I love the way the 2019 Volvo V60 layers luxury car fanciness with station wagon usefulness. It might look a little faster than it is, but what the V60 lacks in sheer adrenaline it makes up for in versatility, comfort and safety. Long live the longroofs.
(Full Disclosure: Volvo was kind enough to fly me to Barcelona, Spain, and then drive me to Calafell, where I was put up in a hotel for two nights and had a lot of tapas served. It was a nice trip.)
When it comes to family cars, utility is in. It always has been, in one form or another. Everybody had minivans, but those weren't cool enough so people started flocking to three-row SUVs. But people didn't want to ride in trucks and get single-digit fuel economy, so the crossovers came to power.
Now people are starting to return to the idea that luxury sedans weren't such a bad idea after all. Just make the roof a little longer, and voilà — or varsågod as the Swedes might say — wagons are back, baby. Today you can buy a wagon from Buick(!), Audi, Mercedes and BMW of course, and even Porsche and Jaguar.
What's remarkable about Volvo is its sheer commitment to the wagon cause in the U.S., despite not selling all that many of the current V60 here — only 4,360 in 2017, according to Volvo. But the new V60, available early next year, might help things. It's a damn good car!
What Is It?
This is the second generation of the V60, which Volvo introduced initially for the 2011 model year. Volvo also makes the V90, which is a few inches longer and a few thousand dollars more expensive and designed, I suppose, for slightly bigger families. Or at least bigger budget families.
For most flocks, though, the V60 is all you will need, unless your family is larger than five, which is too large, and in which case you will need a van or one of those three-row SUVs after all.
Specs That Matter
The car I drove was an all-wheel-drive T6, which has a 2.0-litre inline four cylinder engine that's supercharged and turbocharged making a claimed 316 horsepower, though Volvo says the V60 will also be available in a hybrid T8 version, which will make 400 horsepower, in addition to a T5, which will lose the blower and keep the turbo to make 250 horsepower. Got all that? Same engine, varying combinations of hybrid power and forced induction.
All of those will be connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which you can also manually shift if you want. Volvo says it gets around 26 mpg at best.
On the road, the car (obviously) drives better than the Volvo 240s I had growing up, but, like those, it still lumbers, and complains a little when you push it. Handling gets a bit loose when taking corners at aggressively uncomfortable speeds, but, you know, this wasn't designed to be a race car. Also: Who gives a shit? You're not buying the new V60 to drive at ten-tenths on the track. You're buying it to ferry your family from home to school to the supermarket to home or to go on a Midwestern road trip. Also: Fuck speed, which is overrated. Drive slower. You'll live longer. The 2019 Volvo V60 will help you live longer.
Relatedly: Most of the car's standard features are all things you expect in car in 2018, including safety features like lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and steering assist, which will help you turn if the car senses that you're heading into a collision and you're not turning fast enough.
Other features, like blind-spot monitoring and Pilot Assist, which is great for stop-and-go traffic but terrible and terrifying at highway speeds, come optional.
From behind the wheel, your relationship with the world rushing before you is remarkable. You get just as much of everything outside as you want, dampened, isolated, but not overly so. The road echoes up through the pleasingly chunky steering wheel in subtle vibrations, bumps smoothed out, rocks cushioned by the impeccable seats. It's not a cocoon; the whole world is run through the V60 like a four-wheeled Swedish translator.
Which is all to say: Volvo makes the some of the very best interiors in the business. And sitting in one, you'd have no idea the car wasn't built for consumers willing to spend twice as much. It's in the leather, the driftwood, the crystal. Competitors should take note, or at least try, especially at the price points that Volvo is working with.
I also loved the 360-degree surround camera for use when backing up, a feature that struck me as frivolous at first but, by the end, essential. I won't pretend I'm not excited that this technology is proliferating throughout the auto industry right now. You don't need to turn your head when backing up, and, more importantly, you don't even feel the need to turn your head, since everything's right there on the screen. It's brilliant.
Another thing: This car is a tank, as most Volvos are. Here are some crash test photos:
The next one should show the dummy exiting the car and raising his hands to cheers while somebody on a loudspeaker announces "And He's OK!"
You could (possibly) drive this car into a brick wall and still survive and feel like you were surrounded by teddy bears. (Don't do this.)
Another thing: you can get the seats in plaid. Look at these photos and tell me they don't make you grin:
Volvo says this thing can go from zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, which sounds fast on paper, but in reality feels very slow, not that that really matters at all, since I suspect that the target demo for a new Volvo won't be drag racing. Besides, if you want a fast luxury station wagon, spend tens of thousands of dollars more for the Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo, which I hear is unsettlingly quick.
The Volvo navigation system continues to be bad, both a pain to use and, worse, sometimes inaccurate. This, presumably, will someday change, as Volvo says it is constantly working on updates and, also, glory be, will finally start using Google Maps.
The voice directions often come too late and without enough warning. The map on the console didn't seem to want to automatically zoom in on our route after you'd fiddled with it for a bit; the whole system felt less than refined. The secondary screen that shows up in between your speedometer and tach on the dash was reliable, though, a small consolation. The whole thing, in other words, is wanting, which is a shame for an infotainment system that otherwise is pretty good, and has been sped up by 50 per cent thanks to a new processor.
There's no word yet on price, though you can expect it to cost a little more than the current V60's base price in Australia of $60,000 with options. Your other options in this segment are cars like the Audi A4 Allroad or the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon, which are both offered around the same price. There's also, for a little bit more, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake, though, buying a new station wagon from anyone other than Volvo feels like a chance not worth taking. Better to go with the brand who for decades has been defined by them.
You could also buy a crossover if you want a bit more ground clearance, but come on. Why do you need it. The 2019 Volvo V60 rides low and looks great doing it. And you know what? You're not going to be left out of any driving opportunities you would have had by being an extra inch off the asphalt.
The 2019 Volvo V60 says, nay, screams that you're still fully engaged, an informed consumer making an informed buying choice. The car is not for thrill-seekers, but it was never trying to be in the first place. Do you want excitement? Buy a fast car, or gamble large sums of money. Do you want studied proficiency and a healthy lifestyle? Get a Volvo.
For Daily driving ... A
Volvo hits it out of the park.
For the enthusiast ... C
There is a sport mode, yes, but go with something else if you really want to push it.
4-Door Station Wagon
2.0 I4 Turbo • 8-Speed Automatic • AWD
316 HP • 134kg-FT
3,725 — 2,069kg Depending On Trim
TBD (2018 Base Price: $US38,250 ($51,823))