When Volvo exited the wagon game here a few years ago, you could be forgiven for assuming that it was the nail in the coffin for these anti-crossover people and cargo-haulers. But, as the 2015 V60 Sport Wagon proves, that hiatus was just what Volvo needed.
The bodystyle is really just a wagon version of the marque's well-received S60 sedan, but there's more than meets the eye here. It's what's under the hood that really gets us excited.
Joining the S60 and XC60 crossover as the first vehicles to make use of Volvo's new Drive-E small displacement, ultra efficient engines, the V60 opens a new chapter for the Swedish brand.
The Drive-E engine family is new from the ground up. It will eventually grow to four diesel and four gasoline engines, with a plug-in Hybrid right around the corner.
Under the hood
Drive-E is a family of engines based on a single 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill. Opt for the V60 T5 Drive-E and you'll net a 240 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque, direct-injected turbocharged unit. Step up to the T6 Drive-E grade and you'll get a super- and turbocharged version that makes 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Those with a hankering for AWD will have to make due with the outgoing T5 five- and T6 six-cylinder engines until the AWD Drive-E units are produced.
Currently, the T6 Drive-E is only available in the S60 Sedan and XC60 Crossover. Both are complete with a Volvo eight-speed automatic transmission to drive the wheels. The concept of dual-enhancements in the T6 Drive-E have the supercharger adding boost in the lower side of the rev-band, and then the turbocharger takes over when the revs build.
But wait, there's more: The T5 Drive-E is gifted with a temporary overboost function that is good for a momentary 22 extra lb-ft of torque in ten-second intervals. The new group of 60 models also takes advantage of an ECO start/stop mode with ECO-Coast to let the engine coast when the accelerator is released. This new feature helps to conserve kinetic energy, and works in conjunction with the system's brake regeneration feature.
Our 2015 V60 T5 Drive-E Premier Plus Wagon was equipped with the brand's R-Design sport suspension kit with a strut tower brace, firmer dampers and a half-inch lower ride height.
A Volvo just wouldn't be a Volvo without its IntelliSafe suite of safety features, and this V60 doesn't disappoint. The brand's revolutionary City Safety system, which can bring a car to a complete stop, has been upgraded to now recognize cyclists as well as pedestrians.
Expect the V60 to compete against upscale wagons like the Audi Allroad and BMW 328i xDrive.
Available elsewhere for more than a year, the V60 makes its North American debut in a decidedly conservative and business-like fashion with a flair that hints at the power that lies beneath. In other words, it's totally Volvo. A refreshed grille and even larger "ironmark" logo take their place of prominence up front, and the brightwork around the headlamps and lower grille intakes add a sense of bling to the wagon's conservative attitude. Structurally, the V60 wagon and S60 sedan share a platform and basic underpinnings from the latter car's nose to the B-pillar.
Starting with the V60's aggressive forward leaning stance, the car displays a fluidity even while standing still. An organically shaped aluminum trim ring frames the wagon's greenhouse from the side view, while contrasting roof rails do the same on top. At the rear, the brand's trademarked stacked taillamps do their part to increase visibility and a pair of integrated exhaust finishers make for a, uh, clean finish.
We'd say when it's all tied together, it makes for quite a slippery package.
Volvo's interiors continue to reflect a simple design aesthetic with high quality yet humble execution. First appearances are of a very clean look, with the exception of the centerstack, which features 48 individual buttons to control navigation, radio, Bluetooth and climate controls. Volvo officials, sensitive to such criticism, say newer, cleaner designs are on the way.
On the upside, the brand's ergonomic prowess is on full display with available sport seats that help to reduce fatigue on long drives. Soft touch material is plentiful and presents a calming touchpoint wherever occupants come in contact with it.
The driver's Thin Film Transistor (TFT) instrument display is configurable with three themes including Eco, Elegance, and Performance accents in green, grey and red, respectively. Paddle shift levers reside on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, while a sport-gated shift lever offers an alternate means of cranking through the V60's eight-speed gearbox.
While the V60 rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the S60 sedan, we would swear there was more rear seat legroom than in the four-door model. It includes seating for five passengers and what seems to be a smallish 43.8-cubic feet of cargo capacity, when compared to the allroad and 328i xDrive, which both exceed 50-cubic feet. Still, the rear seat with 40-20-40 folding capabilities can handle most items from skis to a full IKEA shopping spree complete with a year's supply of meatballs and a difficult-to-build-bookcase.
Once underway, we found the V60 provided a positive initial impression of Drive-E's motivational prowess. Rapid acceleration was the order of the day despite the fact this engine was not operating with the additional boost of a supercharger as found in the big brother T6. The eight-speed automatic transmission provided smooth shifting without hunting, and the integrated paddle shift levers offered a bit of added enjoyment for those trying to get their best F1 imitation on.
Steering was not overly assisted but could be adjusted to a driver's taste through menu settings on the seven-inch display. We found a firm ride that exhibited good road-going manners and managed to corner flatly, but overall offered little in the way of feedback. Still, it's a ride that will satisfy most Volvo owners.
According to Volvo, the T5 Drive-E achieves 0-60 mph in 6.1-seconds. The Eco start/stop mode operated seamlessly, without the harsh refiring cycle seen in some other vehicles that use a similar feature for fuel savings. Although we did not document it, the brand says to expect 25 city / 37 highway, with 29 combined miles per gallon from the 3,527-pound V60.
Leftlane's bottom line
Volvo is taking a big gamble with small engines for its entire product lineup, but our experience with the V60 Wagon with Drive-E shows us the Swedish brand may really be on to something. Stout power, combined with impressive fuel economy, will go a long way in helping Volvo prove that four equals more.
2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E Base price range, $35,300 to $44,300
Photos by Mark Elias.