Why would anyone buy a station wagon these days? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I spent some time getting to know Volvo’s sleek station wagon.
The station wagon saw its demise when the mini van came along, and that saw its end when the SUV came along. The SUV is unfortunately also seeing its demise as the greenies throw red paint at unsuspecting SUV drivers these days. So things are not looking good for people-and-things carriers. The station wagon (SW), thus, might be coming back into the limelight again as it can do the people and thing carrying bit, with smaller engines, but it now battles against smaller Sports Activity Vehicles (read Kia Sportage & Land Rover Freelander) for family buying space.
I had a fair look at competitors to the Volvo V60 and it’s pretty tough to narrow down exactly what people would be looking at when adding a SW to their purchase basket. Direct competitors are the BMW 3 Touring, the Mercedes C220 Wagon and then of course the Subaru Outback wagon. The main reason, surely, for buying within this market, is to fit lots of junk…in the trunk.
For this reason I set up some tests to see if the Volvo could still do some pretty standard fare activities that people with Volvos do. Test number 1 : Do two Labradors fit in the back of the Volvo, without squashing noses and tails in the process?
Well, yes. It’s no Prado in the rear, but it does the job, and does it well. A very welcome addition was the safety net that kept the dogs from jumping over into the back seat. If you do buy the SW to transport man’s best friend, then I suggest you don’t get any dark colour as their nails will scratch the hell out of the paint as they scramble to get in. (but that’s the problem with dogs getting into any car)
The Volvo looks pretty much as un-stationwagonny as any station wagon can look, with a tapering rear window and the nose from the S60, which is anything but boring. It’s probably one of the few station wagons that dad could drive to work and back, and family could pile into over the weekend / holiday to go places. I say this because it is so accomplished, un-stationwagon looking and brimming with luxury and power, that it would make for a comfortably every day cruiser to work and back.
This said, test number two is whether you can fit golf clubs in the back?
Obviously it passes this one with ease, so much ease in fact I’m sure you could fit 2/3 sets under the pull back cover. You could also replace golf clubs with dead hookers, and fit at least 2 of them in the rear, with a shovel and bag of lemons to finish the job.
Enough with the massive rear end, let’s move things over to the other end of the car. Under the hood is a 2litre 4 cylinder turbo engine with 177kW and 320Nm on tap. It gives effortless thrust that could scare many a hot hatch off the line (0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds) and should still return around 11.3l/100km (claimed). Nail your foot to the floor and the dogs smack into the back window as the car easily gains momentum. It’s a fantastic engine, over and above also being surprisingly quiet at cruising speed, so does the job with 2 thumbs up.
So it’s got enough shove to make dad not look ultra uncool at the traffic lights. He also won’t be disappointed in the interior, as it’s a traditional modern Volvo fare inside. Volvos are so impeccably put together, with everything where you expect it, simplified as only Volvo can. Mates who drove in it commented that the interior is a huge step above the BMW and Mercedes cars they own, which is testament unto itself. I must agree. Everything you’d expect is standard, I’m not going to rattle off the list, but rather focus on things that usually aren’t, which is City Safety which can bring the car to a full stop right before you’re about to ding someone in traffic (more info here – http://www.euroncap.com/rewards/volvo_city_safety.aspx) It’s obviously safe as houses, so I’m not even going to bring up the extensive list of standard passive and active safety equipment, as we’ve come to expect from Volvo.
Volvo offer different packages Essential, Excel, Elite and R-Design that add certain options to the car. Test unit was an Excel package with parking (needed!) & rain sensor, memory electric seats (for driver) and some other gizmos. One thing I do despise about Volvo, is that when you stop and pull the key out the ignition the doors do not unlock, and you can’t double unlock them unless unlocked via the button / key. Retarded. Oh, and while I’m at it, no spare wheel? Really? Only a wheel repair kit? I’m sorry but that’s not good enough in SA where tire availability and repair is something we can’t rely on just yet.
From a space and comfort perspective, the V60 does a great job for 4 adults in superb comfort. Volvo seats are always perfect in their design, and this one does not let down in this department. A novel touch on the Sandstone beige interior the test car had, was that the rear of the front seats had been covered in black leather, to keep the kicking kiddies feet from blackening up the back of the driver and passenger seat. Still wouldn’t opt for this colour interior if I had kids.
Ride and handling is also pretty impressive for a SW. I threw her down the gauntlet (Waterfall Hills Estate roundabout road) and she handled brilliantly. It was no performance hatchback, but you’d never say you’re driving a SW, which is a job well done in my books. The fatter 16inch tires made the ride a real pleasure. It didn’t seem to sacrifice on handling at all, and just made for a comfortable and far less noisy ride, which definitely has its merits. (As much of a massive rims and sporty rubber type of guy I am)
At R410 800 for this T5 Excel, it’s a little pricey. If it came in at just under the R400K mark I’d say it’s a great buy. Overall you get nowhere near the performance and kit from BMW, Mercedes or Subaru for this money so they are out. You buy into the lower end of the SUV market (Freelander and Fortuner) and definitely don’t get the sophistication, safety or looks. So it’s somewhere in between. I’d then probably opt for the T4 motor and slap on an R-Design pack to make it look extra cool. Yeah, that’s what I’d do.