Are much maligned station wagons staging a comeback? If so, the Scandinavian-branded Volvo team has positioned itself proudly for the potential onslaught.
Traditional station wagons (maybe your grandparent’s transport) got usurped sales wise by family friendly minivans with long sliding side doors, back in the 1980s (maybe your parent’s favorite) which eventually lost their luster to stylish, tall-standing five-door crossovers (the current craze); so quite possibly the automotive timeline is ripe for a retro comeback. If so, Subaru and Mercedes-Benz still offer their take of the traditional-style wagon as does Volvo, with pricing from the Swedish choice falling between its two main rivals, and Volvo’s styling interpretation leads the pack.
What’s old is new again and for those daring to be different yet distinguished, Volvo has the compact V60 wagon. In Volvo speak, V denotes ‘Versatility,’ a cloaked reference to wagon. The numerical suffix relates to vehicle size, the larger the digit, the longer the vehicle. Volvo also offers a larger, mid-size V90 for sale here in the states. Historically, Volvo employed the XC prefix to define traditional taller crossover body styles while S denoted sedans.
Volvo introduced the five-seat V60 in 2010, replacing the V50 wagon although the company’s strong commitment to ‘Estates’ dates back decades. Estates represents a stately European description, sounding more poised and elegant than a utilitarian ’wagon’. The current 2023 V60 is part of a second-generation 2018 redesign based on Volvo’s global scalable architecture, known in Volvo shorthand as ‘SPA.’
An all-wheel drive Cross Country version debuted in the 2014 model year with added styling, higher ride height and a softer suspension. Volvo quietly discontinued the base front-wheel-drive V60 here in the state recently, leaving the V60 Cross Country as the standard bearer.
Style wise, this 2023 V60 missile-like profile and crisp character lines beguile any faux wood exterior grandma or grandpa may have deemed ‘groovy’. The wagon’s naturally lower ground clearance (8.1 inches) welcomes all riders aboard in easier fashion then most bulkier crossovers.
At the cargo end, the slightly lower stance is a notable assist when/if loading bigger, bulker items/things into the hold. Second-row seatbacks fold flat onto cushions in 70-30 split fashion, opening up 60.5 cubic feet of cargo room, on par with many conventional compact crossovers. Plus, quite honestly, stations wagons handle better with less weight and a uni-body (car-like) platform. Many full-size five-door SUVs incorporate a trucklike body-on-frame design delivering more bounce.
Tinted side window size scales smaller towards the hatch end. The front end’s long rectangular grille resembles an elongated USB mouth plug in the right light. As with other Volvo models, It’s flanked by side-resting ‘Thor’s Hammer’ style lighting; Thor, of course, the Nordic God of Thunder and celebrity within the Marvel Comics movie Universe.
These headlights gently swivel depending upon a turn of the steering wheel to better illuminate happenings directly ahead. The rear hatch sports a Nordic theme, too, with long vertical red taillights framing lift gate sides mimicking a ski run within some imaginations.
Since 2009, Volvo has been an integral part of Geely Holding Group’s portfolio. Geely represents one of China’s largest auto conglomerates. In the U.S., Volvo continues as a nimble niche player with 2022 calendar sales reaching a modest 102,038, down 16.5 percent from 2021 totals. Of that number less than 1,400 units represent V60 transactions; its own niche within a niche.
Volvo’s entire 2023 U.S. model lineup now comes electrified within selected degrees, consisting of mild hybrids, gas-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) or all electric (EV) vehicles. Our V60 tester joined the electric slide in 2023 with a mild hybrid boost. This electrified wizardry rolled out last year in the 2022 V90, wagon and XC60 mid-size crossover. Mild hybrids differ slightly from full hybrids (also called gas-electric hybrids).
Full hybrids employ a small electric motor powered by battery packs capable of propelling vehicles along at low speeds within a pure electric mode. The original Toyota Prius may be the best recognized full hybrid.
Mild hybrids have been around as long as full hybrids. Mild hybrids provide an electrified power boost to the internal combustion engine (the term ‘motor generator’ is often used in describing mild hybrids) rather than assisting with axle rotation.
Both utilize regenerative braking to capture and repurpose kinetic energy created during the braking process. Mild hybrids cost less due in part to smaller self-charging lithium-ion battery packs/modules than full hybrids with neither requiring a nightly wall socket plug-in to generate electricity as do pure electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in electric vehicle (PHEVs).
The V60’s mild hybrid technology joins up with one of Volvo’s most popular engines; a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo generating 247 horses. It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to Volvo, this powertrain propels V60 from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds. Not long ago, Volvo retired conventional six- and eight-cylinder internal combustion engines from its model lineup.
The tank holds 18.8 gallons of required mid-grade or better 91-octane fuel. Fuel economy hits a respectable yet expected 30 miles per gallon highway for an AWD four-cylinder turbo sporting a mild hybrid kick.
The V60 Cross Country offers one basic trim with two major option groups: Plus and Ultimate. Our V60 Cross Country tester with upscale Ultimate group started at $54,100. Ultimate adds/includes ventilated Nappa leather seating surfaces, heads up windshield projection display, adaptive radar-assist adaptive cruise control, air purifier, power-folding rear head rest and front bucket seat cushion extensions.
A $750 climate package adds heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and steering wheel. A few more scant a-la-cart option and $1,095 destination fee brought the bottom line to $63,585. The V60 starts at around $49,000.
All interiors offer a clean, simplistic, upscale experience; one of the most welcoming in the business; so much so that Volvo shares this design in most vehicles. The portrait style in-dash rectangular screen gets flanked by long vertical air vents off-set by square-style designs at the edges of the dashboard.
The touch-sensitive monitor offers one large dial below controlling volume and on/off duties flanked by a limited number of smallish push buttons summoning front and rear defrosts. All other climate controls summon from the flat screen with quick call ups found via icons along the screen’s inside bottom. A new-for-2023 Google interface includes many touch-sensitive square icons (similar to ones viewed in a hand-held smartphone) within the screen. With a little practice and play, the system works in a logical fashion.
A stubby, bejeweled, opaque, electronic transmission shifter knob maneuvers into reverse with a gentle touch forward, and a tap back for drive. Summoning Park requires a push of a square button to the left. While the currently selected gear lists inside the animated instrument panel, the PRND letters next to the selector do not illuminate; a minor gripe but would welcome an indicator update during the next refresh.
To the rear, a tactile twist dial serves up start/stop of the electronic ignition, a stylish departure from the all-too-common dashboard push button. A simple twist to the right turns the ignition on/off whenever desired. To its rear, a button releasing the electronic parking brake and a button to deactivate the engine start/stop function.
The fully animated 12.3-inch progressive digital instrument panel includes two selectable center modes including a secondary feed of the in-house navigation. Modes select from a button on the three-spoke steering wheel face.
The dashboard’s top remains relatively flat with a gentle arch over the electronic dashboard. A single speaker from the upgraded Bowers and Wilkins Sound System ($3,200 extra) displays prominently (audibly and visually) in the middle of the dash upstage near the window.
While the second row accommodates three riders in a pinch, two adults fit with optimal comfort in part to a sizeable vertical floor hump and average headroom.
Volvo opened an expansive assembly campus outside Charleston, South Carolina five years ago and began building the S60 mid-size sedan, its first assembly plant in the U.S. Volvo announced in 2021 that this facility would pivot exclusively to EV production with the assembly of the next-generation all-electric XC90 crossover (renamed to EX90 and due out in the 2024 model year), allowing the company to better leverage the emerging U.S. EV market.
The company also announced construction of an electric battery assembly annex down the road from the assembly plant. Electric vehicles and accompanying battery packs assembled and sourced in the U.S. help potential buyers qualify for tax credits and potential savings when purchasing an EV under the ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ passed in 2022.
As with most luxury nameplates, the V60 wagon offers complimentary scheduled maintenance coverage (oil changes etc.) for three years/36,000 miles. This program includes periodic in-dealership coverage at 10,000, 20,000 and 30,000-mile intervals. In four short years, Volvo celebrates its 100th anniversary. Back in 1927, the Swedish automaker rolled its first car off an assembly line in the Scandinavian hamlet of Gothenburg.
Price as tested: $63,585
Wheelbase: 113.2 inches
Length: 188.5 inches
Width: 72.8 inches
Height: 59.2 inches
Engine: 2.0-liter inline turbo four with electric boost
Curb weight: 4,151 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 23 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
Assembly: Ghent, Belgium