I've been a station wagon fan for a long time. The idea of extending the roof behind the back seats of a car always made sense to me. Stations wagons are as easy to drive as cars, but can carry a lot more stuff that is easy to load and unload through the rear door or hatch.
But I never expected to drive such a well-balanced wagon as the 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country. Anyone considering buying a crossover or SUV needs to test drive one first. Compared to the based V60 wagon, The all-wheel-drive system and higher ride height make it a practical off-road alternative, and it has all the sophistication and interior room, too.
I've owned several station wagons over the years, each one used and rough around the edges. The first was a 1969 Datsun 510 wagon when I was growing up in Southern Oregon. It was as rugged as a truck and go almost anywhere. When I had my own paper in Portland in the 1990s, I went through two more for deliveries The first was a 1978 Plymouth Fury Sport Suburban wagon with faded wood grain paneling. After driving it into the ground, I traded it in on a lower mileage 1972 Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon with an electrically-operated clamshell rear hatch. Facing deadline pressures, I sold it after an exhaust manifold cracked to buy a 1972 two-wheel drive GMC Suburban, a decision I've always regretted. I should have spent the money to fix it.
Station wagons actually went out of favor before that, first replaced by minvans and then SUVs. I understood the practicality of minivans, especially for families, and appreciated the availablity of all-wheel-drive on SUVs and the then more car-like crossovers that are so popular these days. I was glad when Subaru popularized the concept of an AWD-equipped wagon with its Outback series, and then was surprised when luxury manufacturers like Cadillac began embracing wagons several years ago.
Volvo never gave up on wagons, however. In fact, the boxy and reliable 200-series wagons helped establish the reputation of the Swedish manufacturer, which is now owned by a Chinese holding company. But while those earlier wagons were more practical than fashionable, the 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country is a strikingly attractive performance vehicle with just enough tweaking to earn off-road cred, including standard AWD a 2.5-inch ride height increase, a 0.4-inch improvement in ground clearance over the base model, and a "rough road" mode.
The Volvo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder, dubbed the T5 for unknown reasons. It pumps out a healthy 250 horsepower, more than enough for good acceleration in all conditions. That was an inconceivable engine when I owned my American wagons, both of which were powered by big Detroit V8s — a 360 cubic inch engine in the Plymouth and a 455 in the Pontiac. They were strong and indestructible, with plenty of low-end torque, but the Volvo is much faster than either of them, both off the line, up steep hills, and merging with freeway traffic. Credit the wonders of advanced technologies.
And of course my Datsun and American wagons weren't available with AWD, which is a blessing in wet and slippery Pacific Northwest weather. I had to delay some winter newspaper deliveries because of light snow. That would not have been a problem with the Volvo, which is also nimble and fun to drive, thanks to its supple suspension and precise steering.
But the luxury is the biggest difference. Although Volvo originally became known for basic but reliable and safe vehicles, the new models effectively compete against Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes, and other premium manufacturers. They are still among the safest vehicles in the world, and the large swipe-style display screen is setting the standard for advanced infotainment systems.
Volvo's transformation might seem surprising to anyone who hasn't driven one in recent years, but it is complete and genuine. Anyone looking for a high-end ride needs to consider Volvo's complete line of cars, wagons, and crossovers, and the 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a great place to start.
2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country
Base price: $45,100
Price as tested: $56,990
Type: Mid-size wagon
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (250 hp, 258 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 22/31
Overall length: 188.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,002 pounds
Final assembly: Gothenburg, Sweden
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