Is It Time To Make Station Wagons a Thing Again? The 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country
2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Before the SUV and minivan the family whip of choice was the trusty station wagon, with room for the kids, the dog, the groceries. And every summer the whole family loaded in for a road trip down the shore or to the mountains. The wagon was the classic mom-mobile, a sign that you and your family had made it to the American middle class. And kids loved riding in the way back, that open box area with windows to watch the world go by, and if you were lucky having the rear window down to enjoy the fresh air mixed with just a hint of exhaust fumes.

Volvo has been synonymous with station wagons from the very early days,. Any proper carpool line would have a number of Volvo wagons in them, and as of the 1980’s and 90’s, Volvo made a few different sizes in them. While the very early ones were hardly luxury cruisers, they have always carried the moniker of being the safest cars on the road. Solid, sturdy, dependable bricks.

While back then Volvo’s were considered the odd car line, Volvo, that brand of boxy car from Sweden that was driven by academics and private school Moms. Known for tough as nails safety and even though they were rear wheel drive, could get through any kind of weather. Being from Scandinavia where everyone knew how to drive in snow. 

The term station wagon is as antique as a transistor radio. Europeans call them Estates, you will hear the term long roof, though if you are truly bougie, you can use the term shooting brake. What it really is is a sedan where the trunk is replaced with finished taller cargo space and a hatch.

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Fast forward to the 2nd decade of the 21st century, we add sleek and elegant to all of the above with the latest Volvo V-series wagons. Thus it was fun to be offered a V60 T5 AWD Cross Country for a week for this review.

Grill and Thor's Hammer headlamps on the Volvo V60
Grill and Thor’s Hammer headlamps on the Volvo V60

What Americans want is something that makes them feel not too far out from an SUV. Volvo has solved that with the term Cross Country, Which connects but is not the same as their XC models, which are truly SUVs.

Volvo’s term Cross Country has become synonymous with rugged, all-weather go anywhere segment for more than twenty years.  Delivering all-road ready transportation, practicality, comfort all rolled up in a quite attractive overall package. With enough performance to provide an adventurous vehicle in a quite attractive overall package.

2020 Volvo V60
Smooth modern styling is feature of today’s Volvo styling

And this V60 T5 wagon is one of Volvo’s most attractive vehicles ever. The Cross Country gives them what a SUV provides without the hulk or bulk that image brings. This is a station wagon is fashionable with a design that will indeed stand the test of time.

Exterior

Exterior design cues underline the car’s Cross Country nature, with an increased ride height and a chassis optimized for comfort and control in all weather and road conditions. Here you have a vehicle that is 188 inches long –  80.3 wide including the mirrors –  59 inches tall riding on a 113.2 inch wheelbase with a  ground clearance 7.8 to 8 inches depending on number of passengers. Key features include the iconic “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlight design, the Volvo Iron Mark grille and, and the expressive use of the Volvo word mark on the rear.  Notice the Greek symbol for male!  A standard on Volvo’s for decades but rarely ever discussed.

2020 Volvo V60 Right Rear with modern house in background

Inside

Inside the V60 Cross Country you will find clean Scandinavian interior design. There is extensive use of materials with a natural look and feel. The detailing on the dashboard and instrument panel is simple and to the point.

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As with any new car, that center stack screen is key.  In this V60 the portrait-oriented touch screen is Volvo’s connectivity and infotainment system called Sensus. It delivers an intuitive touch screen interface that combines car functions, navigation, connected services and in-car entertainment applications such as Spotify, Pandora, Baidu or TuneIn. And of course smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is available.

Seats

The interior of our media vehicle was in blond leather, which was striking, but hardly a color one would choose if you were hauling a family around. Any vehicle that has adjustable thigh support gets my attention, though I did notice once that was extended hard spots developed elsewhere in the seat. Comfort was excellent, and would provide plenty of support for long trips.

Back Seat Area

This is a two row vehicle, and the rear seats were equally comfortable as they were attractive. Though I was surprised that they did not provide multiple USB outlets, though they did have HVAC controls part of the Cross Country Pro package’s 4-zone automatic climate control + CleanZone. A simple fold down center armrest with minimal storage, and of course cup holders.

While the Wayback of the V60 may not be the place the kids want to ride, or even sit, there is plenty of room for groceries, big box store purchases or even a trip to the farmers market or nursery. Numerous places along the sides to secure handled shopping bags, and a pop up grocery bag holder, which looked more like a mini 3-row seat for dolls.

Visability

Visibility was my biggest complaint about the V60, even with the mirrors, cameras, traffic and parking sensors, I found numerous blind spots that even adjusting my mirrors did not eliminate. This vehicle could really use the blind spot visualization technology found on many of the Korean vehicles that post an image on the dashboard of rear corners when indicating a turn.

Engine

An inline DOHC 4-cylinder 16-valve gasoline powered with 254 horsepower connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission and an All-Wheel-Drive  with 15.9 gallon gas tank – and an estimated 25 mpg average with 22 city and 31 highway.

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While in dry conditions the AWD system is set for power to be directed to the Front wheels, though when needed or at acceleration from a stop, all four wheels are ready to provide traction.

If you want to pull along a Husvagn trailer The V60 Cross Country can pull a maximum Trailer weight 2000 with a trailer brake and 1650 without a trailer brake.

Conclusion

Long before Millennials and Gen This or That, the family hauler for many of us baby boomer generation was a car as big as an estate. Today there are a very select few station wagons available, all from European manufacturers. I personally find this 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country to be an exceptional looking station wagon. Though it is not a wagon of yesteryear, it is a capable people hauler.

Compare this competitively priced Volvo at $57K  to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or The Audi A6 Allroad which have starting prices around $66k.   Or if you would like to move up to a larger Volvo Wagon… Yes Volvo has two sizes, the V90 is another option for the long roof lifestyle. Here we are in 2020, as it has been for years, Volvo is still a Safety first and a technological first brand. Now they look better than ever before.

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Is a station wagon a reasonable alternative to the crossover or SUV? They combine the comfort of a sedan with the convinenece of a hatchback. What SUV’s provide is a higher vantage point, often being taller in height, providing a commanding view of the road. The wagon is the perfect car for almost all lifestyles, carrying passengers, family pets, sports gear, or spoils from big shopping trips.

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret

Words and Images by William West Hopper. Mr. Hopper grew up in a world of station wagons. Today he is an automotive writer serving on the Board of the Washington Automotive Press Association, where he is President Emeritus.


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