In a news environment where Afghanistan winds down just as Syria and the Ukraine are ratcheting up, you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed the debut of the new Volvo V60. And yeah, that’s a ‘V’60, Volvo’s shorthand for a 5-door take on its venerable sedan. The mods made to the ‘S’ to construct the ‘V’ are nothing short of stunning, especially when coated in the light metallic blue of our test vehicle. As a design exercise Volvo’s new 5-door may be seminal, but as a logical successor to Volvo’s historic lineup of wagons it should probably be called something else. ‘V’, if you will, as in ‘variation’…and not – notably – ‘volume’.
With neither the time nor space to delve into the long history of the Volvo wagon, it’s safe to say that Volvo’s global reputation is built, at least in part, on the company’s ability to build automobiles capable of carrying both people and their things. I started paying close attention about the time Volvo introduced its 145, the 5-door variant of the well-received 140-Series. The 144 looked to have been designed by little more than a straight edge, and the 145 was – if possible – even more linear. The wagon’s generous greenhouse, designed at a time when the descriptive actually meant something, held people and their things in a manner atypical of the era. Detroit’s wagons were increasing in size and increasingly irrelevant, while Motown’s minivan would begin a gestation process taking another full decade before actual production.
As Volvo evolved so did its wagon family; more recently, the V70 morphed into an on-road/off-road variant called the XC70. With a tad more ground clearance, the requisite cladding (thank you, Outback) and a slightly higher hip point, the XC70 might not have taken to the trail but could certainly get you to the trailhead. And to Volvo’s everlasting credit, it still retained a vestige of capacity, something today’s Volvo V60 woefully lacks.
To be sure, one look at the newest ‘V’ and you know it may haul groceries, but from Whole Foods and (notably) not Sam’s; this isn’t the device for buying cases of anything. That sexy roofline tapers gracefully and oh-so-elegantly to the hatch, but graceful/elegant net but 44 cubic feet of storage space, over 20 cubic feet short of Volvo’s XC60 CUV. And while we love the V60’s weight (or lack thereof), some 500 pounds less than the XC60, we don’t understand a Volvo wagon lacking the very space a wagon needs to be, well, a wagon.
Obviously, a 2015 Volvo comes with a wealth of niceties beyond the sheetmetal and a $40K window sticker. The chassis offers compliance and composure the 145 would never have envisioned, especially when the V60 is blessed with the available Sport package. And the all-new Drive-E powertrain provides not only 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque (at a crazy-low 1500 rpm!), but does so while giving you a decent shot at 37 miles per gallon on the highway. The only way a 145 – back in the day – would have gotten better than 30 would have been on a tow hook…
Inside, we were pleased with the leather surfaces provided by Volvo’s Premier Plus specification, although the sport buckets seemed excessively expressive; this isn’t, after all, our first choice for a track day. And while Blind Spot Info is certainly helpful, it also adds almost an additional grand; you could do far worse than just taking a second to investigate your blind spots personally.
What might we suggest to Volvo’s product planners if they were serious about reviving the Volvo wagon as a VOLVO WAGON? If you’re sitting down, we’ll proffer Toyota’s Prius V. With outward dimensions tighter than the Volvo V60’s, and cubic capacity in line with the much heavier XC60’s, the Prius V profile matches the needs of an intrepid garage sale shopper to the proverbial ‘T’. In terms of cubic capacity we couldn’t ask for more, while the Prius brand will always consume less.
Obviously, we prefer the driving dynamic of the Volvo, as it hauls when you want it but invariably falls short when you need it. In what continues – for many – to be a challenging economic environment, more for less should resonate on any number of levels, and that’s something Toyota’s Prius V delivers in spades. Should Volvo’s product team give consumers a ‘V’ for both value and volume those consumers will beat a path to their door…especially the 5-door.