By: Mike Ginsca
60 years ago, Volvo produced the first station wagon and has continued to do so since then. But as the market gets more crowded with numerous variants of crossover vehicles, is the time of the station wagon over? Volvo doesn’t seem to think so because they have introduced the new replacement for the old V70 station wagon.
Performance – Normally people don’t associate the word “performance” with the word “Volvo” in the same sentence. But Volvo is trying hard to infuse some performance into their newest models on top of the safety that they’re known for. Under the sleek looking hood is a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 300hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Those power figures are much higher than the rivals from Germany with 60hp more than the BMW 328i wagon and a whopping 80hp more than the Audi A4 Allroad. On the move, the engine is smooth and quiet around city streets but very responsive when you set the transmission into “S+” mode. Turbo lag is non-existent and because of the all-wheel-drive system, the acceleration is relentless. It’s surprising at just how fast the Volvo V60 T6 can accelerate because you just don’t expect this type of performance from the sensible Swedes.
Through corners, the AWD system gives the car a sense of stability and phenomenal traction while accelerating out of a corner. All you have to do is put your foot on the rightmost pedal and the computer sorts out which wheel has the most grip to deliver the engine’s ferocious power. The weight of the steering wheel can be adjusted electronically for either less or more depending on the driver preference. In the lightest setting, it feels very vague and unenjoyable to drive but in the hardest setting, there is much better feedback to the driver however it is by no means a sports car feel. Overall the driving dynamics of the Volvo V60 is much better than one would expect from a Volvo car and I would say that it is on par with the offerings from Mercedes-Benz or Audi.
Comfort – The whole point of a station wagon is to have sedan-like driving dynamics with the space and utility of an SUV. The Volvo V60 definitely drives like a sedan however the 1240 Liters of cargo room (with seats folded) is marginally less than its competitors from BMW and Audi. The rear seats fold via 40/20/40 split and there are clever features for holding grocery bags and a security net for the four legged family members. The front seats are some of the best seats fitted to any vehicle because not only are they comfortable, but they also feature large side bolsters to keep you firmly in the seat through tight corners. Also the cabin is extremely well insulated from outside noise.
The design of the dashboard and center console is elegant and quite conservative. The “floating” center console is slightly angled towards the driver and all of the infotainment controls are situated on it. I personally don’t like the controls for the navigation or Bluetooth to be so far away from the driver and I think Volvo should have put the controls next to the arm rest on the center console like Audi or BMW. A new TFT Digital Display with a central circular and auxiliary display on each side has replaced the traditional analog speedometer and tachometer. The new display can provide a lot more information to the driver and has 3 unique themes that a driver can choose from. The first is the “Elegant” theme which features a large speedometer in the center along with engine rpms and water temperature on the sides. Next is the “Eco” theme that also features a speedometer in the center but an “Eco-driving” gauge on the side. Lastly the “Performance” theme features a large tachometer in the center with an “Engine power and Boost” gauge on the side. Arguably this is quite possibly the best looking instrument cluster of any mid-size vehicle from any auto manufacturer.
Odds and Ends – Volvos have a reputation of being the safest vehicles in the world and this Volvo V60 is no exception. The NHTSA (National Highway traffic Safety Administration) awarded this generation of V60 a 5 star safety rating in every category that the NHTSA tests vehicles in. That is something that Volvo’s German rivals (BMW & Audi) can’t claim. The V60 is also fitted with Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Cross Traffic Alert, a full complement of airbags for the front and rear passengers, and the City Safety system (a Volvo exclusive). The system is active below 30km/h and it uses a radar and camera system to detect an imminent collision with the vehicle in front or a pedestrian and applies the brakes if the driver cannot react fast enough.
But by far my favorite electronic feature is the radar guided cruise control. Just set the desired speed using the steering wheel mounted buttons and the car will maintain that speed. That sounds like any other cruise control, right? But the difference is that if the car ahead slows down, the V60 automatically slows down without you needing to apply the brakes. If the car ahead speeds up again, you speed back up to your set speed. This is a very nice feature that should become available on all vehicles because I think it will reduce traffic jams on highways and make fender benders a thing of the past.
Volvo’s have had the reputation of being safe but boring cars to drive. Well not anymore because even this “sensible” station wagon has more power than most sedans and drives just as well as its German rivals while still providing fabulous luxury and style for the entire family.
Thank you to Jim Pattison Volvo of Surrey for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.