Less storage, but more fun

By David Undercoffler Los Angeles Times

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Wagon

Base price: $36,225

As tested: $42,225

Type: Four-door midsize premium station wagon

Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine; front-wheel-drive

Mileage: 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway

Consider Volvo’s 2015 V60 station wagon penance for all the boxy cars the company threw at us in the 1980s and ’90s.

No longer refrigerator-shaped, the style of this all-new car leaves its forefathers in the dust. The sleek silhouette puts form ahead of function to create a wagon just as good for a play date as it is on a real date.

But pack light. The V60 can’t haul like the old Volvo wagons used to.

Volvo — a brand that’s Swedish by heritage but Chinese by ownership — also fitted the car with a new, more efficient engine and transmission. The V60 manages to pack in the European panache of rival wagons like the BMW 328i or Audi Allroad, and for less money, starting at $36,225.

Though wagons get only a morsel of the U.S. market — 1.3 percent in 2013 — the few buyers willing to consider one should put the V60 high on their list.

As the name may indicate, the V60 is the wagon derivative of Volvo’s S60 midsize sedan. That car has been around in its current form since 2010, though Volvo gave it a mild aesthetic update in 2014.

One year later, our wagon joins the lineup for the first time and brings with it an excellent new drivetrain.

An in-line, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission that pushes power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 option that our test car didn’t have.

With an overboost function that belts out 280 pound-feet of torque for the first 10 seconds of acceleration, this V60 promises on-time delivery to any destination. Zero to 60 mph passes by in 6.1 seconds, according to Volvo. The scenery passes by even quicker when you have the car in its sport setting.

This new drivetrain is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. We averaged 23.5 mpg during 350 miles of testing in mostly city driving.

Our $42,225 test car had a $1,500 sport package. This adds a retuned suspension that lowers the car, paddle shifters for the transmission, sports seats and larger, 19-inch alloy wheels. We appreciated the extra chutzpah these features gave the V60 in turns but found the ride quality a bit too harsh as a result.

Other options included a $900 safety package with blind-spot monitoring, cross traffic alert and parking sensors.

And a $2,550 package added leather seats, a digital instrument panel, back-up camera, silver bits of trim on the outside and keyless entry. Oddly, for the money Volvo charges for our test model, a navigation system wasn’t included. Whatever. You can live without nearly all of the add-ons. A basic V60 with a comfortable, quiet interior is a nice proposition for around $36,000.

All models come with a moon roof, a 7-inch screen for the infotainment system, LED daytime running lights, torque vectoring for better cornering, Bluetooth connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels.

And the sleek shape? That comes free.

The front of the car hangs over the wheels a bit too much, which gives the car a bit of a snout. But the rest of the proportions are tighter and more compact than you’d expect from Volvo. It sits on the road with a no-nonsense stance.

The snug shape, sloping roofline and small side windows behind the rear passengers are nice on the outside, but they cut into the V60’s usable space inside. The rear seat is tight on legroom and headroom for tall adults. Fold the rear seats and 43.8 cubic feet of cargo space awaits.

The only other obvious flaw of the V60’s insides was the organization of the dashboard. Like the exterior, the layout is nice to look at and touch. But the buttons are scattered.

Otherwise, we enjoyed this wagon. The drivetrain is a hoot, and it’s as good as anything Germany is bolting together right now. And the style is a tasteful alternative to other grocery getters. Even if that means packing in fewer groceries.

Courtesy Volvo / McClatchy-Tribune News Service The 2015 Volvo V60 T5 is a nice alternative to more pricey BMW or Audi station wagons.