Volvo: Please, Make it Simple

Executive Wheels: The Volvo T6 AWD Momentum is a great Colorado car for those who love all the high-tech nonsense


Growing up in Flint, Mich. in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was rare to see a foreign car. The first time I remember ever seeing a Volvo was in Ann Arbor in the late 1960s, and it was the beautiful sports car, the P1800. Unlike any American car I had ever seen, the P1800 seemed exotic, highly styled and it certainly had a “cool” factor right up there with the American vehicles like the GTO, the Mustang, the Camaro/Firebird and, of course, the Corvette.

Unfortunately, as I grew into full automobile-junkie status Volvo took a turn to the mundane, and over the ensuing nearly 50 years the Sweden-based company has been better known for boxy designs and safety. That safety heritage is long, extending back to the company’s 1927 founding in the automobile business, and its record of safety innovation continues to this day.

What’s different these days is that Volvo cars are also very stylish, and that is very much shown in this 2019 V60 T6 AWD Momentum. When I first got into the vehicle I thought the off-white leather and tattersall cloth interior to be among the most beautiful car cabins I have ever seen.

The “V” in the model name is Volvo’s nomenclature for station wagon. Volvo says the “V” actually stands for “versatile,” and given the dearth of station wagons in the American market for the last 30 years, it is no surprise the company stays away from the station wagon terminology.

Actually, however, Volvo should probably stay away from station wagons entirely, and I’ll tell you why. The largest auto market on the planet is the United States, and the appetite for station wagons isn’t very strong. Volvo does offer three SUV models  ̶  one of which, the XC60, that carries a base price just $500 more than this V60 wagon. With the XC60, you can get all the luxury and safety accessories you get in the wagon (both have AWD), plus you get the same storage versatility and quite a boost in ground clearance.

I can tell you from my experience in the V60 on a mountain drive that I would opt for the ground clearance of the XC60 – heck, even in town where there are those storm-drain dips, the V60 was too low. I used to love these wagon models until I became enamored with SUVs. (For the record, Volvo offers four “V” wagon models, only three XC models and it’s down to two sedans.)

On my list of 2018 car sales, Volvo doesn’t crack 20,000 in 2018 U.S. sales for any car, V or S, but shows up with 32,689 for the XC60 and 31,609 for the XC90. So, I rest my case.

Having pretty much nixed the notion of a “station wagon” altogether, I guess it’s easy to see where I’m going with this review. I loved driving this car around town and on the highway – Volvos are well made, comfortable, luxurious, quiet and this V60 is an impressive member of the lineup. But I had other reservations beyond the ground clearance thing, and these reservations are basically universal to Volvo. The big bugaboo here – and I have seen it in many Volvos – is the enormous 9-inch screen in the middle of the dashboard.

I have written extensively in these reviews about how much I dislike the now almost ubiquitous technology-access screens in luxury and near-luxury vehicles, and this one is one of the worst. These digital, touch-screen access points – even with voice commands – are dangerously distractive, and this one bugged me no end.

I’m sure Volvo adds the voice command option in an effort to decrease the distraction, but it would be simpler to just have one-touch or turn buttons. This Volvo screen operates like an iPad, with swiping side-to-side. I pulled over several times during my week-long test drive just so I could concentrate to change a station or find the right climate settings.

This V60 does have just about everything you’d imagine in safety and entertainment technology – most cars over $25k these days do – so I won’t bore you with the details. It’s all here. On the plus side, the car has a huge panoramic sunroof, with a fabric cover that rolls back behind the second row seats (it opens to air only over the front seats) and it is quite beautiful. Also, it seems to brake itself at stoplights, which is a nice touch. In addition, there’s a hands-free liftgate opener operated with the wave of a foot, and an amazing 360-degree camera view that makes parking a snap. 

The 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, both supercharged and turbocharged, is also a wonder, putting out some 316 horsepower in this T6 model and, coupled with an 8-speed automatic transmission, this V6 is both very powerful and unbelievably smooth to operate. When you add in the All-Wheel-Drive, it is a great Colorado car for those who appreciate all the high-tech nonsense.

The base price on this car is $42,400, and they added very little, including the destination charge, to get to a sticker bottom line of $46,195.  I know, since I have driven the competition, that this is a very good price for this car, and I also know there are people out there who like all the complications and distractions and would love a Volvo. For those, I recommend they look to the XC varieties. For all the rest of us, well, I’ll keep searching for the nice luxury carmaker that understands that simple is better.


Categories: Industry Trends, Transportation