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Published: 06/25/2014 - by James Riswick, Automotive Editor
Do you need more cargo capacity than a small luxury sedan, yet want a sharper driving experience and superior fuel economy than you get from a compact crossover? Consider a wagon like the 2015 Volvo V60. It may be less refined and engaging to drive than its two main German rivals, but the V60's superior safety, strong fuel economy and unique character make it an excellent alternative to its more expensive competitors.
What Is It?
The Volvo V60 is the wagon version of the S60 entry-level luxury sedan, and the two cars are largely identical apart from their cargo area, styling and the availability of some features and an engine choice. This aligns the V60 with the Audi Allroad and BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon, both of which are also based on entry-level luxury sedans.
Pricing starts at $35,300, making the 2015 V60 cheaper than its German rivals despite offering a similar amount of standard equipment. There are three trim levels that align with engine and drivetrain choice, as well as sub-trims/packages for each that add features. Our T5 test car included the Premier Plus package, which adds desirable features like leather, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera and Volvo's new digital gauge cluster. With Sport and Blind-Spot Information packages, the as-tested price was $42,235. A similarly equipped 3 Series would cost about $3,500 more, while an equivalent Audi Allroad would be about $1,000 more.
What Engines Are Available?
The T5 trim level comes with Volvo's new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's part of the automaker's "Drive-E" family of engines. Despite the name, there's nothing electric about them, but the T5 version is good for 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This output compares favorably to its competitors, while its 0-60-mph time at our test track of 6.4 seconds essentially splits the difference between the quicker BMW 328i and slower Audi Allroad. The T5 only comes with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive.
It should be noted that those aforementioned competitors come only with all-wheel drive, a fact that must be considered when comparing performance, fuel economy and price (as we did above). In order to get all-wheel drive in the V60, you're forced to go with Volvo's trusty old 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine good for 250 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque that's paired to a six-speed automatic. Besides significantly lower fuel economy, Volvo estimates that it's also about seven-tenths of a second slower from zero to 60 mph than the T5. If you need all-wheel drive, the V60's appeal is definitely reduced in relation to its competitors.
There is also the T6 R-Design model, a performance-oriented version that comes standard with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine rated at 325 hp and 354 lb-ft. It features all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.
What Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA estimates that the T5 will return 29 mpg combined (25 city/37 highway). This compares to the BMW 328i's 26 mpg combined and Audi Allroad's 23 mpg combined, although admittedly both are only offered with all-wheel drive. BMW does offer a more efficient, diesel-powered model, however.
On our 116-mile evaluation route, the V60 returned 32.9 mpg, showing that in a combination of driving environments, this Volvo delivers on its promised thriftiness. Like many turbocharged engines, however, its energetic power delivery encourages commensurately energetic acceleration and as a result, our editors returned a rather disappointing 22.9 mpg during the V60's total stay. Fun comes at a price, it would seem.
Still, the T5 is considerably more efficient than its all-wheel-drive siblings. The T5 AWD with the larger engine returns an estimated 23 mpg combined, while the high-performance T5 R-Design is good for 22 mpg combined.
How Does It Drive?
This is not your mother's brick-shaped Volvo wagon — certainly not in appearance and not in its driving experience, either. Besides its energetic power plants, the responsive steering delivers commendable feedback and a reassuring amount of effort, while corners are negotiated with a surprising degree of agility. It's not a sport wagon (get a BMW 328i if you're looking for one of those) but it's nevertheless engaging and reassuring.
Ride quality does suffer as a result of the Sport package's firmer suspension tuning and 19-inch wheels. It feels perfectly composed and nicely damped while on smooth pavement or even moderate highway bumps, without the sort of tiresome, constant jiggling associated with sport-tuned models. Yet in the city and suburbia, potholes and expansion joints send uncouth thwacks through the car's structure. We'd recommend skipping the Sport package, but even without it, the V60 (like the S60) generally lacks the feeling of solidity and sophistication from its suspension that its German competitors deliver.
What Is the Interior Like?
If you're looking for the most comfortable seats in a car that costs less than $70,000, you should try the Volvo V60, especially the optional Sport package's more aggressively contoured seats. Drivers young and old, tall and short highlighted their impressive ability to simultaneously provide corner-taking support, long-haul comfort and instantaneous relief after a day at the office.
"Volvo should start selling furniture made out of these things," one editor mused.
The rest of the cabin is unlikely to be confused with anything other than a Volvo. A clean, somewhat quirky design aesthetic is complemented by premium materials and construction. They look and feel good, but they're not quite to the level of Audi or BMW.
Volvo's "Sensus" electronics interface is standard, dominated by a comparatively small screen that nevertheless has crisp graphics and sensible menus. Simple tasks like selecting a media source or radio preset are accomplished by the central, phone-style number pad and surrounding buttons, while a dash-mounted knob selects more complicated menu items such as selecting a playlist or contact from your iPhone. It's vaguely similar in concept to Mercedes' COMAND system, and although it lacks a certain cutting-edge look and functionality, it works well.
Does It Have Enough Room for a Family?
The 2015 Volvo V60 is not a classic family wagon in terms of size, but it's certainly a more practical vehicle than its S60 sedan sibling. Its open cargo area allows you to more easily carry bulky items that would struggle to fit in a normal trunk, while a clever pop-up cargo area divider with securing strap keeps smaller items like grocery bags in place. Pet owners will also appreciate the net that rolls out from one of two mounting points and connects to the roof, preventing your four-legged buddy from moving about the cabin (or flying through it in the event of an accident).
There are 43.8 cubic feet of total cargo space with the seats folded, which is about 20 cubes less than Volvo's XC60 crossover, but far more than in the S60's 12-cubic-foot trunk. On paper, BMW's 328i Sport Wagon has more cargo space, but the two seem very similar in the metal. The Audi Allroad and its more radically raked rear window has even less space.
As for its ability to carry people, the backseat offers an acceptable amount of legroom for adults, although tall folks up front make for tight quarters in back. Headroom is abundant, which makes it feel spacious.
If kids are going to be riding onboard, we'd recommend opting for the integrated child booster seats. These raise the front portion of the outboard rear seats into two possible positions (one for kids 37-47 inches tall and between 33 and 55 pounds, the other for those 45-55 inches tall and between 48 and 80 pounds) and utilize the regular seatbelts. The kids will love them, and you won't have to lug booster seats in and out of the car.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
The airbag count may be unremarkable (front, front-side, side curtain) and you have to pay extra for a rearview camera, but the 2015 V60 only solidifies Volvo's reputation for building safe cars. The standard City Safety system can automatically apply the brakes at sub-30-mph speeds should it detect an impending collision while in slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic. An enhanced version of this technology goes further by warning the driver at higher speeds of not only other vehicles, but pedestrians and cyclists as well. The car will also automatically brake if necessary with this system. Also available is a driver inattention warning system bundled with lane-departure warning.
The V60 hasn't been crash-tested, but the mechanically related Volvo S60 sedan received a perfect five stars in all government crash categories and the best possible rating of "Good" in all of the tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Audi Allroad: Although it features a slightly higher ride height and some lower body cladding, the Allroad is essentially an Audi A4 wagon. It's more expensive, not as quick and less utilitarian than the Volvo, but it boasts an even higher-quality cabin and more refined driving manners. Unlike with the V60, all-wheel drive is standard, but there is only one engine available.
BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon: Our highest-rated entry-level luxury wagon offers a more composed ride and sharper handling, along with impressive construction and a pair of efficient yet energetic engines (gasoline and diesel). It's considerably more expensive, though.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
A wagon like the 2015 Volvo V60 is an excellent choice if you need more cargo space and versatility than a small luxury sedan provides. We generally find them more enjoyable to drive than most compact SUVs as well. The V60 in particular offers excellent fuel economy, top safety equipment and (likely) ratings, extremely comfortable seats and a unique character that only Volvo provides.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Overall, the V60's German competitors are superior vehicles, but not by much. If you're looking for that extra degree of refinement, luxury and cutting-edge technology, the BMW and Audi have a slight edge. Also, some families may find that the V60's backseat and cargo area are just not big enough. In that instance, a bigger wagon like Volvo's XC70 or a compact crossover like the Volvo XC60 would be a better choice.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.