When you think about Volvo, you probably think about Volvo wagons. You might not realize, though, that wagons have been conspicuous by their absence at U.S. Volvo dealerships in recent years. As Volvo transitioned from Ford ownership to its new parent, China’s Geely Holding Group, it dropped both the small V50 wagon and the larger V70 from its U.S. product lineup.
Instead of selling wagons, which had done more than any other type of vehicle to establish Volvo’s brand image, Volvo Cars of North America instead concentrated on selling its new S60 mid-size sedan and the XC60 compact crossover. (Yes, the V70-based XC70, nee Cross Country, stuck around, but it’s not a true, traditional Volvo wagon; it’s a pseudo-SUV.) We like the XC60 and S60, mainstream products that are very important for Volvo, and, in fact, we conducted a highly successful Four Seasons test of a 2012 S60. Yet we missed Volvo wagons, which Volvo continued to sell in other markets. Perhaps you did, too. When word came that Volvo was finally bringing its latest large wagon, the V60, to the USA, we immediately planned a Four Seasons test.
We had to wait for the V60 because Volvo Cars of North America was waiting for Volvo’s newly developed family of fuel-efficient, low-emissions four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines, which are collectively known as Drive-E, to enter production. The Drive-E diesel doesn’t come here (at least for now), but two Drive-E turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder engines, both mated to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, do.
The V60 wagon gets the 240-hp version, while the S60 and XC60 are offered with a sportier version that cleverly uses a supercharger to provide low-rpm torque before the turbocharger kicks in, producing 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. If you want more power in your V60, it’s also being offered with Volvo's existing turbocharged inline five- and six-cylinder engines, which bring with them standard all-wheel drive, something that’s not offered with the Drive-E engines. Eventually, Volvo would like to offer both of the Drive-E engines as the sole powertrains in the V60, but first it has to overcome some technical challenges in mating Drive-E with an all-wheel-drive system.
For now, with a base price of $36,225, including destination, the front-wheel-drive V60 T5 Drive-E undercuts the V60 T5 five-cylinder model by $1500 and the V60 T6 by $9000. We chose a V60 T5 Drive-E model for our Four Seasons test since the Drive-E powertrain philosophy is clearly a big part of Volvo’s future, even if wagons, alas, really aren’t: Volvo expects to sell only about 5000 V60s in calendar year 2014. It sold that many XC60 crossovers from January to April.
One glance at the spec sheet, and you’ll understand the allure of Drive-E: The four-cylinder Drive-E engine produces only 10 hp less than the five-cylinder but handily beats it in EPA highway fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway versus 25/29 mpg. (The 325-hp six-cylinder V60 achieves only 18/27 mpg.) Drive-E includes a driver-selectable eco mode and stop/start function to help maximize fuel efficiency.
We went easy on the options. A $2550 Premier Plus package netted leather, roof rails, and a rearview camera. At $1500, the Sport package added sport seats, dynamic chassis, eighteen-inch wheels, and paddle shifters. We also ponied up for flamenco red metallic paint, which cost $550. We declined the $1500 Technology package and its adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, and other active safety aids, and we also went without the $1550 Climate package and its heated windshield, windshield washer nozzles, and steering wheel. Nor did we opt for the $2105 Navigation system. In the end, our V60 tester rang in at a very reasonable $40,825, which we figure is within the reach of many families who might be interested in a Volvo wagon.
Our initial reactions have been very favorable. The V60’s interior and exterior styling is refreshingly different and distinctly Swedish, the cabin materials and finishes feel good to the fingertips, and the modestly rated Drive-E engine feels plenty powerful, enough to make the engines in higher-spec models seem silly for most buyers. “It's a stylish wagon that I think will be a favorite for long trips,” said staff photographer Patrick Hoey after his first drive. We’ll be anxious to see if we can come close to that lofty 37-mpg highway rating as we hit the road for summer vacations.