Volvo is sending the V60 wagon to North America even though it knows sales will only amount to a tiny fraction of those of the XC60 SUV. The fact that the V60 will make negligible impact on Volvo Car USA’s bottom line is of little importance, however: The V60 is coming to keep the faith. Although the wagon is increasingly seen as a niche product as SUVs and crossovers continue their march to global domination, it’s a vehicle that still defines the essence of the Volvo brand. Volvo without a wagon would be like Ferrari without red paint.
The new V60 is being pitched as the successor to the V70, the best-selling wagon in Volvo’s history, filling the space left by the V90’s move upmarket. The V60 shares much with its larger sibling. It’s built on Volvo’s highly flexible SPA architecture and has the same broad-shouldered stance and studied elegance. Sharp creases that gently arc over the rear wheels, and a greenhouse graphic that rises toward the D-pillar, as subtly playful as the red stitching around the buttonhole on a Savile Row jacket, are fraternal echoes of design elements from the XC60.
The 2019 V60 is 4.9 inches longer and 2.0 inches lower than the outgoing model. The wheelbase has grown 3.8 inches, though a lot of that has gone to deliver the exaggerated dash-to-axle dimension that’s become part of modern Volvo design DNA. But those extra inches have delivered substance as well as style: Volvo claims a 20 percent increase in load space over the previous V60, as well as the roomiest rear seat in the class. We can’t vouch for the load space, but we can confirm that a 6-foot passenger has no problem sitting behind a 6-foot driver.
The V60’s interior follows the design cues that were established with the S90 and have since cascaded through successive new Volvos. And there’s nothing wrong with that: The V60’s cabin looks elegant and upscale, more inviting than that of a BMW 3 Series, less clinical than an Audi A4’s.
The V60 will launch with the choice of two powertrains: T5, with the 250-hp turbocharged version of Volvo’s ubiquitous 2.0-liter four-banger driving the front wheels; and T6, with the 316-hp turbo- and supercharged version of the engine and all-wheel drive. Transmission for both is an eight-speed automatic. Volvo claims 28 mpg combined for the T5 powertrain, and 25 mpg for the T6. The T5-powered V60 will hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and reach a max of 140 mph; the T6 version is almost a second quicker to 60 and will top out at 155 mph.
Volvo will offer two trim levels at launch: Momentum and Inscription. The latter offers cosmetic upgrades such as driftwood inlays inside and standard 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as enhanced equipment such as a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and Harmon Kardon premium audio. Leather is standard on both, but the Momentum-spec V60 can also be ordered with chic plaid cloth seats.
The infotainment system—Sensus Connect, in Volvo-speak—has been given a 50 percent increase in processor speed. This means reduced startup time, faster access to the backup camera, better voice control, and quicker route recalculation by the satnav. Sensus Connect accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, among other third-party apps (and none takes over the entire display), so satnav is an option. When fitted, the Volvo nav software enables the cruise control to access mapping data and adjust speeds through corners where appropriate.
As expected, the V60 comes standard with an armory of Volvo automated safety technology, including steering, braking, and lane-keeping assist functions to help drivers stay on the road and out of harm’s way. The V60 also debuts Volvo’s new Oncoming Braking function, a safety system of last resort that, should the car sense a head-on collision is inevitable, automatically activates maximum braking. The system goes into action two-tenths of a second before impact and can reduce vehicle speed by 6 mph. That doesn’t sound like much, but the resulting reduction in crash force can be significant, potentially life-saving.
The V60 is no 3 Series wagon. That much is clear from the first few corners. It’s a much more relaxed car than the BMW, happy and comfortable at seven-tenths driving through the twisties. It doesn’t exactly fall apart dynamically when you press harder; it just never quite flows down the road with the composure you’d expect. The front end is aloof; it goes through the motions but never clearly communicates what’s happening where the rubber hits the road. And the surly response from the transmission, even when nudged between ratios via the central shifter (there are no paddles on the steering wheel), means you never quite have the power you want precisely when you want it.
Volvo offers four drive modes—Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual—and not all are worth the electrons. Dynamic makes the steering feel more wooden and busies the ride slightly without any noticeable improvement in, er… the dynamics. The V60 does its best work left in Comfort, which is precisely where most owners will leave it. The ride is excellent, and suspension NVH well suppressed; smooth and quiet, the V60 might be a midsize Volvo wagon, but it has the decorum of a limousine. And that’s precisely what makes it a genuine alternative to the 3 Series wagon.
Though a niche product, Volvo will add to the V60 lineup through 2020. An R Design version will offer 18-inch alloy wheels as well as paddle shifters and unique interior and exterior graphics, plus the same tech and multimedia features as the Inscription. The 400-hp hybrid T8 powertrain is also slated for launch, and a V60 Cross Country, with jacked-up ride height and all-road capability, is coming to take on Audi’s A4 Allroad.
The first U.S.-spec V60s will roll off the line late this year, with cars arriving in the first quarter of 2019. No prices have been announced yet, but Volvo has revealed that the V60 will be available under the Care by Volvo subscription scheme that debuted with the XC40 crossover. Essentially a simplified lease deal, Care by Volvo will allow consumers to choose one of two specifications of the V60—along with their choice of exterior and interior colors—and drive the car for one or two years for a single monthly payment that covers maintenance, consumables such as wipers and tires, roadside assistance, 24-hour concierge, and insurance. Nothing down, drive away.
The redesigned Volvo V60 makes a compelling case as an urbane yet practical premium vehicle for those who don’t want to follow the herd. It may not be the ultimate driving machine, but it handles better and uses less fuel than many high-riding SUVs or crossovers, while offering a similarly configurable and capacious interior. And with available all-wheel drive, it’s only marginally less capable on all roads in all weather. But the Volvo faithful know all that.