2021 Best Wagon: Volvo V60 / V60 Cross Country

The station wagon may be watching from the sidelines as buyers make a mad rush to SUVs, but we Canadians still like them, and Volvo, bless its Nordic heart, still makes them. And good ones, too, as evidenced by the 2021 Volvo V60/V60 Cross Country, which was voted by our team of automotive experts as the Best Wagon in the Awards for the second year running.

This mid-size wagon was up against some tough “long-roofs” the in the final draw – the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon, Mercedes E-Class Wagon, and Audi A6 Allroad/RS6 – but our jury of over 20 experts from all over the country found this stylish, practical, and fine-driving Swede worthy of the win.

At the risk of sounding superficial, the Volvo V60 is dead sexy from any angle – better looking than the S60 sedan on which it is based, and certainly more useful. From the side it shows a rakish profile, enhanced by a sharp shoulder line, graceful sculpting of its flanks and a tapering greenhouse. Volvo’s signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights flank a sleek concave grille, and out back we see the bold vertical taillights that have adorned Volvo wagons for decades.

The V60’s cabin is high on Swedish minimalism, rife with beautifully organic materials and executed with loving precision. Standard is Volvo’s Sensus Connect interface with its large portrait-oriented touchscreen. As there is a dearth of hard buttons on the dash (Nordic minimalism, remember?), almost every function of the car must be accessed through this poke, pinch, swipe, and ultimately smudgy portal. This interface irked some reviewers, and proved to be about the only real gripe we can level at this car.

Superlative front seat comfort is a hallmark of Volvo, and the V60 carries on the tradition. The optional “City Weave” fabric gets our vote for the coolest looking car seats, hands down.

All Volvo V60s are powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder (turbocharged or turbo- and supercharged) and run with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This wagon comes in a variety of flavours, spanning from the base front-wheel-drive 250-hp $43,900 Momemtum to the $82,300 plug-in hybrid Polestar Engineered that storms the gates with 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque from its twin-charged 2.0L four-cylinder and rear-mounted electric motors that drive the back wheels. The middle-ground is occupied by the sporty all-wheel-drive 316-hp R-Design ($53,900) and Inscription ($55,400).

Of particular interest to us pragmatic and winter-prone Canadians is the all-wheel-drive $48,900 V60 Cross Country that rides a little higher, gets some tough body cladding and uses the base 250-hp engine that provides plenty of poke and delivers the best fuel economy when looking at our wagon finalists. Not only does the Cross Country benefit from increased ground clearance, it has a more compliant ride than its lower-riding siblings thanks to its longer wheel travel and higher-profile 17-inch tires.

As with most premium offerings that come from Europe, it’s easy to inflate the V60’s bottom line with options and packages. But looking at the other wagons our winner was up against, this Swede actually offers decent value as a good chunk (but not all) of Volvo’s safety systems are standard fare.

Juror Benjamin Hunting notes, “Wagons – even those disguised as crossovers like the V60 Cross Country – are among the best at combining a pleasing driving experience with excellent utility. This Volvo’s 1,441 L of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded puts it on par with the average small SUV, but what I liked most about it was the enormous opening at the rear that makes it easy to stack packages, tools, and sports equipment.”

Safety is also a key feature of Volvo, and while the V60 wagon has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), its S60 sedan stablemate gets a Top Safety Pick rating from the institute. In her review of the Volvo V60 Inscription, reviewer Stephanie Wallcraft wrote, “Volvo has a reputation to uphold, not the least of it being a stated desire that no one be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo by 2020.”

We would like it if the very-useful blind-spot detection was included with the other V60’s standard safety systems. Buyers should consider the $1,800 Vision Package (blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, front and rear park assist, auto-dimming mirrors) as “required.”

In conclusion, the Volvo V60 took this award based on a number of its merits. Its price of entry is the lowest among the finalists, yet that doesn’t reflect on its utility or desirability. There’s also a mighty broad spectrum of models here – pick your levels of power, luxury, sportiness, off-road ability, and green-cred. All are tech- and safety-rich, beautifully constructed, and comfortable while embracing a clean Scandinavian design flair that delights the senses and sidesteps the mainstream. Sure, these Nordic long-roofs have a few quirks, but what would a Volvo wagon be without those?