There was a time, before SUVs and crossovers, that the classic family vacation happened in a station wagon. While some domestic brands, like Buick, are trying to revive the concept, and Subaru has a cult-like following, the Swedes own the wagon category’s iconic shape. We took the Volvo V60 for a long weekend to see how it handled and if it was useful enough to pull us away from our SUV-buying tendencies.
Day 1: Loading up
Unlike the taller version of the V60, the Cross Country, or a Subaru Forester, our Inscription trim tester’s nearly 5.5-inch ground clearance was more like a smaller crossover so loading the trunk was easy. While there was enough room for three people’s bags, using the 23.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, there wasn’t enough to pile on our dog’s gear—crate, gates, and bed. But that’s a tall order for even a large SUV, though it was a reminder that while the long roofline of this 15-foot long wagon is gorgeous, and it certainly has room for your kid’s soccer gear and groceries, there are limitations.
For those occasional runs to Costco or the home center, the cargo space more than doubles to nearly 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. A button on the infotainment system upfront makes short work of tilting the rear seat’s headrests down so you don’t have to bother pulling them out to fold the seats, and there’s a button just inside the liftgate that drops the rear seats electronically.
Day 2: Hitting I-95
Once you’re on the road it’s very clear you’re behind the wheel of an AWD wagon and not a clunkier, vague SUV. The steering and responsiveness feel car-like, as does the view from behind the wheel. The powerplant is a 250hp, 2.0-liter I-4, controlled by an eight-speed automatic electric transmission that shifted timely, smoothly, and provided plenty of power to pass cars at highway speed.
In normal conditions, its front-wheel-drive acts as you’d expect, but it splits the power equally—front to back—when the AWD kicks in on wet or icy roads. A dial near the shifter lets you switch between driving modes and during open stretches of highway we put it in the sportier dynamic setting for snappier shifting. The digital cluster along with the heads-up display do a nice job of keeping the driver informed, and makes it easy to set up options like the number of car lengths you want to keep away from the driver in front of you while in adaptive cruise control.
While we love the safety tech, which for the most part recedes into the background with a series of cameras and sensors, the lane departure is a touch aggressive—the car wants you centered in your lane, and the wheel nudges you in that direction.
Day 3: A Closer Look at the Swedish Design
The interior is roomier than we expected with well-designed and comfortable front seats. Our tester model came equipped with a varying massage program, which we loved and used most of the ride. There are nice touches inside, like the styling around the twist starter knob, soft surfaces, and massive panoramic roof (which, unfortunately, cuts into the headroom a bit) and the practical approach to storage you’d expect in the center console.
The 9-inch infotainment screen replaces nearly all of the buttons, switches, and dials. While it’s intuitive (with time), and responsive, we’d like to see quicker access to things like the cabin’s HVAC or the ability to disable the auto-start function. We think the iDrive system is still a little easier to navigate while on the road.
The Harman Kardon stereo is a highlight, especially when you switch to concert mode and employ the dashboard’s centrally located speaker. The cabin is luxurious while still maintaining a clean Scandinavian design.
For those looking for a luxury ride that handles like a car, but hauls like a smaller SUV, the V60 is worth a look—especially if you live in a climate that all but requires AWD.
[from: $39,650; volvocars.com]
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