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Driven: 2019 Volvo V60 wagon provides superb all-season driving


The proportions of the 2019 Volvo V60 are handsome, striking and instantly recognizable as nothing other than a modern Volvo. - Justin Pritchard
The proportions of the 2019 Volvo V60 are handsome, striking and instantly recognizable as nothing other than a modern Volvo. - Justin Pritchard

The new-for-2019 Volvo V60 adds another station wagon to the Swedish automaker’s product lineup, while giving shoppers yet another AWD-equipped alternative to the oh-so-popular crossover.

If you’re after confident winter travels in a flexible premium vehicle, but don’t want to drive a crossover like everyone and their uncle, this is a machine that needs to be on your radar.

Specifically, that’s because the V60 is something different and unique, because it’s psychotically good to drive in the snow and, also, because of some attention to the finer details of its operation in extremes of winter weather.

This is a machine engineered in a country where people go snowboarding on their lunch breaks, and it shows.

The setup

My V60 “T6” tester got Volvo’s new go-to four-cylinder engine, a two-litre unit that’s turbocharged and supercharged for 316 horsepower. A decision-free AWD system is fitted, and my tester’s “Inscription” trim grade takes things upscale with no shortage of premium touches and content.

The face and proportions are handsome, striking and instantly recognizable as nothing other than a modern Volvo, even from a distance. The interior also flies in the face of the German competition.

 With the V60’s dash area, designers have created an atmosphere where the focus is on the materials and shapes, not the buttons and gadgets. Aluminum and stitching are deployed to rich up the scenery but, overall, the V60’s cabin is delightfully quiet looking, while still instantly upscale. - Justin Pritchard
With the V60’s dash area, designers have created an atmosphere where the focus is on the materials and shapes, not the buttons and gadgets. Aluminum and stitching are deployed to rich up the scenery but, overall, the V60’s cabin is delightfully quiet looking, while still instantly upscale. - Justin Pritchard

By not ornamenting the dash like a parade float, designers have created an atmosphere where the focus is on the materials and shapes, not the buttons and gadgets. Aluminum and stitching are deployed to rich up the scenery but, overall, the V60’s cabin is delightfully quiet looking, while still instantly upscale.

The (very few) buttons and dials present are all mounted low and away from your outward sight lines, where they fade from view as you cruise along. You’re invited, by the very shape and layout of the V60’s forward cabin, to simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Functionally, I noted no issues with space for four adults. Room is beyond adequate, but not excessive. There’s decent at-hand storage nearby for keeping smaller items organized, rear-seat headroom is good, thanks to the roof being flat all the way to the back and the cargo hold is deep, wide and square. The tailgate on my tester was motorized and, unlike most SUV models, the load-floor is nice and low, which makes it easy to load and unload gear, shopping bags, or the family pooch. The seats also fold down nice and flat when needed.

You’re nicely set up for a cruise, any time, anywhere, and with just about whatever combination of people and pets and gear you need to bring along.

 The V60 provides ample space for four adults. Room is beyond adequate, but not excessive. There’s also good at-hand storage nearby for keeping smaller items organized, while rear-seat headroom is good, thanks to the roof being flat all the way to the rear. - Justin Pritchard
The V60 provides ample space for four adults. Room is beyond adequate, but not excessive. There’s also good at-hand storage nearby for keeping smaller items organized, while rear-seat headroom is good, thanks to the roof being flat all the way to the rear. - Justin Pritchard

 

In all aspects of winter motoring, the V60 feels, in no uncertain terms, expertly dialled in.

The washer system uses a windshield-blade-mounted sprinkler bar that sprays strategically and directly onto the windshield in response to the position of the wiper. The result is better performance than conventional wipers and reduced need to refill the washer fluid tank, since this clever setup literally doesn’t waste a single drop of fluid.

The lighting system is a class act, with plenty of white, crisp light directed into incoming corners, in sync with the steering. The aim, colour, spread and saturation of forward illumination are bang right on, and the headlight washers ensure consistent performance in bad weather.

The V60’s AWD system is highly effective and typically invisible; just apply any amount of throttle you’d like and you’re off with no digging, slipping or struggling. Almost without exception, it determines what’s required for maximum forward momentum within a single wheel rotation before tweaking power delivery as needed on a wheel-by-wheel basis. Then, things fire along gracefully. From behind the wheel, you’ll never feel the system doing much of anything, even as it strategically reroutes power across and between the axles with milli-second precision for maximum extraction of traction from the surface beneath.

The high-boost, four-cylinder engine sounds fairly snorty when pushed and hauls the V60 along fiercely when called upon. It sits firmly in “rocket-wagon” territory where acceleration is concerned, though performance capabilities exist discreetly in the background.

The V60’s AWD system is highly effective and typically invisible; just apply any amount of throttle you’d like and you’re off with no digging, slipping or struggling. - Justin Pritchard
The V60’s AWD system is highly effective and typically invisible; just apply any amount of throttle you’d like and you’re off with no digging, slipping or struggling. - Justin Pritchard

I can also confirm that she fires up like a champ after being parked for two days at 30-below, with no plugging in. The supercharger whines loudly here, until warmed up, which is super neat.

The highway cruising feel is a nicely-set blend of responsive, heavy and stable. More athletic options exist in this segment, though V60 tends to settle into a dense, creamy and heavyset demeanour at speed. Test-drivers may note the V60 to often feel a heavier car than it is, to the benefit of driver confidence in bad weather. Ride quality straddles the centre-line between comfortable and sporty, possibly leaning a little more toward the “comfortable” side of the equation. It’s not a spine-bashing sports car ride, nor does it feel like a coagulated gravy-clot on wheels.

Steering is a touch on the heavy side as well, nicely matched to the V60’s ride. The ratio and effort make it feel appreciably responsive and precise, but not nervous or hyperactive. At cruising speed, the whole thing heavies up to help the V60 lock solidly into the line selected by the driver.

Brakes are similarly fine-tuned; urgent stopping power is available with light-to-moderate pedal effort, though the brakes aren’t so touchy that they ever feel difficult to operate smoothly.

Hammer them for an emergency stop and the V60 pulls down with resolve. Note that split-traction surfaces (for example: snow under the left wheels and pavement under the right) can cause the vehicle to squirm and shift beneath you, more than some will like, though. My tester was on Michelin X-Ice winter rubber, which helps all of this traction-enhancing stuff work even better.

Further, V60 has virtually every outward-looking safety system in existence, and can even autonomously stop itself from being involved in certain types of accidents. There’s even a slick, high-resolution camera display for parking, which allows drivers to see the vehicle’s entire surroundings from a single screen (provided the four body-mounted cameras are clean).

Audiophiles should consider the pricey Bowers and Wilkins stereo upgrade. It’s a $3,700 option, but it’s also the best in-car stereo I’ve ever listened to, where clarity and vivid sound reproduction are concerned. If you’re a music fan and want to spoil yourself, you’ll find it worth every penny.

Ultimately, get the V60 on your radar if you’re after a uniquely-superb all-season driving experience and a one-of-a-kind cabin. Pricing from $45,000, with the high-end V60 Inscription starting at $55,400 with AWD and 316 horsepower.

The specs

  • Model: 2019 Volvo V60 Inscription
  • Engine: two-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, supercharged, 316 horsepower
  • Drivetrain: AWD
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic
  • Features: Bowers and Wilkins stereo, steerable performance headlights, 360-degree parking camera, power tailgate, climate-controlled seats, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, navigation, driver computer
  • Starting price (V60 Inscription AWD): $55,400

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