Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 27, 2021
While most manufacturers in North America would proclaim that the wagon is dead, there are a few holdouts keeping the final nail from the proverbial coffin. Among them, Volvo, stands against the nay-sayers like Thor, the God of Lightning himself, against Ragnarok (though technically Ragnarok is an inevitability, which I suppose only makes this analogy more fitting). But the Swedes continue to bet on the wagon format with their latest V60 offering.
Replacing the first generation V60 which served global markets for eight years, the second generation (released in 2018) sits atop Volvo’s global full-size unibody architecture dubbed SPA (Scalable Product Architecture). This unified platform allows for malleability within their product lineup, awarding them the opportunity to hedge their bets with a product that may not sell as well in one market, with another that shares the same underpinnings. Thus, the V60 shares its bones with other brethren like the S60, S90, XC60 and XC90.
Which is to say that the V60 already has high expectations for it, as the rest of Volvo’s lineup has been one knockout after the next. And at least visually, this V60 promises to deliver the goods too. Mine came dipped in a trim exclusive Crystal White Pearl, and the resulting sheetmetal is nothing short of breathtaking. Its front clip is immediately identifiable as a modern Volvo with narrow angular slits for headlamps, bisected by the marquee’s signature Thor’s hammer daytime running lights. The effect creates strong anchor points for an aggressive grille and front fascia.
Unlike other manufacturers who cut the roof line short to give their offering a sportier, shooting brake-esque vibe, Volvo has opted to stick with traditional station wagon proportions, giving the V60 a relatively extended roofline and a flatter rear hatch. The design choice pays dividends and easily accommodates the tall tail lamps, another signature motif of the Swedish brand. Not only that, the design doesn’t compromise interior space or rear occupancy headroom, giving the wagon 529 litres of trunk space with the seats up and 1441 litres with the rear seats down. In comparison, a Mercedes C 300 wagon has 490 and 1510 litres respectively.
With a focus on minimalism, jumping in the V60 is like stepping inside an IKEA showroom. Unlike the furniture you assemble from the store though, it’s put together with tight tolerances and mostly premium materials. It’s all very pleasing to the eye but dig a little deeper and you start seeing areas where corners were cut: the plastic surrounding the door handles, and piano black plastic surfaces, which will no doubt scratch the second you pull off the lot. Otherwise, a black Nappa leather interior comes standard but prospective owners can opt for wool blend seating surfaces (a $250 extra) for maximum breathability in the summer, and grandma’s knitted sweater levels of warmth in the winter. Admittedly though the material does look out of place in a luxury wagon of this caliber.
The minimalist Scandinavian ethos continues into the design of the centre stack, and at the heart of the dashboard is a 9-inch portrait display that acts as the command centre for the wagon. Hardware buttons are limited to a few key functions: hazards, defrost, and audio controls. Everything else from HVAC controls including seat and steering, to driver safety sensors are accessed through left or right swipes on the screen. Volvo calls this system Sensus Connect, which made its groundbreaking debut back in 2014 with the XC90. Through continued refinements in responsiveness and speed, the system has aged well and remains a competitive infotainment system, though it lacks the cutting edge teeth that competitors like Audi and Mercedes have been able to inject in the cabins of their offerings.
Where Volvo confidently stands above its competitors is in the powertrain. Under the hood sits the T6 motor, a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder boosted by a supercharger, turbocharger, and a battery. That’s right, this aptly named Recharge is a plug-in hybrid that utilizes a separate 65 kW motor mounted on the rear axle that supplies the wagon’s AWD capabilities.
The PHEV is good for a set of GV plates in Ontario and 35 km of pure electric range is not bad for those with a short commute to the office. With a combined output of 415 HP, Volvo claims the wagon can scoot you to 100 km/h in a scant 4.5 seconds. Planting your foot down, the wagon certainly hustles, though power delivery comes in a rather unique way. An initial kick in the chest from the distinctive immediate torque of the electric motor, followed by the rush of a supercharger as the 4 cylinder climbs revs, and finally a second kick to the chest when the turbo inevitably kicks in to redline.
The 8-speed gear box works a treat here too. Shifts are almost imperceptible. Any potential shift shock that might find its way into the cabin is quickly masked by the electric motor’s continuous forward thrust, in effect bridging the gap as the transmission grabs another gear.
All this accumulates to a deceptively quick wagon, which should equip owners with the right arsenal to leave the majority of SUV drivers in the dust when the light turns green. The lower stature means a lower centre of gravity, translating to better handling chops than its SUV counterparts. Comfort is still a priority here and the dampers are well tuned, delivering a plush but controlled ride. The rear axle uses a composite leaf spring (again to accommodate a lower load floor for maximum practicality) that others have commented is easily upset on poor road surfaces. I didn’t notice this during my week driving through the city, perhaps due to the extra load from the battery and electric motor on the rear axle.
Everything is drive-by-wire in the V60 resulting in steering that is heavily boosted and about as communicative as a two-hour Zoom conference. Braking, while better than previous iterations, still feels like jumping in a pool of jello. The trade off in feel and excitement is offset by Volvo’s excellent Pro Pilot assist, a suite of sensors and complex algorithms that enable a semi autonomous driving experience. And boy is it good. The system does a great job in keeping the car centered in lane, and as you pull up to a traffic jam, it will apply the brakes and continue to crawl forward. For those who frequent the DVP during rush hour, this is an absolute miracle.
Pricing starts at $71,100 and this particular Recharge came out to a range topping $81,750, but that number can be knocked down pretty easily. If it were my dough, I’d skip the white pearl paint ($900), wool blend seats ($250), 19-inch wheels ($1,000), and the Bowers and Wilkins sound system ($3,750). Volvo has done a great job tailoring a vehicle for practicality, comfort, and luxury, in that it’s really hard to find fault. Perhaps the biggest threat comes from its own family. You can skip the Recharge moniker and snag a T6 R-Design which boasts a unique body kit which I’m quite enamored with, and include all the bells and whistles including the Bowers & Wilkins and save over $15,000. That only makes the V60 wagon an even more compelling option over the homogenous pool of modern SUVs.
Model: 2021 Volvo V60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid
Paint Type: Crystal White Pearl
Base Price: $71,100
Price as Tested: $81,750
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,761 / 1,850 / 1,432
Curb weight (kg): 2,049
Engine: 2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder, with 65kW electric motor
Horsepower: 313 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 87 hp @ 7000 rpm (max electric output)
Torque: 472 lb-ft @ 2200 rpm to 5400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.4 / 7.0 / 7.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.2