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Wagons

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now rounding out its lineup with the 2019 Volvo S60 sedan and V60 station wagon, the Swedish manufacturer likely has never seen an era when its name was more appropriate. In Latin, the word “volvo” means “I roll.”

Starting with its full-size XC90 three-seat crossover sport utility vehicle in 2016, Volvo is nearing completion of its plan to field a full line of new sedans, station wagons, crossover SUVs and hybrid models. There are now 10, from compact through midsize and large, plus different trim levels.

S60R-Design05The company also has set a goal of selling one million electrified vehicles by 2025. With the S60, it means all-wheel-drive T8 plug-in hybrid models with gasoline engines up front and electric motors at the rear wheels. As with all of its other vehicles, Volvo is sticking with 2.0-liter gasoline engines in various tunes with turbochargers and turbo/supercharger combinations.

Volvo also is among a few manufacturers that are bravely bucking the American aversion to station wagons and preference for tall crossover SUVs. The V60 is a wagon version of the S60 that, for now, still is built in Sweden.

The S60, now in its third generation, marks a milestone. It is the first Volvo ever built in the United States, in a new plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina, near Charleston. With 2.3 million square feet of space on a 1,600-acre campus, it represents a $1.8 billion investment and can produce up to 150,000 cars a year.

S60R-Design04As a premium brand, the S60 competes with the compact BMW 3-Series, Infiniti Q50, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS and Audi A4. The starting price of the base front-drive T5 Momentum model is $36,795.

Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. Volvo says it will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and deliver city/highway/combined fuel economy of 24/36/28 mpg on premium gasoline.

It is equipped with full modern safety equipment — a Volvo tradition — including oncoming lane collision and run-off road mitigation, automatic braking with pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection, and lane-keeping assist.

S60R-DesignInterior05Like all S60 sedans, the Momentum model comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard equipment, along with leatherette upholstery, audio system with SXM satellite radio, automatic climate control, power front seats and power-folding rear-seat headrests.

However, there are a couple of imperatives that Volvo has not adopted. The sun visors on the S60 and other Volvo models do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. And the sunshade for the panoramic sunroof, following a current cliché on luxury vehicles, is made of a flimsy perforated cheesecloth-like material that admits too much sunlight onto passengers’ heads. Sunshades should be opaque.

If your need or preference points toward all-wheel drive, add $4,500 to the price equation. The T6 Momentum AWD model starts at $41,295. The other two trim levels are the R-Design and Inscription.

S60R-DesignInterior08Driven for this review were two S60 sedans: T6 R-Design with all-wheel drive and T8 all-wheel drive Polestar. Also available was the V60 T6 Momentum all-wheel drive station wagon.

The first, the T6 all-wheel drive R-Design, came with a supercharged and turbocharged 316-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that made 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 5.3 seconds and 21/32/25 mpg on premium gasoline. It started at $47,395 and, with options, had a $49,895 sticker.

Polestar Engineered is Volvo’s moniker for high performance machinery — in this case a hybrid gasoline/electric power train that includes the 2.0-liter four-banger, supercharged and turbocharged, with 328 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, mated to an electric motor at the rear wheels.

New Volvo V60 exteriorTogether, they deliver 417 hp with a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, according to Volvo, with city/highway/combined fuel economy of 27/34/30 mpg. Also, as a plug-in hybrid, the Polestar Engineered S60 can run up to 21 miles on electric power alone.

The new Volvo S60 sedans and V60 wagons present an almost dizzying array of choices. What all three of those tested have in common are a solid, flex-free chassis and a supple, sporting suspension system for fuss-free cornering, and plenty of power to go wheel-to-wheel with their premium competitors.

Oh, make sure to check out the “city weave” seat covering in Momentum models. It’s a comfortable, classy cloth that, to this reviewer, is preferable to leather.

S60R-Design005Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design AWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged; 316 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,780 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/32/25 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,395.
  • Price as tested: $49,895.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

S60R-Design002Photos (c) Volvo

2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now presenting its all-new 2017 V90 Cross Country, Volvo demonstrates again that it has a way with wagons.

Going back generations, the Swedish vehicle manufacturer has persisted in developing rugged, safe and dependable station wagons, even when — as in the United States — they fell out of favor.

Now Volvo has added another element: refined luxury and off-road capability that should please its stalwart band of disciples as well as win it some converts.

Volvo V90 Cross Country

The resurgence of this venerable company arrived with its 2016 XC90 crossover sport utility vehicle, which earned it Truck of the Year Honors from an independent group of automotive journalists. It followed with the S90 luxury sedan and V90 station wagon.

Now it has taken the genre a step further with the Cross Country, which slots between the V90 station wagon and XC90 three-row crossover. It’s not a new concept; Volvo has been delivering Cross Country models for several decades.

Volvo V90 Cross Country

The new one is distinguished from the V90 by a taller ride height, bigger wheels and 8.3 inches of ground clearance — about the same as a standard Jeep Wrangler, which gives the Cross Country some solid off-road chops. However, its long wheelbase — the 116-inches gap between the front and rear axles — erodes that capability somewhat.

If it can’t go everywhere, the Cross Country can certainly handle terrain that would frustrate most luxury cars. Plus, its automatic all-wheel drive system makes for confident motoring in foul weather conditions.

Volvo V90 Cross Country

Curiously, early Volvo cars and wagons came with rear-wheel drive, a challenge in wintry Sweden. Back in the middle of the 20th century, if you wanted front-wheel drive, your Swedish car of choice was a Saab. But Volvo eventually also moved to front-drive and now sophisticated all-wheel drive as well.

Unlike vintage Volvo wagons, the new V90 Cross Country is no truck. It is a luxury car with quality construction, fine materials, comfort and convenience features, and most of all, the driving experience sought by buyers who can spend north of $60,000 on a refined five-passenger car with copious cargo space.

It is quiet and controlled on the highway with minimal intrusion of mechanical, wind or road noise. The steering has the heft and feel common to expensive luxury cars. And, should you happen to encounter dirt and gravel, the Cross Country grips the terrain and easily absorbs bumps, though the ride deteriorates because of tires that were chosen for looks as well as capability.

Interior

Volvo has forsaken V6 and V8 engines in favor of four-cylinder power. But its 2.0-liter is no ordinary four-banger. It uses both a supercharger and a turbocharger, with direct fuel injection. The supercharger, driven by the engine, provides boost at lower engine revolutions and the turbo, which runs off exhaust gases, kicks on to enhance horsepower and torque.

On the V90 Cross Country, the engine delivers 316 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. The power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy is 20/30/25 miles per gallon.

Android Auto start screen

Acceleration from zero-to-60 miles an hour happens in six seconds, with a top speed of 140 miles per hour, according to Volvo’s specifications. That’s a bit faster than the larger XC90 crossover — but the V90 Cross Country weighs 360 pounds less.

As an unabashed luxury/performance vehicle, the Cross Country starts at $56,295 with a full suite of safety, convenience and comfort features. Among them: Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control, run-off road protection, blind-spot warning, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation system, satellite radio and walnut wood inlays.

The tested Cross Country also arrived with the $1,200 optional rear air suspension system, premium Bowers & Wilkins audio, park assist, a surround view camera and metallic paint. All of the items brought the tested price to $63,545.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio detail

You can spend more by tacking on the $4,500 luxury package, which includes ventilated Nappa leather upholstery, leather trim on the dash and doors, power load cover, front-seat backrest massage and rear sunshades.

With all that, however, the V90 Cross Country has several curious shortcomings. Steering wheel tilt and telescope adjustments are manual, not power; the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the sides, and the sunroof shade is a perforated cloth that admits too much sunlight.

Nevertheless, for a small number of luxury wagon aficionados there are few, if any, other choices.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio detail

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country four-door wagon.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged, 316 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,221 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $56,295.
  • Price as tested: $63,545.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Volvo V90 Cross Country

Photos (c) Volvo.

 

2017 Subaru Outback: A DriveWays Review . . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

Some day someone will carve or cast a monument to the Subaru Outback, in 2017 still a steady success because of an imaginative modification.

In 1995, sport utility vehicles were coming into their own, led by the Ford Explorer, which used a pickup truck chassis with a station wagon body. It became the best-selling SUV. Other manufacturers took note.

But Subaru was a passenger car company with no truck experience. It finessed the situation by taking its existing Legacy station wagon, adding all-wheel drive and jacking up the body to deliver better ground clearance and a taller ride height.

17_Outback_SnowNot much later, the company decided to make all-wheel drive standard in all of its models. That exists to this day except for the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, developed jointly with Toyota, which sells it as the 86 (formerly Scion FR-S).

Though automobile engineering is way more complicated than most people imagine, adding all-wheel drive to the Outback and other Subaru models was relatively simple.

That’s because Subaru is the only vehicle manufacturer to exclusively install horizontally-opposed engines, also called “boxer” or “flat” engines, in all of its vehicles. It’s a design used from the 1930s to the mid-1970s in all Volkswagen Beetles and microbuses.

Boxer engines have their cylinders lying horizontally, feet to feet, on both sides of the crankshaft, instead of leaning or standing upright like engines with a V or vertical design. To add all-wheel drive to a front-drive vehicle the engineers ran a driveshaft off the back of the engine.

17TDI_OBKb049Boxer engines, because of their low profile, also deliver a lower center of gravity for improved handling. Some of that gets canceled out by the Outback’s tall profile but it works well.

With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Outback can negotiate many off-road trails. However, it lacks some equipment needed for serious boondocks duty — though it does have hill descent control. Its orientation is toward more secure handling in nasty weather conditions.

Subaru never did produce a typical truck-based SUV. Instead, almost every other manufacturer came around to Subaru’s concept. Truck-based SUVs now are in the minority while unit-body car-based crossover SUVs like the Outback rule the sales charts.

Moreover, Subaru’s vision enabled the company to survive and even improve sales in the great recession a decade ago. And it continues. Buyers signed up for 182,898 Outbacks in 2016. It was far and away Subaru’s best seller, better than the acclaimed Forester and the smaller Crosstrek, its other crossovers.

16Obk_Touring-intThe Outback 2.5i tested for this review was the Touring model, which came so well equipped that it carried no options. The starting price, $36,870, is the same as the bottom-line sticker. Power comes from a 175-hp four-cylinder boxer engine that delivers 174 lb-ft of torque. If you want more, the Touring can be upgraded for $2,200 with a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine with 247 lb-ft of torque.

Both versions get the power to all four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

A CVT, which uses a system of belts and pulleys to multiply the engine’s torque, ordinarily has no shift points. Some sound and feel as if the transmission is slipping. That doesn’t sit well with some drivers, who prefer the feel of automatic shift points.

17TDI_OBKb010Subaru mitigates most of that and also programs the transmission to impart artificial shift points under hard acceleration. The manual shift mode on the 2.5i mimics a six-speed automatic. EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is a respectable 25/32/28 miles to the gallon.

One shortcoming: If you shut off the engine in Drive and forget to shift into Park, the Outback can roll away. There’s no automatic fail-safe.

Though the Outback is a midsize, it feels and drives like a bigger vehicle. Interior space is generous, especially in the back seat, which has enough knee and head room to accommodate NBA basketball players. The drawback is the center-rear seat, which is compromised by a hard, high cushion and a large floor hump.

The tested Touring model came with Subaru’s Eyesight system, which includes such safety items as collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and automatic braking when reversing.

The Outback still resembles a station wagon. But it’s doubtful prospective customers see anything but a fully-equipped midsize crossover SUV that comes with a promise of durability and a long-term relationship.

17_ObkSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, 175 hp, 174 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with six-speed manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 105/36 cubic feet. (73)
  • Weight: 3,684 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/32/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,870.
  • Price as tested: $36,870.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

17TDI_OBKb003Photos (c) Subaru

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In the interest of accuracy discussing the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, let’s call a spade a spade—or, this case, a wagon a wagon.

VW folks perhaps would like us to think of it as a compact crossover sport utility vehicle because small and compact crossovers currently are the hottest items in the market, rapidly muscling into sales of compact and midsize sedans.

But Volkswagen already has a compact crossover called the Tiguan. The Alltrack basically is the same vehicle as the Golf SportWagen, only slightly taller with better ground clearance and all-wheel drive.

2017_golf_alltrack_6343The Tiguan had respectable sales of 43,638 in 2016. But it was way down the ladder from the compact crossover leader, the Honda CR-V, which sold 357,355 copies.

Generally, crossover SUVs have unit bodies, built like most automobiles. The original SUVs were, and are, built like pickup trucks with their bodies sitting on separate frames. An example of a truck-based SUV is the Chevrolet Tahoe. The car-based Subaru Forester is a crossover.

For some unfathomable reason, U.S. buyers decided some time back that they didn’t like station wagons or hatchbacks. The distaste continues for wagons, which had their heyday back in the 1970s. But customers are warming up to hatchbacks, mainly because manufacturers finessed the situation by jacking up hatchbacks to crossover height and adding all-wheel drive.

2017_golf_alltrack_6349Nevertheless, modern station wagons—especially one like the Alltrack with standard all-wheel drive—continue to be useful and driver friendly. They usually handle and perform as well as their sedan siblings with the bonus of, in some cases, double the cargo carrying capability.

That’s not the case with the Alltrack. Because it’s based on the hatchback Golf, its cargo space of 30 cubic feet is only about seven cubic feet more than the Golf’s. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome windfall. The Alltrack also is a foot longer than the Golf and better looking with its stretched profile.

The tested Alltrack was a midlevel SE version with a $31,350 price tag. It was well equipped overall but lacked a couple of desirable features, including automatic climate control and a fully powered driver’s seat. To get those you must step up to the top-line SEL.

2017_golf_alltrack_6329But the motorized seatback recline feature and manual seat adjustments, which include seat height, should satisfy almost everyone. They lack only the full fine-tune power adjustments favored by finicky drivers. The seats themselves deliver support and comfort, though they are covered in man-made leatherette, which is durable but sticky in summertime. Front seats are heated so they are only briefly chilly in wintertime.

Interior space is not generous. The driver and front-seat passenger have plenty of head and elbow room. But the outboard back seats, despite decent space for the noggin, come up short on knee room. Though there’s a seatbelt for a fifth passenger in the middle, it’s not worth the bother, compromised by an intrusive floor hump and a hard seat cushion.

Safety equipment included a standard rear-view camera, stability and traction control, fog lights, heated windshield washers and tire pressure monitoring along with a crash mitigation system.

2017_golf_alltrack_6327Desirable convenience features included a motorized glass sunroof, upscale Fender audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, SXM satellite radio with an informative center touch screen, keyless entry, pushbutton starting and selectable driving modes: Off-road, custom, normal and sport.

The sport setting holds the transmission to higher engine revs before shifting for better acceleration and passing. Though the off-road mode incorporates hill descent control, the Alltrack should not be confused with a genuine boondocks basher. It can handle foul weather and, with its slightly better road clearance, can negotiate unpaved forest roads. Mostly what the all-wheel drive provides is more secure handling on curving two-lane highways.

The Alltrack, despite weighing about 250 pounds more than the SportWagen, nevertheless is a spunky performer. It is powered by VW’s ubiquitous 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a smooth but snap shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

With a mid-seven-second 0-60 acceleration time, it won’t win many stoplight sprints. But it exhibits a lightness of being that infuses throttle inputs, and steering and suspension system feedback, which impart an eager and nimble feel.

About the only thing the Alltrack lacks is a taller profile. Many drivers derive confidence from sitting up high and looking over the traffic, though that’s problematical now with the proliferation of crossovers.

Maybe VW should simply jack it up a bit more.

2017_golf_alltrack_6346Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE four-door station wagon.
  • Engine:8-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 170 hp, 199 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,497 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,350.
  • Price as tested: $31,350.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017_golf_alltrack_6336Photos (c) Volkswagen

2017 Volvo V90 Road Test and Review

by Jason Fogelson

Plenty of vehicles get labeled “iconic,” but few really deserve the term. The Volvo wagon lives up to “icon” status, and now there’s a new generation of the flagship on its way. When it arrives on US shores later this year, the 2017 Volvo V90 wagon will take its place on showroom floors next to the fantastic new S90 sedan.

Extending the roofline and adding a tailgate transforms the sedan into a very different vehicle. Curvier and more streamlined than the boxy Volvo wagons of old, the new V90 is gorgeous and elegant. The interior is a model of Scandinavian design, with natural materials and a minimum of fuss.

As soon as I drove the V90 during a launch event in Malaga, Spain, I told my friend Russell Datz, Volvo USA’s Media Relations Manager, that I’ve found the car that I’m going to buy next — in 2024, when I can afford a used 2017 V90.

You can read my full 2017 Volvo V90 Test Drive and Review at Autobytel.com.

Photo (c) Jason Fogelson

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