Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E — Beauty meets practicality

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We've always favored station wagons —especially in luxury guise — because they possess passenger and cargo hauling practicality while rewarding us with the good things a fistful of cash can bring to driving life. They are usually more fuel efficient than a sport utility with better handling and performance, and offering the driving dynamics of a sedan.

But through the years wagons haven't always been our first choice for head-turning styling, vehicles that elicit compliments. Now things have changed and some of the best looking vehicles roaming the planet are of station wagon design, especially from the European automakers. Practicality meets elegance yielding intelligent and beautiful transportation.

Volvo, once the wagon leader among the European luxury automakers before discontinuing the V50 and V70 a couple years ago, has returned to the fold with the 2015 V60.

Volvo's wagons have always measured up as practical and safe transportation, seldom mistaken for stylish. That's all changed with the new V60, which is based on the S60 sedan. It's gorgeous with sloping, curvaceous lines. We consider it the best looking vehicle in Volvo's current inventory and one of the best looking wagons in the business.

The V60's beauty extends to its driving dynamics, especially powered by Volvo's new turbocharged four-cylinder engine technology called Drive-E that combines solid performance with outstanding gas mileage. Our test car was the front-wheel drive T5 Drive-E with a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. We found the T5 wagon quick and agile with a manufacturer's 0-to-60 time of 6.1 seconds and quarter-mile performance measured at 14.9 seconds at 95 mph. Mileage is EPA-rated at 25 city, 37 highway and 29 combined.

Two carryover engines that are systematically being phased out are currently available in the V60 — a five-cylinder and six-cylinder, both with all wheel drive.

On the road, the V60 T5 Drive-E is comfortable and controlled with very accurate speed-sensitive steering. It handled the twists and turns of our usual winding road "test tracks" with true sports sedan competence, perhaps due to the sport-tuned suspension in our test car.

Inside, the ergonomics are very good, as are the sight lines, and the seats feel as though you could roll out of them on the other side of the country no worse for wear. You are surrounded by a strong, safe structure, the interior materials are top drawer, and everything works with a precision that is friendlier than that of comparable German luxury makes.

Standard features on the T5 Drive-E include automatic headlights, LED running lights, automatic wipers, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power front seats with driver memory function and manual lumbar adjustment, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an eight-speaker audio system with CD player and satellite and HD radio, and 40/20/40 split rear seats with power-folding head restraints.

Our test car had three option groups: the Premier Plus package that includes black leather seats, an adaptive digital thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display, roof rails, a rearview camera, a digital compass, and power-folding side mirrors ($2,550); the Sport package that includes tuned suspension, paddle shifters, and 19-inch aluminum wheels, ($1,500); and the Blind Spot Information package that includes blind-spot info system, cross-traffic alert, lane-change aid, and park assist ($900).

With the Premier Plus package, the interior décor is black on black with silvery accents that we found attractive. The center stack has many buttons and switches for secondary controls — no need to delve into the information screen — and the speedometer is digital, circled by a simulated analog tachometer.

The practical part of the V60 is its cargo storage capability measured at 43.8 cubic feet with the second-row seatbacks folded. Although that's smaller than some wagons of equal size because of its form over function design theme, it is considerably more than found in a comparable sedan. One downside is stingy legroom for rear-seat passengers. Two interesting available features are a two-position roll-out dog security net and a pop-up grocery bag holder.

Volvo is known for safety, and standard safety is prevalent in addition to the aforementioned optional safety. It includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes; front-seat side airbags; full-length side curtain airbags; whiplash-reducing front head restraints and City Safety that helps the driver avoid rear-ending other vehicles or a stationary object at speeds up to 19 mph by automatically applying the brakes if the driver does not react in time.

Volvo seems to have the V60 well priced. Base price on our well-equipped test car was $36,225 including destination charge; with the aforementioned options it carried a bottom line of $42,225.

Base price: $36,225; as driven, $42,225
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 258 foot-pounds @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 182.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,527 pounds
Turning circle: 37.1 feet
Luggage capacity: NA
Cargo capacity: 43.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 37 highway, 25 city
0-60: 6.1 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: BMW 328i Sport Wagon, Audi Allroad

The Good
• Gorgeous, eye-catching design
• Well equipped at base price
• Outstanding new engine technology

The Bad
• AWD models come with carryover engines

The Ugly
• Tight rear-seat passenger space