It wasn’t so long ago that you could choose a dealership from a range of makes, walk in and plunk down money for a fast station wagon. Sure, it might cost you a bit, but the options were there. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Cadillac, even Dodge, have offered big engines in five door bodies in recent years. Today, short of the $104,000 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon and any number of crossovers, your options are limited – to this car: the Volvo V60 T6 R-Design. They say competition breeds excellence, so what happens when then there’s a near-complete dearth of it? Read on to find out.

What is it?

In a nutshell, this is simply the wagon version of the S60 sedan, but it represents more than that. After a lengthy hiatus from our shores, Volvo re-introduced the V60 to America in 2014, and the model is something of a return to form for the once-builders of fast, stealthy and practical Q-ships that also happened to be styled like the boxes they were shipped in. The new V60 changes things in that regard, as it’s clearly not boxy – to my eyes, it’s just about the curviest thing the brand has produced in recent memory.

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Available in three flavors – T5 “Drive-E” (240 hp, 4-cylinder turbo, FWD), T5 (250 hp, 5-cylinder turbo, AWD), and our T6 R-Design (325 hp, 6-cylinder turbo, AWD), this top-level tester is the fastest and most powerful wagon the company has even built. Ours was also a 2015.5 model, which differs from the 2015 only in equipment – a new Harman Kardon sound system becomes available across the range, along with an updated navigation system and a convenience package.

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What works?

The T6’s boosted 3-liter inline six makes horsepower, and lots of it – 325, to be exact, and a burgeoning 354 lb-ft of torque from just 2100 rpm. Mounted transversely and hooked to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, the Volvo manages not to exhibit torque-steer thanks to its Haldex all-wheel drive system. While the engine note is fairly subdued, there’s at least a small hint of straight-six growl present – enough to keep things interesting, anyway. Still, the hit of the turbo boost ought to accomplish that on its own. Volvo believes the T6 will get to 60 in five and a half seconds; I’d guess it’s even quicker. Flat out, the V60 is electronically limited to 130 mph, though that’s probably due to tire selection – the T6’s power should be capable of blasting it through 150 and well beyond, considering the just-barely-stronger Polestar variant is electronically limited to 155 mph. This is one rapid wagon.

SAMSUNG CSCVolvo equips the T6 R-Design as standard with a sport chassis setup that’s optional on lower trims. This includes firmer springs that drop the ride height, monotube dampers, an underhood strut brace and firmer suspension bushings. Combined with the stickier 19” summer tires on alloy wheels that came equipped on our tester, it adds up to a fairly grippy package with limited roll and body motions. Of course, stiff suspension does have consequences – particularly in a vehicle with daily driver intentions. Read further down for the flip side of the coin.

SAMSUNG CSCPart of the reason so many wagon models vanished from our shores was their perceived lack of style, or the lack of adventure a two-box design conveys to some (alright, most) shoppers – however incorrect that view is. Volvo appears to have confronted that stigma head-on with the V60’s styling – it’s low-slung and curvy enough to sidestep the “station wagon” descriptor all together. I know a few wagon detractors, and even they managed to warm to the V60’s styling.

SAMSUNG CSCThe V60 isn’t all looks, of course – a wagon wouldn’t be a worthy bearer of the name if it didn’t also pack a shed-load of stuff when called upon. The Volvo fairs pretty well in this regard, too. Despite its sleek tapered roofline, you can still fit a decent amount of stuff inside, landing somewhere close to a Jetta wagon in terms of overall space. The seatbacks fold in a 40/20/40 split, so fitting two outboard passengers is still possible even with a long item in the middle. One neat touch – the rear seat headrests fold down at the touch of a dash-mounted button when not needed, a classy party trick plucked from the likes of older Benzes. The thick-pile carpeting used in the cargo area feels like it would hold up for the long term, relinquishing Fido’s fur to the vacuum far easier than the cheap stuff covering most trunks.

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The rest of the interior is nicely finished and typically modern, comfortable and minimalist in the Swedish tradition. The seats deserve praise for being extremely comfy over a long haul but well-bolstered enough to hold you in place in the corners. Of course, Volvo’s always been quite good at building sport seats and their new ownership has done little to change that. A few of the infotainment controls confuse at first use, seeing as there’s no industry-typical joystick to navigate through the labyrinth of computer functions, but after a few days I had it figured out.

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What doesn’t?

Possibly to make the T6 R-Design stand out against the rest of the V60 lineup (as if 325 horsepower didn’t do that already), Volvo instilled a bit of starch into the chassis, too. Perhaps too much – the ride is tuned more toward ‘sport’ than feels strictly necessary in a car with the V60’s mission. Body motions have been tamped down to a minimum and body roll is well-controlled, but over broken pavement, large impacts register sharply – likely a result of the 19” tires’ minimal sidewall as well as the stiffer suspension. It’d be interesting to see how much the T6’s standard 18” wheel and tire package improves the ride. Also, though the R-Design’s steering rack offers a quicker rate than standard V60s, it doesn’t offer anything in the way of feedback.

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Overall?

While in Europe, we’d be spoiled for choice, station wagon enthusiasts in the United States have far more limited options. The fact that Volvo markets and sells a fast wagon in the states is lucky enough; that it’s also a good car is luckier still.

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2015.5 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design

Base price: $46,075

Price as tested: $48,225

Options on test car: Blind spot monitoring ($900), 19” wheels w/ summer tires ($750), Heated seats ($500)

Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive – 325 horsepower, 354 lb-ft torque

S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 22.9 mpg

Volvo provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.

                                 

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John Kucek

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