Remember station wagons? All that lovely faux timber down the sides, side-hinged rear doors the size of a farm gate, and that exquisite Naugahyde pleather that stuck to the back of your legs as a kid.
Load it up, strap stuff on the roof, and mom and pop would think nothing of a 700-mile, nausea-infused, do-it-in-a-day road trip to grandma’s house.
“Are we there yet?”
Fast forward to 2020 and, trust me on this, the coolest family hauler you can buy today is a wagon. Specifically a Volvo V60 that positively oozes with Scandinavia cool, even though it’s built in Belgium.
Just feast your peepers on the thing, especially in profile. Standing still it looks like it’s doing 112 mph, which is the top speed Volvo restricts all its vehicles to these days.
With that mile-long hood, slammed-back windshield, never-ending roof and a waistline only a Victoria’s Secret supermodel could match, the V60 defines automotive sexiness.
Throw-in a few Volvo design “bon-bons”, like the Thor’s Hammer front LED running lights, super-cool Mark-of-Zorro LED tail lights and 19-inch alloys that look like they were shoe-horned into their arches, and the V60 is nothing less than art on wheels.
Not totally convinced of its total uber-coolness? Just open the doors and gaze in amazement at the super-retro plaid cloth upholstery. That’s right – cloth.
Volvo calls it City Plaid and it looks like an extra from that perennial theater fave “Forever Plaid”, or even the Steve Martin classic “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”
OK, OK, I know, a tall-riding SUV like Volvo’s very own XC60 is more practical, more versatile, and more comfortable with that towering “command” driving position. But it’s just that, another SUV.
I guess we need to think of the V60 – base price $39,650, or $48-grand very nicely loaded – as a more versatile alternative to Volvo’s own, South Carolina-built S60 sedan.
But why make do with a trunk when you can have a gaping tailgate – a hands-free-opening one at that – with over 50 cubic feet of load space? It’s as if it was made for flat-pack Tärendö dining tables from that other lovable Swede, IKEA.
You also get a longer roof to carry a couple of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or mountain bikes. And compared with an SUV, the V60’s low roofline makes loading said sporting gear so much easier. Step-ladders not required.
Inside, this really is a spacious, adult-carrying five-seater with excellent rear-seat kneeroom and shoulder room. Yes, headroom isn’t overly-generous, but with the car’s standard, and simply huge panoramic glass roof, the cabin always feels light and airy.
The interior design, the quality and craftsmanship is just terrific – and even more impressive considering it’s the $40,000 entry-level V60 Momentum version I’m driving.
Talking of driving, this is where the V60 is head and shoulders above any similar-sized SUV. Show it a twisty road and it’s more nimble and athletic than Björn Borg in his prime.
Power comes from Volvo’s trusty 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that, for some odd reason Volvo calls the T5. It makes a healthy 250 horsepower and coupled to a lovely, smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, can rush the car from standstill to 60mph in around 6.5 seconds.
With front-wheel drive putting the power to the blacktop, the steering wheel will tug in your hands if you stomp on the throttle, especially in Sport mode. But it is far from unruly.
No, what impresses is the smooth, controlled ride, the nicely-weighted, super-precise steering, and lovely poised and balanced feel through curves.
The V60 wagon comes in quite a few flavors, from the base Momentum, you go up through the extra-sporty-looking R-Design, the leather-lined Inscription – both at $45,400 – and the taller-riding Cross-Country ($45,100).
If it’s crazy-performance you want in your wagon, the over-caffeinated Polestar Engineered V60 with 415 horseys, supercharging and turbocharging, stickers at a lofty $67,300.
Whichever version you choose, this is definitely one Swede ride.