Those of a certain age enjoy wistful, yes even fond memories of quintessential station wagons, the preferred mode of transport for multi-kidded suburban families prior to the arrival of those pesky minivans.
Fast forward to 2019 and big-volume automakers have all but shunned SWs. However, a select few, nimble players embrace the historical practicality of such transports, even if the ‘station wagon’ identifier quietly gets buried and recast.
Take Volvo for instance, the long-established Swedish automaker, whose historical portfolio proliferates proudly with wagon pride. Volvo remains the leader in luxury wagon sales here in the U.S.
Back in the 2015 model year, Volvo began marketing the five-passenger V60 here in the States. The V prefix signifies ‘Versatile Estates,’ a thoughtfully fancified upgrade of SW.
Meet Gen Two. This is not your Father’s Vista Cruiser.
The 2019 model year welcomes the longer, tech-savvy next generation, arriving to dealers during the first quarter of 2019. An early production version arrived in December to the Chicago press pool for a sneak peek.
The 2019 mid-size V60 incorporates ‘Scalable Product Architecture’ (SPA), a global, modular format Volvo debuted in the XC90 full-sized crossover three years ago.
The rather low-slug design hints of a sleek, athletic-like missile when stacked next to taller Volvo crossovers. Gen Two measures a substantial 4.9 inches longer in overall length than the outgoing effort with a 3.8-inch longer wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) while sitting about two-inches lower.
Upper trims include side windows with chrome framing narrowing towards the rear ‘D’ pillar with the roof line gently slopes downward towards the back. The smooth hatch area includes inboard dual exhausts built into the lower frame and a standard rear wiper serviced us well during a gentle snowfall. The stretched hood (when compared to Gen One) adds to a stealthy look.
The power hatch includes a ‘foot-swipe’ opportunity, allowing hands-free opening of the top-hinged door by waving feet (one foot at a time please) under frame with the electronic key fob on-body. Once opened, the cargo area’s right side includes two push buttons, conveniently powering down 60/40 split second-row seating for greater absorption of stuff. Cargo volume grows substantially from 29.1 to almost 50 cubic feet compared to Gen One.
Volvo offers three trim levels for the U.S. market: Momentum R-Design and Inscription. Two four-cylinder engine selections and two drivetrains (front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive) also mix and match as Volvo committed exclusively to four-cylinder power a few years back, retiring five and six-cylinder motives.
Front-wheel drive V60 wagons include a T5 prefix with a turbo charged four-cylinder engine generating 250 horses under hood. All-wheel drive versions, marketed as T6 includes both turbo charged and supercharged technologies coupled with a 316 return on investment. Both team with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo’s larger 2019 XC90 crossover also offers these engines and transmission.
Turbo and super charging work to deliver greater volumes of air into the engine for increased power results without added cylinders. Later this year, expect a T8 V60 plug-in hybrid variant, with rear-mounted electric motor.
Volvo requires premium 93-octane fuel to fill the tank, now featuring a self-sealing fuel lead negating the need for a twist-style tethered cap.
Pricing starts at $38,900 for a front-drive T5 Momentum and $43,900 for a T5 R-Design. No top-trim Inscription is offered in the T5. Our tester, however, featured the Inscription trim and all-wheel drive T6 underpinnings with the super and turbo charged engine and a $49,400 starting price. Options added impressively to the bottom, reaching $61,490 including the $995 for destination charge.
The interior brings forth a familiar ambiance reflected in a recent test of the 2019 XC90 crossover; a Nordic twist upon European luxury exuding simplistic elegance. A clean canvas awaits drivers with minimal buttons and dials. Inscription trims include off-white ecru-like adornments with wood highlights. Prior to engine ignition, both the 12.3-inch instrument panel screen and prominent, multi-function, portrait-styled ‘Census Connect ‘center screen remain faded to black.
The nine-inch, Census Connect tablet-sized touch screen accommodates popular Smartphone compatibility of Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Those who have grown accustom to tablets and Smartphones in-hand, have an advantage when interacting with the touch-sensitive screen, which includes left-right ‘swipe’ functioning. The more play, the greater the comfort level, and its far superior to unconnected, finger-sensitive flat pads located between bucket seats popular with other high-end automakers.
Most climate control functions interact through the screen as does front windshield heads-up screen projection adjustment, front headlight swivel option and deactivation of the sometimes intrusive engine start-stop technology, saving fuel by shutting down the engine at prolonged stops. A touch-screen option also folds down second row head rests for enhanced rear-view mirror perception (requiring manual efforts when returning to prone positioning).
One of the few buttons found in the wagon, a large tactile twist dial below the nine-inch screen, manually monitors volume. Diminutive front and rear defrost buttons and red hazard button are also on
hand. An unmarked, half-inch narrow white line on the lower screen serves at the ‘home’ button that took a couple days to stumble upon its purpose. That’s the extent of buttons and dials.
Between supportive and comfy front buckets (Momentums offer upgraded leather and four-way lumbar supports, an in-house mini-massage) resides the eight-speed electronic automatic gear shifter with traditional grab directly behind a not-so-traditional electronic start chrome twist dial. A quarter twist to the right starts and stops the engine.
A chrome, tactile rotary roll bar in-line behind the ignition offers three drive modes (eco, normal dynamic). Last in line; the diminutive electronic push-style parking brake. Dual inline cup holders saddle next to the inline electronics with driftwood inlayed sliding cover ready to roll if beverages go AWOL.
Each of the three drive modes interacts uniquely with the large, all-animated, digital driver display, mimicking a traditional analog design of two circular gauges with a center digital area.
Long legged pilots will enjoy electronic seat extenders built into front buckets. Row two handles three riders although the middle man must negotiate a vertical floor hump. A small digital back touch-screen allows row two to monitor their own HVAC controls.
Headlight housing with standard LED bejeweled illumination includes an amber ‘Thor’s hammer’ design (think side-ways ‘T-shape’) blinking with amber elegance when utilizing the turn signal or hazard warning lights. Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, has good taste.
City Safety comes standard in all 2019 V60s an automated emergency braking and steering system activated before an impending crash to mitigate damage to vehicles and occupants. Blind-spot monitoring is standard in the upper two trims.
In 2015, Volvo made news, announcing plans for its first U.S.-based, 2.3-million-square-foot assembly plant near Charleston, South Carolina. Production of the mid-size S60 sedan (sharing many underpinnings with this new V60 wagon) started in mid-September of 2018 with XC90 crossover assembly, scheduled to start in 2021.2019 Volvo V60
Price as tested: $61,490
Wheelbase: 113.1 inches
Length: 187.4 inches
Engine: 2.0-liter Super and turbo charged
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city/ 31mpg highway
Curb weight: 4,202 pounds
Assembly: Gothenburg, Sweden