Car companies use many names — Estate, Avant, Tourer, Sportswagon — but they all mean the same thing: Station Wagon. The station wagon, whose roots lie in the task of taking people to and from the train stations, has thrived in a world of utility and flexibility. They’ve remained popular from the ’20s all the way through the ’70s, but then they got hit by an oil crisis and strict emission standards, and demand slowed. These days, the wagon is all but extinct. Holding strong, however, to this five-door utilitarian classic is Volvo, and their newest addition to their fleet is the 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design ($45,400).
Before diving into the car, let’s get some bad news out of the way: This AWD Swedish lust-wagon is nearly $10,000 more than the base V60 and gets about 10 mpg less on the freeway. Not ideal. But the good news is this: The T6’s engine gets 85 extra horses thanks to two more cylinders, the Haldex AWD system is tacked on along with a special sport suspension, and the brilliant minds at Polestar — essentially Volvo’s race department — did all the engine mapping. Visually, it also sets itself apart thanks to R-Design accents on the interior and exterior. It’s clear this car is just as much about hauling ass as it is about hauling kids.
From car seat to jogging stroller, suitcases to grocery bags, this wagon is unshakeable.
What also sets this car apart from the V60 Sportswagon is the updated infotainment system. The new screen brings 3D graphics to the nav and the now-standard Sensus Connect. The latter adds a 3G connection, in-car wi-fi and text message read-and-response. Volvo also includes a 24/7 roadside assistance button and automatic crash detection as well as the ability to track your vehicle if someone steals it. There is also a nifty app called Volvo On Call, which allows the user to remote start, find where you parked, check the fuel level and MPG and send map locations directly to the car from a phone.
The week before the V60 came to my driveway, I was driving the 2015 Audi R8, but truth be told I was more excited about this wagon. I expected a lot from this wagon, and like a father coaching his son’s baseball team, I was hard on it throughout the week. But from car seat to suitcases, jogging stroller to grocery bags, this wagon was unshakeable. I crossed local city streets and took to long stretches of highway feeling like a proud dad.
Under the Hood
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Torque: 354 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds
Top Speed: 133 mph
This modern Volvo is far beyond the boxy wagon of my youth. The vertical ridges on the hood, sleek roof rails, silver mirrors, flowing chrome window striping, modernized dramatic brake lights and slick backside give the wagon a sexiness not usually associated within the wagon world. The Flamenco red metallic paint job, 19-inch wheels and dual chrome exhausts let everyone know this car has something going on other than errands, and the ever-important blue Polestar badge on the rear hatch stands out like an artist’s signature.
The interior has a modern aesthetic that feels both peaceful and practical. The cup holders in the door handled my travel coffee mug, I charged my phone from the USB port and I loved that the windshield has tiny heating filaments throughout, presumably to de-ice quickly (that feature alone had me wishing I was headed to the backcountry).
The interior has a modern aesthetic that feels both peaceful and practical.
The steering wheel is the perfect size with extra thickness at 10 and two. The LCD instrument cluster offers three different themes (Sport, Eco and Elegance) with very little customization outside of that — a touch that feels simplistic, albeit streamlined. The 7-inch LCD is clear and navigating the menus is quick, but the full dial pad of numbers on center console feels antiquated. I especially liked the ability to customize a scroll button on the steering wheel, which was set to zooming in and out of the map by default, something that came in handy more often than expected. The seats are ergonomic and comfortable and my child car seat fit quickly in the rear (a luxury that’s not always a given, even with family-oriented vehicles).
Certainly the merits of any station wagon are primarily on the utility level, but you don’t pay an extra $10,000 simply for advanced utility. And, thankfully, the T6’s performance kept me smiling at the wheel. The first time I depressed the accelerator the car practically leapt forward, and the inline six-cylinder, with 325 horsepower combined with Polestar’s throttle mapping, had me passing people and searching for empty on-ramps. The engine let out a decent note, but in classic Scandinavian style it was understated. The throttle was sensitive, the steering quick and the suspension responsive. Regular mode felt like what most vehicles call “sport”, yet sliding the shifter to the left, the car went up another notch.
At nearly $50,000, the souped-up V60 is a just shy of a bargain — within context, of course. The only real competitors, Audi’s All-Road and BMW’s 3-Series wagon are about $7,000 less, but they also lose 100 horsepower and 80 horsepower (respectively). Whether the extra performance is worth the cash is between you and your accountant. As for this driver, I think that if manufacturers keep making lust-worthy wagons like the V60, the tide of the station wagon may change after all.