Mountain Wheels: Volvo’s V60 wagon offers almost-perfect all-season motoring
I’ve got a buddy who’s an actual racecar driver, so ski trips with him behind the wheel are not a lot of fun, as great as that might be on a closed track.
Instead, on a voyage a few months ago — before the Big Snow — I offered to drive him and his wife in a brand new Volvo V60 wagon, a Momentum-level, all-wheel-drive model with the larger-output 316-horsepower engine. Pricing for the whole line begins at $38,900, while ours had a base price of $43,400; the higher-level R-Design and Inscription models climb to $48,400 and $49,400.
While most American families now require an Infiniti QX80 and maybe a U-Haul trailer to load their own vacation goods along with them, we got three sets of skis, boot bags, cases of water and more, and still managed to motor along. Our rear-seat passenger might have appreciated an XC90 SUV’s added largesse; planted behind the steering wheel, I rather enjoyed the V60’s low-to-the-ground, purist experience, though the amazingly cross-cultural car is anything but ordinary. It’s a Chinese-owned Swedish company which now builds the mechanically interrelated S60 sedan near Charleston, South Carolina; V60s are still made in Europe, where the company has plants in Sweden and Belgium.
Our V60, the vehicle’s wagon version, certainly feels like a different beast when working the same roads as all those full-sized SUVs, and is almost too low to be seen behind many of them (a disappearing trick we experienced over and over again while tailing befuddled left-lane slowpokes on Vail Pass).
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But the low, very wide stance provides magnificently grounded handling complemented by the all-wheel-drive system. Sure, it’s not quite as smooth (or tightly suspended) as a BMW or Audi, but I found the overall experience comfortable and competent, especially when loaded to the gills with gear. Steering was still tight and responsive, and being lower to the ground erases most of the amorphous wobble and weave that passes for driving in a big SUV.
Power is also surprisingly fulsome for a 2.0-liter powerplant (Volvo’s ambitious plans to downsize and electrify its fleet are happening fast), with lots of uphill boost, and overall mileage that varied between 25 and 32 MPG, over the weekend.
Design, as per Volvo’s equally ambitious stylistic aesthetic for all of its vehicles, is quite striking, from the aggressively low, broad and smooth nose and its Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps — not a Marvel Comics product placement, by the way — all the way back to the tasteful and not obviously stretched or slapped-on greenhouse of the glassy wagon back.
Big, sharp-edged 19-inch wheels, low-profile roof rails (allowing an owner to enhance and easily access the storage capacity with a racy cargo box), tall, vertical lamps and an overall height that was equal to the bed rails of a Nissan Frontier I was driving at the same time, all combined for a cool experience.
Getting aboard, with the seats set low or squished forward to accommodate the extra cargo, does require a bit of a step down, but once you’re planted, the seats are magnificent. Ours came with the super-retro-looking City Weave seats and door fabric inserts, and relatively thin A-pillars and a full-cabin sunroof made the experience anything but claustrophobic.
Most of that came standard in the base Momentum package, as well as aluminum trim, the Sensus touchscreen and the full City Safety accident prevention system.
And inside, the car has indeed adopted the design aesthetic of its more recent models, with clean, bright lines, and very few manual controls, minus the twist-to-operate ignition knob, the rolling drive mode switch and an electronic parking brake.
Perhaps the brightest heads-up display ever seen on an automobile, visible through polarized sunglasses, truly allows you to keep your eyes on the road – or those rental Suburbans and Tahoes.
Second row seating was a little tight, according to our designated rear-seat passenger, and a tall transmission hump on the floor will make it even more tight if you try to buckle in a fifth passenger.
Loading the car up, the electronic remote seat-droppers are extremely powerful, so do get people out of the way, but the wagon’s added cargo volume and a knee-level loading height make it a snap to gear up.
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