I’M SUCH A VOLVO-wagon stereotype: white-collar professional, married city-dweller with kids and…oh my lord, a degree in literature? They might as well hand out Volvo wagons with membership to the Modern Language Association.
I don’t care. Our test car, the redesigned-for-2019 Volvo V60 T6 AWD, speaks to me, in the Elfish tongue of Scandinavian sport wagons. I mean, let’s just talk proportions: Any car design with the engine situated sideways under the hood is committed to a certain amount of front overhang, which is why front-drivers nearly always look a tad nose heavy. Please observe the Volvo S60, the sedan version of our test car.
But the wagon’s glass-backed liftgate balances the shape across the diagonal, adding visual mass and perfecting the proportions. The body sculpting on this car is impeccable—love the strong haunch lines across the rear quarters. The exterior is shot through with brand charisma: the ice-white T-shape embedded in the light assemblies, the so-called Thor’s Hammer headlamps. The elaborate taillamps glow like toaster wires. Winter is coming and it’s hawt.
I have now driven all the body-style variants of Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (60 and 90 series sedan and wagon, crossover wagon, and SUV, arranged by height) and sampled all the powertrain options. I can assure you, my fellow graduates, that this—the midsize all-wheel-drive wagon with 316-hp super-turbo four—is the one you want, if you want a Volvo.
I don’t mean to suggest that’s a sure thing: To love modern-day Volvos is to accept their quirks—in particular the daunting Sensus touch screen system, which requires all the patience one may acquire in the study of the humanities. Volvo’s voice-recognition system is commedia dell’arte and the user is the crying clown.
But there is a lot to fall in love with, too. The Virgin Galactic-style seats, for instance; or the serene, disciplined cabin décor, executed in a choice of cool upholstery and trim. The highlight of my week was learning Volvo calls its wood trim “inspired by driftwood.” Driftwood is inspiring! Anyway, the postdoctoral sophistication of Volvos’ interiors has probably sold more of its cars than any other quality. Late-model Volvos are also super safe, super connected.
In the U.S. the V60 is available with one of two powertrains: a turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter in-line four cylinder producing 250 hp, paired with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive (the T5 model, $38,900 in base Momentum trim); or nearly the same engine with an additional supercharger producing 316 hp, combined with an all-wheel-drive system (T6, $43,400 to start). Volvo’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, the T8 Twin Engine, isn’t available in the U.S.-spec V60. No great loss there.
I said I’d prefer the hot setup, the 316-hp state of tune, but fain! All is vanity. I would have no trouble recommending the 250-hp/front-drive version as being more than adequate for suburban families taking weekend drives to Tolkien conventions.
By the nature of the mechanism (rerum natura!), the Volvo engine aggressively economizes when and if it can, with the engine-management computer feeding sips of air-fuel mixture to the cylinders between stop/start cycling. In the default Comfort mode, the entire mechanism feels a little low-energy—not drowsy but hungry.
You have to roll the drive-mode controller into Sport mode for the car to fully perk up. But once the T6 is alert, the throttle is crisp, the e-steering has a nice weight, the brakes…Ah, I hate the numb engagement of the brake pedal! Fie!
Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is a crisp 5.5 seconds, the engine emitting a muffled howl like a margarita machine with a blanket over it.
I usually encourage consumers to buy station wagons instead of crossovers and SUVs because as a type, wagons are A) Better-handling and safer, with a lower center of gravity, B) More fuel efficient, being lighter with lower aero drag, and C) More space efficient per footprint. The V60, for example, offers a respectable 60.5 cubic feet of cargo space; that is, 6/7th the capacity of a Subaru Forester, with 1/1000th the blockiness.
“ ‘I’ve now driven all the body-style variants of Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture. I assure you, this is the one you want.’ ”
But Volvo wants to make sure you get what you want, at the height you want it. The V60 sedan/wagon, the V60 Cross Country (crossover wagon), and the XC60 SUV are pretty much mechanically identical except for the nuances of body style and apart from the critical measure of ground clearance, the lowest point of the vehicle’s underside.
Our test car’s ground clearance measured a relatively low-slung 5.8 inches; the V60 Cross Country, 8.3 inches; the XC60 SUV, 8.5 inches. Volvo asks, How high would you like your cuff, sir?
I’m still a bit of an academic at heart. For instance, I’m wondering if there isn’t some socially relevant through-line between the sudden rise of crossovers and SUVs with the deteriorating state of U.S. infrastructure. The preference for high-riding vehicles is noted in countries with poor roads. Obviously, you have to back out our unusually low costs of fuel…
Here I am in my asphalt tower.
2019 Volvo V60 T6 AWD
Base Price: $43,400
Price, as Tested: $54,690
Powertrain: Turbocharged and supercharged direct-injection 2.0-liter DOHC in-line four-cylinder; eight-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode; on-demand mechanical all-wheel drive
Power/Torque: 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm/400 Newton-meters between 2,220-5,400 rpm
Length/Width/Height/Wheelbase: 187.4/72.8/56.6/113.1 inches
Curb Weight: 4,111 pounds
0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
EPA Fuel Economy: 21/31/25 mpg, city/highway/combined
Max Cargo Capacity: 60.5 cubic feet