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Volvo’s latest-generation S60 sedan has just come online alongside the new V60 wagon variant. Think “S60 wearing a backpack” and you’re in the ballpark.
The V60 wagon is just as distinctive looking, fully featured, and quietly glamorous a thing to look at — though the wagon body sees the roof extended flatly to the rear, the cargo hold expanded, and the whole thing looking like yet another glorious Volvo take on the modern station wagon that’s sure to turn heads.
The LED headlight accents are unmissable. The stance and proportions are a just-right blend of luxury and sport. Wagon fanatics from all walks will slow down for the shape and stop for a closer look at the wheels.
Like the recent (and larger) V90 before it, this V60 again proves that wagons can be seriously sexy. If you don’t think so then I respectfully disagree — but I ain’t mad because this is the internet and there’s room for everyone’s opinion.
I’m half Italian. This means I’m genetically programmed to love carbs and hate winter.
I also live in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, where winter is a very big thing. My V60 tester arrived just a day before much of Northern Ontario was plunged into a week-long extreme cold snap that occasionally eased up for just long enough for a foot of snow to fall, before the mercury approached -40C once again.
During the above, the stand-out reason to consider the V60 proved to be how well set up it feels to handle this most miserable of seasons.
I went outside one morning at 5:20. It was -34C. You could hear Ned Stark off in the distance. I hadn’t plugged in the V60’s block heater, but I started the car anyhow. It was running in one second and didn’t even sound mad about it.
Or the washers. They use a blade-mounted sprinkler-bar that sprays fluid in precise relation to the stage of the wipe process. Result? Flawless performance and literally not a drop of fluid wasted. That’s a good thing, especially if you don’t relish the idea of refilling your washer fluid in skin-shattering temperatures.
Here, the V60’s little four-cylinder starts heating the cabin quickly. The heated seats and steering wheel are piping hot in a minute. Ride quality and refinement from the powertrain remain consistent, even in the sort of temperatures that’ll split your lips faster than you can say “Blistex”.
The headlight performance is exceptional too, as is the norm for modern Volvos.
Result? The V60 driver is supremely backed up for wintertime travels that are comfortable and confidence-inspiring. This is a station wagon designed in a country where people go snowboarding on their lunch breaks. You’ll feel this on every drive.
The V60 is a proper rocket-wagon, which is just fine with me. The 2.0L four-cylinder runs both a supercharger and turbocharger, with one picking up where the other leaves off. Result? Big boost (and big torque!) available consistently at any RPM. With 316 horsepower, she hauls along with nearly excessive thrust when called upon, although drivers coming to the new V60 from an older Volvo with the now-retired straight-six turbo engine may find the new boosted four sounds a little too bleh.
The big-time forward thrust lives discreetly in the background. Output numbers notwithstanding, V60 is happy to just ooze along gently from minimal throttle inputs when desired, barely making a peep from under the hood. It’s an engine that’s as happy being driven gently as it is when you stuff your boot to the carpet.
It can feel a little lazy at times though, on account of the mapping of the 8-speed automatic. This helps keep fuel bills down. Drivers can engage Dynamic mode for more feistiness to taste at the flick and click of a dial behind the shifter. Conversely, the Eco mode can be selected to tune things beautifully for use by the light-footed drivers among us who don’t want to spend much time hearing from (or refueling) their engine.
It’s all enjoyed from a unique cabin that capitalizes in full on Volvo’s latest modern and award-winning interior design. It’s uniquely simple.
Usually, in the comparable Benz, Audi or BMW, everything around you is sopping with buttons and interfaces and screens and controls and glitz. Many luxury shoppers wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re not one of these, you’ll appreciate what Volvo’s cooked up: there are virtually no buttons on the dash, all functions are manipulated via a large central screen, and the atmosphere is tidier and simpler and more elegant.
Sure: there’s stitching and accenting and a playful use of patterns and textures and contrasting levels of glossiness. Much of the trimmings and materials in here will make you happy to have fingertips. But more than most, the focus in here is on the materials and shapes, not the buttons and gadgets. Designers even kept the few buttons and switches that are present mounted low and away from the driver’s sightline, to the benefit of a cleaner outward view of the road and scenery.
Much of this is thanks to the vertically oriented touchscreen interface mounted to the center of the dash. You use it to control virtually everything, which negates the need for miles of dials (and buttons) elsewhere.
This is not my favorite, because it’s a weird interface to get used to. And get used to it you will, but count on plenty of practice before it starts to feel like second nature. The learning curve can be frustrating at times as you get into the interface’s zone.
No issues are notable in regard to space for four adults of average size. Rear seat headroom is decent, thanks to a roof that’s flat and tall all the way to the back. This enables the usefully wide, flat and square cargo hold (motorized tailgate included), and most (including the family canine) will appreciate the low load-in/jump-in height. Rear seats fold down flat when needed.
At highway speeds, there’s no need to raise your voice for a conversation as noise levels are kept down nicely. At your fingertips, the V60 feels bigger and heavier than it is: dense, solid and substantial. The steering locks the car into position within its lane with a typically great blend of weight and heft and responsiveness, which gives the driver minimal need to need to readjust the steering. Said steering feels moderately sporty and frisky (more so in Sport mode), but never hyperactive or fidgety.
Brakes, too: they’re precise, have a confidence-inspiring pedal feel, and are highly responsive — but not so much that they’re difficult to operate smoothly. Hard and fast ABS stops come quick and easy with no drama, and that’s largely thanks to the excellent Michelin X-Ice winter tires mounted to this tester. Even with vastly varied traction between two sides of the vehicle, V60 typically comes to rest in quick order, and in a straight line.
As it tends to go with Volvos, the AWD system is unsurprisingly excellent. There’s no driver decisionmaking required. Just put your boot down, point the steering, and let the electronics sort things out. It feels like it knows what to do, and what not to do, in every situation — and feels largely invisible in the process. The sensation of abundant, fuss-free traction is your perpetual partner, and the worse the weather, the more you’ll appreciate it.
The V60 is also more than happy to be chucked around your favorite snowy backroad, too. There are more athletic options on offer in this segment, but most won’t be left wishing for better reflexes or flatter cornering.
Also notable is the Bowers and Wilkins stereo. To my ears, this unit tops most every big-power factory stereo I’ve ever listened to (which is to say, virtually all of them) for vivid clarity, a warm and bright sound, and plenty of firepower. There’s even a sound stage mode that simulates listening to your favorite music in the Gothenburg concert hall.
Though pricey, audiophiles looking to treat themselves will find it worth every penny.
Gripes? Often-frustrating infotainment system aside, my tester often felt a little too easily flustered by rougher roads — with Sudbury’s crumbling in-town and backroads often coaxing more harshness and noise from beneath the V60 than I expect at this price point. It’s buttery on smooth roads, but really nasty ones tend to rapidly degrade ride quality and refinement. Opt for a model with smaller wheels, if possible, if you’ll frequently visit poorly maintained roads.
The Verdict: 2019 Volvo V60 Review: Are Volvos Good in the Snow?
Ultimately, the V60 should prove a flexible, nicely executed and very confidence-inspiring driving partner for use in even the most inclement weather. It’s a collection of compelling touches, both big and small, that make easy and mostly comfortable work of tackling nasty winter driving conditions with a sense of smug satisfaction.
a version of this article first appeared on AutoGuide