Pedro Arrais review: Volvo wagon a throwback to old-school design

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The 2019 Volvo V60 is like a breath of fresh air in a market awash with boxy SUVs.

Too often, manufacturers have sacrificed beauty and style at the altar of utility. Volvo has taken an alternate path with the V60, still delivering a healthy dose of practicality while retaining a visage worthy of a lingering look.

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Svelte is not a word used much when describing any vehicle these days, let alone a four-door wagon. True, there are many attractive two-door coupes and convertibles worthy of lust, but most manufacturers have long abandoned the wagon segment, leaving it to the Europeans to carry the standard. Worthy adversaries include the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon, the Audi Allroad, the BMW 3-Series Touring and, to a lesser degree, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

While it is too soon to say if the wagon bodystyle is endangered, it is certainly a style at risk.

In Volvo’s naming universe, the V prefix stands for Versatile (if it was badged an S, it designates a sedan).

The V60 is Volvo’s least-expensive wagon, starting at $43,900 for the Momentum trim level. There is also a R-Design (for the sporty types) and the Inscription (the luxury option) at $55,400. I drove the latter.

While this is the second generation of the V60, its station-wagon roots trace back to the Duett, a vehicle based on the PV444 sedan and sold mainly in Europe from the early 1950s.

But many Canadians probably have fond memories of Volvo 145, 245, 745 and 850 wagons that proliferated from the mid-’60s onward.

Before the advent of the SUV, it was the go-to vehicle for many growing families. That familiarity does have its long-term benefits.

I had my tester for a week. In that time, all the people who approached me instantly recognized it as a Volvo. All had compliments about its looks, and a genuine curiosity on the future of the brand.

After a bout under Ford, Volvo was sold to Geely, a Chinese company, in 2010. Along with taking a hands-off approach, Geely invested wisely in its new acquisition.

One of the fruits of that union has been the Volvo Scalable Product Architecture platform. This easily altered platform underpins the 90 series, and now, the 60-series vehicles.

It gives the V60 a longer wheelbase than the earlier model.

Designers must have had a great time styling the V60, giving it an elegant, upscale look befitting a premium brand. Although the wheelbase has been stretched, the overall shape looks purposeful, with a gently sloping roofline and short overhangs.

The sloping roofline, while attractive, does reduce the size of the rear hatch. You won’t be able to carry a couch in the back any more, as you could with previous models.

The back seats fold 60/40, and the 529 litres of cargo room behind the seats quickly transform into 898. The back seat also includes a pass-through for longer items such as skis, for even more flexibility.

When folded, the floor is nice and flat.

A note: While the back seats can be folded remotely from the rear of the trunk, the seat backs take a firm push to reattach. While not a problem for most adults, it might be an issue for some.

There are two engines available — a turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder with 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, or a turbocharged and supercharged version with 316 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.

Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic and, in my tester, all-wheel drive.

The more powerful engine rockets the V60 from a standstill to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds. Strap down those Ikea boxes securely if you plan to exercise your right foot.

My only criticism is that the Inscription trim does not offer steering-wheel paddle shifters (standard in the R-Design). The seats, while supportive, aren’t as snug, either.

The V60 is an absolute blast to drive on twisty roads due to its low centre of gravity and AWD. But when you are just commuting and not needing to hear the engine sing its song as it approaches the redline, you can throttle back by picking Comfort or Eco driving modes.

With engine stop/start and the optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system enveloping you in sound, the daily commute becomes a relaxed experience.

The upscale cabin is characteristically Scandinavian, with a sense of simplicity and minimalism. A nine-inch infotainment screen, which executes commands similar to a computer tablet, dominates the centre console.

The only criticism is that some controls can only be found under the initial layer of electronic menus, an inconvenience but not a deal-breaker.

Volvo’s reputation for innovative safety rests on the optional Pilot Assist system, with a system that auto-brakes when detecting pedestrians and cyclists. The system also allows for semi-autonomous steering, acceleration and braking on the highway.

Personally, I have always liked wagons and have owned my share over my career. Hats off to Volvo for continuing to carry on the torch (while also offering its customers SUVs). I mght just be nostalgic, but I do hope that enough buyers continue to feel the same in the years ahead.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury compact four-door wagon, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four cylinder, 316 hp at 5,700 rpm, 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,200 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,760; width, 1,849; height, 1,427; wheelbase, 2,873

Curb weight (kg): 2,072

Price (base/as tested): $55,400/ $65,095 (includes $2,015 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Metallic paint $900, Convenience package $1,500, climate package $1,250, Vision package $1,800, Bowers and Wilkins sound system $3,750

Tires: 235/45 R 18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 11.1 city/ 7.3 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car and roadside assistance

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