National Post (Latest Edition)

Redesigned wagon a sporty SUV alternativ­e with sharp styling

- Costa Mouzouris

EL VENDRELL, SPAIN • Road trippin’ with my two favourite allies; fully loaded we got snacks and supplies … Those are the opening lyrics of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song about a road trip once taken by the band, aptly named Road Trippin’. The song became an earworm in my head while driving the 2019 Volvo V60 T6 AWD. That’s because with its sophistica­ted ride and sporty styling, this functional wagon seemed to me to be the ideal road-trip car.

Volvo has completely redesigned the V60 for 2019, and it looks sleeker, is more efficient and it features a number of advanced, powerful and fuel-efficient powertrain­s, two of which will be plug-in hybrids.

The base engine in the V60 T5 front driver is a 2.0-L turbocharg­ed four, which develops 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. My V60 T6 AWD tester is equipped with the 2.0-L, four-cylinder “Twin” engine, which incorporat­es a supercharg­er and a turbocharg­er, and is tuned to pump out 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine’s unique twin-boost layout is designed to take advantage of the supercharg­er’s ability to pressurize the intake at low revs, while the turbocharg­er continues to boost intake pressure at high revs. The result is an absence of turbo lag, with surprising­ly robust low-end accelerati­on that doesn’t let up as the revs approach redline; it’s so strong it makes you forget it’s a four.

The engine mates to an eight-speed automatic, which shifts smoothly, but seems to float between gears occasional­ly when releasing the throttle and getting back on it quickly while following traffic. The engine is also fuel-efficient, claiming as low as 7.2L/100 km combined fuel consumptio­n based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

The two plug-in hybrids will be introduced a bit later in the production cycle. The T6 and T8 hybrids will combine a 2.0-L Twin engine with a 65-kW electric motor; the T6 is rated at 340 hp combined, the T8 at 390 hp. Both hybrids will be all-wheeldrive, with the gasoline engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor driving the rear, and they each claim 2.1L/100 km combined using the NEDC standard. Claimed electric range is 45 km. North America will get the more powerful T8 hybrid.

Styling is much sportier than the outgoing V60, with a longer, lower and flatter hood, and a leaner profile with a roofline that has been lowered by 60 mm. It’s also grown in size, measuring 126 mm longer, with a 96-mm longer wheelbase and 35mm wider track.

Trim levels will include the base Momentum, the more upscale Inscriptio­n, and the sportier R-Design. The interior of my Inscriptio­n test car is smartly subdued, with an uncluttere­d cockpit that features a nineinch central touchscree­n that controls a multitude of functions. Volvo calls its new driver interface Sensus, and the screen functions much like a tablet, where you can drag up, down and across pages in a very intuitive manner. It proves easy to negotiate the various menus and set the navigation system in a short time. Leather is standard, but you can opt for textile seats that feature a plaid pattern called City Weave, which are quite attractive while exuding a warm, retro vibe.

The V60’s interior is cosier than an SUV, yet it’s roomy and comfortabl­e. Standard power seats offer a multitude of adjustabil­ity and are amply supportive for a daylong drive. Rear seating is roomy enough for two tall adults, and though a third person can be squeezed into the rear seat, it’s only a measure to be taken on shorter trips. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat is 529 litres, which expands to 1,441 litres with the seats folded.

There’s a long list of standard features, including a leather interior, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, the nineinch Sensus screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a four-year Volvo On Call subscripti­on, LED lighting, a panoramic power sunroof, 17-inch wheels and a multitude of other items too long to list here. The two higher trim levels include a start/ stop function, standard keyless entry, selectable drive modes, a navigation system and 18-inch wheels.

Volvo’s available IntelliSaf­e safety suite includes a multitude of driver aids, including collision mitigation with auto braking, adaptive cruise control, steering assist, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning and run off-road mitigation, which senses if the car has left the road, and takes measures to slow and steer back onto the road, or if the car gets airborne, there’s an energyabso­rbing function incorporat­ed into the seats to help reduce the likelihood of spine injury upon landing.

On the road the new V60 feels taut, with minimal body roll through corners, and it is free of wind and road noise. It sits low, so it handles much more like a sporty sedan than a bulky SUV. Steering is light and somewhat lacking in roadsensin­g feedback, even in Dynamic mode, and its safety systems often tug at the wheel when getting too close to either side of the road. This doesn’t prove intrusive enough to encourage me to turn off the system — and at least there’s no constant barrage of warning beeps when it intervenes. The Inscriptio­n comes with a height-adjustable heads-up display, which is easy to view, unobtrusiv­e and useful.

Wagons hold a unique attraction among car owners. In Europe they are regarded more as workhorses used mostly to haul caravans and cargo. In North America they maintain a more exotic appeal, offering much of the utility of an SUV, but with a sportier, sleeker silhouette. If bulky SUVs put you off but you need the added capacity for friends, snacks and supplies, you can always opt for the 2019 Volvo V60. Its nimbler, sedan-like handling, lower centre of gravity, and more graceful lines are ideal allies for those longer road trips.

The 2019 Volvo V60 will be arriving at dealers in the fourth quarter of this year, though pricing has not yet been announced. Prices for the 2018 V60 start at $43,850.

 ?? COSTA MOUZOURIS / DRIVING.CA ?? Pack snacks, crank the tunes and settle in for a sweet road trip: The 2019 Volvo V60 combines comfort and function.
COSTA MOUZOURIS / DRIVING.CA Pack snacks, crank the tunes and settle in for a sweet road trip: The 2019 Volvo V60 combines comfort and function.
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