But the lumbering, underpowered and indestructible tanks of yesteryear have been replaced by modern machines that are more stylish affairs, thanks to Volvo’s determination to shake off its fusty image, with a focus on design that began with the hiring of talented crayon twirler Peter Horbury in 1991. The Brit has long since moved on, but his legacy lives on in a range of vehicles that boast a polished and distinctive design language.
In the case of the V60, which is simply the handsome station wagon version of Volvo’s second-generation S60 sedan, this entails market positioning that’s more ‘sportwagon’ than load lugger.
In industry parlance, the V60 is a compact mid-size wagon and is pitted against fellow European estates such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. In practical terms, this positioning ensures a not overly large 430-litre boot and a fairly compact rear seat, so our first family trip away in the D4 long-termer was always going to be a test of carrying capacity, packing skills and patience.
We Bulmers aren’t known for travelling light – we’ll take the kitchen sink and the blender too, given the chance – so a simple long weekend away can take on the logistical look and feel of a minor military manoeuvre.
Behind the rear seats of the Volvo is a pull-out cargo barrier, which clips to the roof.
Hence why, halfway through jamming the intimidating pile of bags, scooters, skateboards and bazookas into the V60’s modestly proportioned derriere, I began to wonder if it was too late to add a roof pod to the options list. It was, so I unloaded and knuckled to the task of whittling down the load before repacking it.
In the process, I was pleasantly surprised to discover something missed in my haste to pack and go – those clever Swedes have thought of just such an eventuality and built a neatly integrated cargo net into the backs of the rear seats. The net pulls up out of a cartridge that runs the width of the cargo bay, clipping into mounts in the roof lining. It’s a handy feature as it enhances the amount of available space by enabling you to pack higher without fear the kids will cop a Samsonite tattoo under heavy braking. With the help of the magic net, both the bocce set and the budgie cage made the cut.
The Volvo V60 may not boast the pallet-swallowing ability of its box-like predecessors, but it has them well and truly covered in the style stakes, while also adding some neat practical touches.
This article was first published in Wheels May 2015