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Best cars

Best fast estate cars

For do-it-all transport, nothing nails the brief like a fast estate. And in 2024 there’s a new leader of the pack – BMW’s M3 Touring

The appeal of a fast estate doesn’t need a great deal of explanation. In the same way a hot hatchback is fairly easy to understand, the high-performance wagon combines ability with practicality, often to an even greater degree. Add to this a certain level of discretion depending on the model, and more recently crushing all-weather capability, and they generally appeal as the ultimate do-all performance car solution.

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There has been a distinct upswing in the popularity of performance crossovers and SUVs, but for the discerning buyer they can’t compare to a fast estate. An estate’s lower centre of gravity benefits handling (and often ride quality, given taller vehicles often use firmer set-ups to maintain their dynamics), while the lower profile, smaller frontal area and lower weight benefit both performance and efficiency.

Read on to find out which fast estates are the best of the current crop.

Best estate cars 2024

BMW M3 Touring

There’s no point beating around the bush, BMW has totally nailed the new M3 Touring. Only available in Competition form with xDrive, the new M3 Touring drives with all the engagement and capability of the saloon on which it’s based, which is no small feat. The team at BMW M specifically developed new stiffening structures based on those found on the M4 Cabriolet to compensate for the lack of the coupe and saloon’s rear bulkhead.

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There is a negligible rise in weight, and so incredibly competent is the M3’s inherent chassis and powertrain you really don’t notice the extra mass. It drives with all the enthusiasm and alacrity of the already brilliant saloon, motivated by BMW’s S58 turbocharged engine that feels punchier than its 503bhp figure suggests.

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The Touring’s xDrive system is also another defining factor, as few all-wheel-drive systems are more deftly calibrated. The M3 seems to magic traction from nowhere without compromising its balance, and the various stages of its engagement from 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD make it possible to set it up exactly how you want it. In truth, the only downside to the M3 Touring is that it’s not a cheap car, starting at over £85,000. Go for all the bells and whistles and this can rise to over six figures.

> Click here for our review of the BMW M3 Touring

Alpina B3 Touring

BMW’s M3 Touring may have stolen the show as of late, but Alpina has had the fast BMW estate thing down for years, and it’s never been better than the latest B3. Unlike many of its predecessors, the B3 Touring features a full-M engine, borrowing its S58 unit from the M3, albeit re-engineered to suit its slightly different demeanour.

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So what we’re left with is a 3-series with some serious pace and capability, but also the trademark Alpina suppleness and daily usability that make the new B3 just about the ultimate daily driver.

Unfortunately as time has passed by, so has Alpina’s subtlety, meaning this latest B3 has picked up the more aggressive body styling of BMW’s M Sport models to facilitate the extra cooling required to keep its engine cool. So while it will still be more understated than the M3 Touring, this B3 is still a pretty glaring piece of design.

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> Click here for our review of the Alpina B3 Touring

Audi RS6 Performance

Think of a fast estate and the first to come to mind will likely be some form of RS Audi, and in all likelihood the RS6 specifically. In 2019, Audi’s fourth-generation RS6 arrived with some serious upgrades, and by that we don’t mean its engine (the 592bhp 4-litre twin-turbo V8 is essentially identical to that in the RS6 Performance that came before); its the chassis that saw the bulk of these.

Featuring a body 80mm wider than the standard A6’s, plus bespoke axles, a rear-wheel steering system, optional hydraulically cross-linked dampers and a set of simply huge 420mm carbon-ceramic front brakes with ten-piston calipers, Audi Sport did not hold back, and on a fast road you can tell.

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It’s still not the last word in engagement and feedback, but the resilience an RS6 has in sending its two-ton mass into, through and out of corners at immense speed is simply staggering. As of now, the RS6 is exclusively available in Performance spec, which brings an uprated 621bhp V8 and a host of chassis changes to bring more clarity and precision to the driving experience. The result is the best RS6 yet, and by default, one of the most desirable hot estates on sale. 

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> Click here for our full review of the Audi RS6

Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Shooting Brake

The Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S was immediately impressive when it arrived alongside the A45 S hatchback back in 2019, so how good would a sleek shooting brake version really be? The answer is very, as the small all-wheel-drive estate punches above its weight just as convincingly as its two siblings.

While we know its 415bhp turbocharged four-cylinder is as rabid and aggressive as four-pot engines get, the CLA’s real surprise is the chassis, which is actually superbly judged for the road – supple and forgiving on broken UK roads without giving anything away in composure.

What’s more, its longer body also accentuates the torque vectoring rear differential, making it even more tail happy in drift mode than its siblings. While it still might feel a tad synthetic compared to the thrills usually experienced in a rear-drive AMG estate, if there was a modern-day Lancer Evolution wagon it’d probably feel something like this to drive, and that’s quite the commendation.

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> Click here for our review of the CLA45 S Shooting Brake

Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo

An all-electric estate on this list? Surely not. But the Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo really is an automotive Frankenstein of the best possible type. Sharing its J1 platform with the Taycan saloon and Audi e-tron GT, the Sport Turismo provides a distinctly Porsche feel in a versatile, zero-emissions package. 

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Following a comprehensive 2024 update, the Taycan can now go further and even faster than before, with added composure and comfort courtesy of Porsche’s clever Active Ride suspension tech. As of now, the 537bhp 4S feels like the sweet spot in the range, offering a sledgehammer hit of acceleration but remaining manageable and exploitable on the road.

With a kerb weight well beyond two tons the Taycan doesn't quite move like a traditional sports car, but its precision and poise are almost unmatched in the EV space. The interior is quite cramped despite the generous exterior dimensions, but that aside, the Sport Turismo is one of the most broadly talented estates on sale – electric or otherwise.

> Click here for our review of the Porsche Taycan

Peugeot 508 PSE

Peugeot estates aren’t a common sight in our ‘best of’ lists, but the 508 PSE is a bright light in a sea of German metal. While it’s certainly not perfect, it’s a great start for a new genre of performance estate that’s just about to explode in popularity.

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The plug-in hybrid powertrain is effective rather than effervescent, as despite a peak combined 355bhp power figure its outright performance is dulled somewhat by both a chunky 1875kg kerb weight and some complex calibration required in making its two electric motors, turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and eight-speed automatic work seamlessly.

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Yet it’s the chassis that shines most against rivals, despite its weight. At any speed the 508 PSE is fluid, supple, balanced and brilliantly composed over even the most challenging of roads. That it also looks great and has a definite character distinct to the German norm makes it a very attractive proposition, even taking its punchy £55k asking price into account.

> Click here for our review of the Peugeot 508 PSE

Skoda Octavia vRS

Since the latest generation launched in 2020, the Octavia vRS has offered an unbeatable blend of space, performance and quality in its price bracket. An updated version is being launched in 2024 with more power (261bhp) and revised tech, and should make the recipe even more appealing. 

Inside, Skoda's sensible side shines through with a brilliantly designed dash that is both clean and elegant (so much so as to have put a few VW boss's noses out of joint). The new model will get an upgraded 13-inch infotainment screen, along with a perforated leather steering wheel and sports seats to separate it from ordinary Octavias. 

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We’ve run several Octavia vRSs on our long-term Fast Fleet and they’re fantastic all-rounders. Unique suspension tuning and hot hatch levels of acceleration make them punch much harder than the sedate looks would have you believe, and there’s always a slight pang of disappointment when it’s time to hand the keys back.

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> Click here for our review of the Skoda Octavia vRS

Audi RS4 

The RS4 might lack some of the theatre of its direct rivals, but there’s still a lot to like about the current model. Performance for one – 0-62mph in 4.1sec and, with a raised limiter, 174mph is as quick as you’re likely to need to transport labradors, wardrobes or other estate car luggage clichés.

The RS4 also has a pleasing duality to its personality that allows it to serve both as an estate car and as a performance car. Left in its ‘Comfort’ settings the ride is pliant and the engine smooth and quiet, making long-distance touring easy. And ramped up to ‘Dynamic’ it’s fast and responsive, but thanks to all-wheel drive, remains secure.

The limited-run Competition version is better still, with optional ultra-focused adjustable coilovers providing meaningful extra bite and poise. We just wish the engine had the aural drama to back this up and create a truly exciting estate car – as of now, the M3 Touring still takes the cake. 

> Click here for our review of the Audi RS4

BMW M340i xDrive Touring 

The M3 Touring is the benchmark fast estate and Alpina’s B3 Touring has already proved a compelling alternative, so where does BMW’s own M340i Touring sit? Somewhere beneath these two admittedly, but that’s no bad thing. Like many of the estates on this list, the M340i is one of the most capable and multi-talented cars on sale right now.

It’s fast, superbly built, well equipped, big enough for the family clobber, but without the egregious dimensions that larger executive estates have now established as the norm. The all-wheel-drive system also makes it weatherproof like few fast BMWs have ever been, yet not to the detriment of adjustability – it will still wag its tail if you try hard enough.

To top it off, BMW has also figured out how to make a petrol straight-six engine capable of sending a 1.8-ton estate to 62mph in under five seconds also return nearly 40mpg in normal driving. What’s not to like?

> Click here for our review of the BMW M340i xDrive Touring

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