A good estate car is a wonderful thing. It can carry lots of your stuff, swallow furniture or take your mates on an epic road trip. An estate car has character, especially when you put an interesting engine in it.
This week Alfa Romeo told Car magazine that plans to build an estate version of the Giulia have been scrapped, in favour of the cash cow that is the Stelvio. The firm’s manufacturing chief, Alfredo Altavilla, claims that the Slevio SUV, which caters for one of the fastest-growing market sectors in the automotive industry, will drive just as well as a Giulia estate.
Porsche can’t make a Macan or Cayenne, as good as they are for their size, drive quite as well as its lower and lighter cars. Audi can’t make the Q7 drive as well as the RS 6 Avant. Try an E60 M5 Touring against an X5 M and there’s no contest. It’s the same story for Mercedes-AMG between the GLE 63 and the E 63 estate.
The estate always drives better than the SUV. The laws of physics are insurmountable. But that’s not my only beef with SUVs. Show me a pretty one; a truly, honest-to-goodness pretty one. Sometimes car makers can make them look butch, quirky, expensive, aggressive or even limply unthreatening, but I don’t know of one single SUV of any size that’s anywhere near as good to look at as a well-designed estate.
This gorgeous render from X-Tomi Design shows what might have been if Alfa had developed the Giulia wagon. Gaze at the goddess of perfection and then take a look back at the Stelvio. Hmmm.
The point here is that estate cars are just better than SUVs. They often have bigger boots, they look better and they drive better, and yet I’m sitting here watching SUV sales figures go through the roof while estates are quietly forgotten. For the love of [insert deity here], it makes me want to tear out my own eyes.
Anyone who thinks as I do is being proved sickeningly wrong by the numbers. Maybe we’re all out of touch with what people want, but that’s not true at all. People want taller cars because they imply size, and size implies prestige. People want prestige. There’s also the issue that a lot of people are incompetent behind the wheel and have to be as high up as possible to make it easier for themselves.
You may have gathered that the SUV takeover grinds my gears. It’s not that they’re bad cars; it’s just that their ever-growing presence is depriving future me – and future you – of the chance to own what would have been glorious V6-powered Italian wagons. And that’s just the most recent one. How many other desirable estate ideas have been indirectly squashed by SUVs?
Time will tell whether there’s any hope for cool estates, but the outlook is bleak.