When I was growing up in Nashville, TN, Volvo was one of the first brands that made a significant impression on me. It seemed like every other family at school had a Volvo wagon, and I was always jealous of the kids who got to ride in those fun, rear-facing third-row seats. I took our Four Seasons 2015 Volvo V60 on a recent trip home to Tennessee and went Volvo-hunting around a few Nashville neighborhoods to try and find some throwback Swedish long-roofs.
Fast forward to 2014, and Volvo is once again making a station wagon, the 2015 Volvo V60. It doesn’t have any seats in the cargo area, and it doesn’t look much like the Volvo 240s, 740s, 850s, and 960s of yore, but does still have those great seats, heavy doors, and the same center stack layout that make it feel quintessentially Volvo to me. As I drove around Nashville with a friend in the V60 looking for old Volvos, I found a surprising number, wagons and otherwise (see pictures in the gallery). Almost all of them appeared to still be in use as daily drivers, an impressive testament to the long-term durability of these Swedish sedans and wagons.
What I didn’t see, though, were many Volvos from about 2010 onwards. Volvo sales have been steadily declining in recent years, down from a high of 139,384 cars sold in the U.S. in 2004 all the way to a paltry 61,233 sold in 2013. So what’s the deal? I think part of the problem is that Volvo is now competing in a different price class than it used to. Older Volvos were premium enough for a lawyer or doctor to drive early in his or her career, but weren’t so nice that these lawyers and doctors had any qualms about giving it to their kids as a hand-me-down later on. A few friends said they had always viewed Volvo as a mainstream brand about on par with Honda and Toyota, but with a slightly more interesting, European image. As evidenced by our modestly equipped 2015 Volvo V60’s $40,825 sticker, that’s not the case anymore, and Volvos are now competing with BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. That’s a tough crowd to run in, and Volvo’s sales have suffered accordingly.
This is not to say that the new 2015 Volvo V60 isn’t a convincing luxury vehicle, because it is. It looks great inside and out, with clean, modern exterior lines and high-quality interior materials like soft leather on the seats and nicely grained plastic on the dashboard. The V60 is also extremely quiet, and the chassis strikes a near-perfect ride and handling balance. The suspension controls impacts well, giving the car a supple, solid feel, but the steering is accurate and the car doesn’t have much body roll which makes for surprisingly nimble cornering.
I was also impressed by the new Drive-E turbocharged four-cylinder. In my opinion, it compares favorably with BMW’s well-regarded 2.0-liter turbo four, as the Volvo feels punchy and flexible throughout the rev range. My only disappointment was with the Drive-E engine’s fuel economy. I got an average of 32 mpg, according to the trip computer, on my highway trip to Nashville, which would be impressive for a 240-hp luxury wagon if it weren’t for the absurdly high 37-mpg EPA highway rating. To be fair, I had the cruise control set between 75 and 80 mph, so on my way back to Michigan I made more of an efficiency effort. Once I slowed down to 70 mph, I was able to hit an indicated average of 35 mpg. If you really want to hit 37 mpg, some more extreme hyper-miling may be required.
Stay tuned for more updates on our 2015 Volvo V60 T5 as we near the end of a busy summer road trip season and get to know our Swedish wagon a little better.