinged up in that area. The design also hearkens back to the "woodies", those real or faux wood panels that used to be on station wagon doors in the 50's and 60's and then hung on for a while with the first minivans.

    I actually prefer the pre-2018 Cactus. I've actually started looking into what the option might be to take a month long European trip and buy a used one while I am there and then have it shipped back. With the chaos over international tariffs right now, I wonder if Citroen is even pursuing the US market any more.

    The major drawback to owning a Citroen would be getting it serviced, though I have always had good luck with my cars not needing much in the way of service or repairs, with the exception of the absolute lemon of a 2002 Subaru Outback I owned for a miserable 2 years. Car cost me more in repairs over 28 months than I paid for it in the first place, even though it only had 70K on it when I bought it. And it was miserable to drive, excessive wind noise due to window design, brutally stiff shifting (even after a full transmission rebuild) and rough ride. I always felt exhausted any time I had to drive it 4 hours or more. I will never buy another Subaru.

  • Was sort of afraid of that. Oh well, guess I am stuck with the Mazda for a while. Fun car to drive and very economical but the short roof is a pain. Just ordered a T-bar rack (the kind people use with pickup trucks) that will mount into my Class 2 hitch to extend the rear support a bit.

  • I am pleased with my 2014 Subaru Impreza. Bought it because of it's low roof, and all wheel drive. I mounted a yakima rack, and can get two 17' sea kayaks on top with the 48" crossbars. I like the all wheel drive, and avg 30 mpg overall. Much of the time I have a kayak or canoe on top. We also have a 2013 Ford Edge all wheel drive which has been excellent and trouble free, but it is high enough that I like to have help loading boats.

    My son had a VW and he had numerous problems over time with it.

  • Hey Andy, you might want to go to the library and look at a new car buyer's guide because it shows the expected 5 year depreciation for all new vehicles which gives you some idea of reliability and problems. My sister in law has a VW Alltrack and loves it and I've been in it and it's very nice and for sure it looks like a great vehicle for carrying boats. I warned about VW quality but I think it is improving over time and one consideration is that they now offer a 10 year warranty. I'll also mention that if you considering something at a Volvo price point you might want to look at an Audi Allroad too since it is an exceptionally nice vehicle. Finally, I used to work in automotive engineering and I have 2 friends that now work at GM and both have worked at other manufacturers and both of these guys are impressed with GM's focus on engineering so that Buick may well be worth looking at if it appeals to you.

  • I have had one for several years and it is still in good state.

  • I would not in good conscience recommend any Audi product to anyone. I have never known anyone who owned one who did not have massive mechanical and electrical problems with them.

    I wish Volvo would go back to making rugged, low- and long-roofed squared off wagons. Those were by far the best vehicles I ever had for hauling touring kayaks and canoes.

  • RexRex
    edited November 2018

    In the '70s and '80s Audis were absolute crap. I heard of one couple having one 'stolen' and set on fire so they could collect the insurance on that lemon. Somehow they managed to stay in business. Maybe they've improved.

    I test drove a Jetta wagon back in 2010 and really liked it. Couldn't bring myself to risk the pain and misery of owning another VW product, though. Bought the Hyundai ET and loved it.

  • I had a Hyundai Santa Fe for a while and it really was a nice car, especially for the price. A friend of ours who has a car repair garage had actually been so impressed by his customers' Hyundais that he sold off all his family vehicles and replaced them with the brand.

    Like the Mazdas, the Hyundais have a more solid feel and (at least in my opinion) have nicer finishes and better creature comfort than the similar Subarus, Toyotas, Nissans, VW's and Hondas. And the Hyundais tend to be much cheaper on the used market.

    The only reason I got rid of mine was that I had bought it used and the prior owner had not maintained the body and understructure well (we are in road salt country and consistently flushing off the underside during the winter is a necessity.) It was starting to get major rust. But it was second only to my '95 Volvo 850 in comfort for long highway drives.

  • Volvo wagons are the best...with the roof rails. Add Yakima crossbars and you can carry anything. I have hauled 20 and 17 1/2 foot wooden canoes (together) at highway speeds. The reach to the top is just right so loading and unloading is very easy. The Vvos have great roof structure so there are not load bearing issues that you will encounter with Japanese makes.
    Naked roofs give you the option to roll your own, but even the best systems do not mount well on a naked roof..they slip, slide, shift, need constant fussing and they ruin the roof...why bother with that? Since 04 the Audis have been great vehicles...this is the best fallback to a Volvo and if proper AWD is something you need, the Audi Quattro is fabulous. Subaru's AWD is an equally good system, just tied to wretched noisy motors with awful shifters.

  • I think the appeal of a car with a naked roof is that, for a person who likes this option, they can choose their own mounts and bolt them on. That's why slipping and sliding isn't part of the equation. One of these days I'll be doing that with my '87 Suburban. The only hitch is that I would have to design a rack for which the mounts sit very low and for which the cross bars attach and detach with extreme convenience (I can design and build both, but it's a requirement that makes things more complicated), because the doorway to my ancient garage isn't tall enough to let that car in and out with a roof rack installed.

  • At present the V60 seems to check my boxes of used wagon with low, fairly flat roof line and sturdy in-built fore and aft rails for installing cross bars at sufficient and variable distances apart. Advertised fuel economy seems OK, but I always experience better due to stodgy habits. Am chatting up the local Volvo owners for reliable repair shops close by. I had a 1988 240 wagon that consumed too much parts and labor at local dealer shop.

  • For what it is worth: My daughter has been looking for months for a new yak hauling car to replace her CRV and just about gave up, since every one she looked at had those stupid rear spoilers that prevented lifting the tail gate with a yak on the roof or those idiotic front to back factory racks.
    She called yesterday to say she found a 2019 Subaru Forester "basic" model with no rack and no spoiler on the rear roof.
    It has the knock outs on the roof for attaching her Yakima "landing pads"

    My 2014 has the exact same set up and we have been very happy with it.

    I have been able to move my racks from one car to another with the exact same set up.

  • I still think the best kayak hauler is a proper trailer. They last for ever if you take care of them and they are a snap to load and unload. The right kind can also do a lot more than just haul kayaks. You also don't have to worry about having the boats blow off the trailer, or forget the boat, or racks are on top and drive under something low.

  • @JackL Curious, as long as you aren't talking about an automatic rear hatch, why do you find that the spoilers make it impossible to lift the hatch with kayaks on the roof? I have been lifting a rear hatch with some amount of spoiler with kayaks on the roof thru two Taurus/Sable wagons, one Subaru pre 2010 Outback and two Toyota Rav4's. I have to control it so it rests gently against the hulls rather than banging it up fast, but I have never had any problem doing so. I usually load the way-back first when leaving because it makes it easier to double check that I got everything. But I pretty much always empty out the gear from there first coming home, with the boat still on the roof. I often don't bother to drop the boat until the next morning, just get the wet gear pulled out to start drying overnight.

  • I agree that the spoilers are a pain on most models. The one on my Mazda CX5 completely prevents opening the rear hatch more than about 4 inches when boats are on the rack (a Thule attached to the useless lengthwise factory bars.)

    While we are bitching, why do the car makers think that lengthwise bars are useful for ANYTHING???

  • @willowleaf said:
    I agree that the spoilers are a pain on most models. The one on my Mazda CX5 completely prevents opening the rear hatch more than about 4 inches when boats are on the rack (a Thule attached to the useless lengthwise factory bars.)

    While we are bitching, why do the car makers think that lengthwise bars are useful for ANYTHING???

    I like the lengthwise bars on my 1999 Mercedes E320 4Matic wagon. I appreciate being able to easily adjust the spacing between the load bars. It also is something to grab onto when climbing onto the rear tire to reach something or wipe down the boat after loading it on the car.

    I don't like the fact that a boat on top, especially a canoe, greatly reduces how far I can open the hatch - and my car doesn't even have a rear spoiler.

  • edited November 2018

    As far as the lengthwise bars go, I have found that it made it a bit easier to swap a set of rails between cars than with towers mounted into the roof. When we got a newer year Taurus or Sable we had to get new towers. When I went from my Subaru with lengthwise rails to a Toyota with lengthwise rails, the whole thing came right over. No new equipment needed.

    You can argue about the sturdiness of these bars and people here will. But in my experience it has made for easier transferability of a rack system to a new car than did towers mounted into the roof.

    I am scratching my head about how some of the models mentioned above can have such a dramatically different effect on lift gate clearance with boats on the roof than than the three different (Taurus and Sable were really the same critter) vehicle makes and models I have lived with over about 25 years. Granted at 5'3.5" I don't have to duck quite as far as taller people would in the face of any limitation. The Ford/Mercuries were lower cars and I my husband had to duck a bit at 6'1". But I never heard any complaints about it, it was enough room to work with..

    I did just take a look at pictures of the Mazda CX5. The one thing I see is a far more raked and less vertical fall from the end of the roof to the base of the tail gate than I had on either the pre-2010 Outback or the Rav4's. I am wondering if the more curved and elongated shape of that lift gate is producing a distinctly different result when it is lifted under boats on the roof than in the cars I have dealt with. My aesthetic has always for a box on wheels, and maybe that is why I have not experienced the troubles above. And that is with the spoilers getting bigger with every car change.

    The one complaint I have about the most recent spoiler is that is is on the bleeding edge of my having to get a roller loader for the "guest boat" side with bigger diameter wheels. It is still working with my unit with the original size wheels, but just.

  • @willowleaf said:
    I agree that the spoilers are a pain on most models. The one on my Mazda CX5 completely prevents opening the rear hatch more than about 4 inches when boats are on the rack (a Thule attached to the useless lengthwise factory bars.)

    While we are bitching, why do the car makers think that lengthwise bars are useful for ANYTHING???

  • You put it in a nut shell on the front to back racks.
    I would never own a vehicle with them, and all they do is cause a cross rack to be higher

  • edited November 2018

    I truly miss the days of boxy vehicles, like my 1988 Dodge minivan and my 1992 Volvo wagon, that had steel roof gutters that I could clip $20 per pair "Quik'n'Easy" brackets onto with home-made pipe or 2 x 4 wood crossbars.

    Yeah, the CX5, while fun and economical to drive, has that wind-tunnel "egg" shape which means a VERY short space betwixt the crossbars. I also carry my kayaks downside-up which makes opening the tailgate even more problematic.

    I just picked up a hitch-reciever mounted adjustable height vertical "T" bar to see if I can get a little more horizontal support under the boats. Of course, that will make opening the tailgate completely impossible. Raining too hard today to try to mount it. Here's a pic of the current arrangement:

  • WL the lift on that would scare me. We try to load boats bow down with the front lower than the rear.. I want more pressure on the top of the upside down hull than under the hull.. From dragging a trailer we are very conscious of things that can lead to loss of steering control on the open highway ( especially the Great Plains) and not enough weight on the steering axles is one of them

    I know that none of us drives a vehicle solely for its boat carrying capabilities.. Other factors are more important.. And I will continue to by a Forester again ( we have had two in the last 20 years) ; simply because its handling on snow and ice is so predictable and user friendly.. ( We just drove to Quebec and back.. 600 miles. Entirely in snowstorms that dumped a foot with no services for 150 miles in northern Maine.)

  • Bear in mind that my boats are very light. The heaviest is that lime green Easky on the passenger side (46 pounds) and the SOF is only 31. The rest of the fleet are folders that are between 20 and 37 pounds and they usually ride in their duffel bags inside the car or on J-racks. In that photo I was loaded to head to kayak camp 500 miles away in northern lower Michigan. And two years ago I hauled that same set up over 3000 miles roundtrip from Pittsburgh to the Saquenay Fiord in Quebec. I strap them on good and solid and check them at every stop.

    I will admit that the two Subies I have owned were good in snow. I loved my 2wd 1978 DL wagon -- best little car I ever owned and I only gave it up because getting parts for it became too much of a problem. Sold it cheap to a friend's son who took it out to college in Colorado ski country and got another 25K out of it. But I had such bad experiences with that 2002 Outback I could never consider the brand again. Feel they are overpriced anyway, especially considering how much maintenance they require compared to other Asian compacts.

  • @kayamedic said:
    WL the lift on that would scare me. We try to load boats bow down with the front lower than the rear.. I want more pressure on the top of the upside down hull than under the hull.. From dragging a trailer we are very conscious of things that can lead to loss of steering control on the open highway ( especially the Great Plains) and not enough weight on the steering axles is one of them

    I know that none of us drives a vehicle solely for its boat carrying capabilities.. Other factors are more important.. And I will continue to by a Forester again ( we have had two in the last 20 years) ; simply because its handling on snow and ice is so predictable and user friendly.. ( We just drove to Quebec and back.. 600 miles. Entirely in snowstorms that dumped a foot with no services for 150 miles in northern Maine.)

    " I know that none of us drives a vehicle solely for its boat carrying capabilities"

    Not "none of us" !
    I may be alone, but for as long as I can remember I bought my vehicles strictly on their ability to carry our boats and bikes going all the way back to our first boxy 1989 Jeep Cherokee to our present 2014 Subaru Forester

  • I bought my 99' Outback based first on roof rack height then room for gear then it drove nice.
    If it wasn't for loading kayaks I would have kept my Explorer... it would have been cheaper to keep running.

  • WL The boat weight really does not matter. What does matter is the amount of lift that can be generated by the boat. No doubt canoes are bigger sinners than kayaks.Their hulls are shaped like scoops. We have never loaded more than 75 lbs on the rack for long trips. This canoe is 43 lbs. Its the heaviest we have.
    My point is I would not think about going across Kansas west without altering the orientation of the boat. I too have toted a boat several thousand miles a year..But when we started going cross country to Utah and Alaska with boat from Maine those treeless plains are a big force.

    With this boat in a centered position and bow level we snapped a Yakima tower in Julesburg Colorado.. So not wanting to do THAT again we altered the trim to a little bow down and with not as much bow unsupported. We went through the same prairie country with the same 43 lb boat with far better results not only for the wear on the boat but also from gas mileage.

    There were tradeoffs. If we do not measure correctly we can punch holes with the stern of the canoe in the trailer window guard.

    Michigan and east travel is one thing.. West of the Mississippi is another animal entirely

  • Wow, Kim, THAT's what I call a really good distance between cross bars. That factor by itself will drastically reduce the stress on the mounts for the rack (and the stress on the boat too). And that unibody vehicle has an advantage over a regular pickup truck too, since unlike a pickup, there's virtually no twisting or variations roof-line length happening along the length of the vehicle as you drive.

  • In reading the praise here for older, boxy vehicles for boat-hauling, I think of this one, my overall favorite boat-hauler among the vehicles I've owned over the years (though the gas mileage wasn't so great).

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/11908573@N00/3149277251/in/album-72157611819384343/

    This one was so boxy that the side windows were vertical (no inward lean) with glass that was flat (no curve to the glass at all).

  • In some ways before those hood loop thingys that made bow and stern tie downs so much easier, we did new car shopping that did take boat transport into consideration. As a matter of fact the FIRST consideration.

    We went into some fancy dealership ( I forget whether Mercedes or Volvo) and the first thing we did was get on the ground and look for tow hooks. Not finding any we walked out saying none of their cars would do... Of course they were not in the budget anyway but it was fun.

  • Well you could get one of these...............

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