Volvo V60: Return of the sport wagon

06/07/2014 6:00 AM

06/07/2014 12:01 PM

Volvo has a reputation for safety and sensibility, but the often forgotten story is that its vehicles are as fast and fun as they are practical. Witness the 2015 V60 wagon, a stylish and economical alternative to a crossover SUV.

Volvo wagons were once symbols of utility, but the popularity of SUVs hurt sales. The V60 is based on the S60 sedan, and the two drive much the same. The suspension is tight but not harsh, resulting in agile handling and a compliant ride.

There are three versions: The front-wheel-drive T5 Drive-E has a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower; the all-wheel-drive T5 has a turbocharged, 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 250 horsepower, and the T6 all-wheel-drive R-Design has a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 325 horsepower. Prices begin at $35,300 and range to $47,300.

I drove a T5 Drive-E Premier Plus model from Volvo’s press fleet, and it had the sport suspension and sport seats. The turbocharged engine has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy is rated at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway. I averaged about 25 mpg during a week of mostly city and some highway driving.

Many manufacturers are turning to small, turbocharged engines to improve fuel economy. The trick is to maintain good performance while saving fuel. With the transmission in normal drive mode, acceleration was a bit sluggish because the engine was always trying to operate at low rpm. Select Sport mode, however, and the engine felt much livelier. But higher rpm in city driving reduces fuel economy. My solution was to leave the transmission in standard mode but be more vigorous with the throttle, and the around-town performance was fine. Volvo quotes acceleration to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds.

On the highway, I was impressed with the lack of noise and the way the car felt as if it were rolling on ball bearings.

The start/stop function is on by default, but I found it to be a bit rough and always turned it off.

The driver can select Eco + that activates coasting when the throttle is released and disconnects the air conditioning compressor. I’d rather be comfortable than thrifty so I did not use this function.

The Volvo’s cabin is finished in a style that looks like fine furniture. The optional sport seats were among the best I have sampled, but the non-adjustable, forward-leaning headrests were too intrusive.

The wagon’s cargo space is not all that much greater than the S60 sedan, but the higher roofline and hatchback makes it easy to carry bulky items. Plus, the wagon just looks cool.

The V60 showcases technology. The City Safety feature will stop the vehicle at less than 31 miles per hour if a collision is imminent. The blind-sport monitor, cross-traffic alert for the rearview camera, stability control, anti-lock brakes and corner traction control are useful driver aids. An optional pedestrian detection system alerts the driver to a person in the road and, below 22 miles per hour, will automatically apply the brakes.

Price

The base price of the test car was $35,300. Options included the Premier Plus package of leather seats, park assist cameras, power mirrors, digital instruments and HomeLink garage door opener. The Sport Package consists of sports seats, sports suspension and 19-in wheels. Additional options included heated front seats, blind-spot monitor, cross-traffic alert and lane change alert. The sticker price was $42,225.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles. Service is free at 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 miles.

Tom Strongman’s email is tstrongman@gmail.com 

2015 Volvo V60 Drive-E

Engine: 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower four-cylinder

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 109.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,527 pounds

Base price: $35,300

As driven: $42,225

MPG rating: 25 city, 37 highway

At a Glance

Point: Sharp styling, good fuel economy and reasonable performance from a turbocharged four-cylinder are highlights of the V60 wagon. The optional sport suspension and sport seats were musts.

Counterpoint: Normal acceleration is lackluster unless you select Sport mode.

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