Automotive enthusiasts tend to love wagons. Maybe it is because wagons can theoretically do it all. They can tow, haul a ton of cargo, seat four comfortably and still offer engaging driving dynamics.
|1. Engine: turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder making 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
2. Transmission: 8-speed automatic
3. Fuel Economy: 25 MPG city, 37 MPG highway (T5 Drive-E FWD)
4. Pricing: from $36,225.
Or maybe it is an enthusiast’s way of rebelling against cumbersome crossovers and SUVs. Whatever the reason, if you have a serious case of wagon love, it’s time rejoice because a new one just hit the market.
For 2015, Volvo is introducing the V60 Sport Wagon. Based on the S60 sedan, it’s positioned as the third member of the ‘60’ family that also includes the XC60 crossover. In many ways it’s a mid-way point between the two, designed to offer the utility of the XC while featuring the driving dynamics of the sedan.
Volvo hopes to sell 4,000 V60s in the U.S. this year and claims to have 10,000 hands raised by potential buyers. If they succeed it could prompt more manufactures to build proper wagons in the future. Yea! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First let’s see if the V60 is any good.
Most of Volvo’s new models are great looking and the new Sport Wagon is no exception. The exterior is handsome and athletic-looking with plenty of S60 built into the DNA. At 182.5 inches it splits the difference between its two main rivals by being slightly longer than the BMW 3 Series wagon and a bit shorter than the Audi Allroad. Unlike those two cars, the V60 is available in front-wheel drive configurations, giving it a much lower base curb weight of 3,527 lbs.
Aside from the new wagon, there is big news for the “60” family in 2015. These vehicles will be the first to receive Volvo’s all-new Drive-E powertrains. Currently Volvo has eight different engines globally built on three separate platforms. The goal of Drive-E is two replace all of these engines with just two built on two platforms – one gasoline and one diesel.
To start, North America will only get the gasoline engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit. The thought of replacing turbocharged five- and six-cylinder engines with a small four pot may sound crazier than skinny dipping in icy water, but that’s where Volvo’s engineers step in. The new engine will come in two flavors. The first is dubbed “T5” as it is intended to replace the five-cylinder engine. It receives a turbocharger and is good for 240 hp. The second 2.0-liter is designed to replace the turbocharged six-cylinder Volvo currently uses and is appropriately called the T6. This engine incorporates a supercharger and a turbocharged to produce 302 hp.
Volvo is banking a lot on the new family of engines and expects Drive-E equipped vehicles will make up 47 percent of total sales this year. Expect more variants down the road as the engines were designed to incorporate hybrid components from the start.
For now, the Drive-E engines are available with front-wheel drive models only as the all-wheel drive versions are still a few years away. This means all-wheel drive Volvos will soldier on with the older engines for the time being. That leaves the new V60 with the Drive-E 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the T5 FWD, the turbocharged five-cylinder engine in the T5 AWD and the monstrous 325 hp turbocharged six-cylinder in the T6 AWD. Volvo claims the latter will be the fastest all-wheel drive vehicle the brand has ever sold in the U.S.
As much as this T6 AWD appeals to our inner wagon aficionado, we just had to try out the V60 with that all-new T5 Drive-E engine. Producing 240 hp at 5600 rpm, the turbocharged engine generates impressive torque with 258 lb-ft available at just 1500 rpm, with 280 lb-ft on demand for 10-second intervals thanks to an overboost function.
Matched to an equally new eight-speed automatic transmission, the V60 T5 FWD can scoot from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds. That’s quite quick and on the road the T5 four-cylinder feels powerful and smooth. It is missing some of the low-end grunt found in the twin-charged T6 Drive-E engine we also were able to sample, but power is more than adequate for the V50. As well, the eight-speed transmission feels more at home paired with the turbo-only T5 engine than the higher torque T6, where it was constantly down shifting, even under minimal throttle application.
More than just straight-line performance, the new engine line is also designed to deliver impressive fuel economy. Official fuel consumption ratings for the V60 T5 front-wheel drive are listed at 25 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway. During a drive that involved a lot of twisting back roads we were able to average 32.1 MPG. To boost economy even further, the Drive-E engines come standard with an Eco Plus mode. This enables the car to drop automatically into neutral when coasting to remove the inefficient effects of engine braking. The Eco Plus feature worked well during our time with the car as it would transition between coast mode and engine engaged modes seamlessly. On secondary highways we recorded an average in the high 30 MPG range with Eco Plus engaged.
As should be expected, the V60 drives a lot like the S60 sedan. Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional $1,500 sport package that included the sport-tuned suspension. The chassis is set up for smooth, comfortable driving but does feature a sporty edge. Turn is crisp and the body exhibits minimal roll. This is not a true sports-orientated wagon, however, and the T6 AWD might be more appealing if that’s what you’re after.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel and driving the V60 is easy. Due to the wagon shape, there are great sightlines all around. Even the front-wheel drive V60 T5 is capable of towing 3,300 lbs.
The wagon essentially has the same interior set-up as the S60 sedan. Unfortunately, despite last year’s refresh, it already looks dated. Two parts of the cabin - the top of the dashboard and infotainment screen – are especially hard to ignore. Volvo says a new display screen will start appearing in products this year, beginning with the all-new XC90. We do like the supportive front seats, adjustable gauges and inclusion of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
In the back, the V60 offers 33.5-inches of rear legroom, which is less than the Allroad or 3 Series wagon, but still enough to fit average sized adults. For those with young children, an optional integrated child seat is available. The trunk is also on the small side at only 43.8 cubic feet of space with the seats folded down. That is significantly tighter than the Audi or BMW, but Volvo does feature some cargo-hold flexibility with under-floor storage and a flip up trunk splitter.
The V60 is trickling into showrooms now with the T5 Drive-E FWD starting at $36,225 including delivery. That undercuts the Audi Allroad and BMW 328i xDrive wagon by about $5,300 and $6,200 respectively and even the V60 T5 AWD is a relative bargain at starting price of $37,725. As well, unlike those German rivals, the V60 offers a choice in drivetrains.
While it might be celebrated by the Volvo faithful as the glorious return of the Swedish wagon to America, the V60 is not a segment busting, game changing new product. Still, it’s a solid alternative to segment leaders and, apart from the value proposition, brings with it both cutting-edge engine technology and handsome design. When is the last time you could say that about a Volvo?
And just think, the all-wheel drive supercharged and turbocharged V60 isn’t even here yet.