After a stint in the U.K. -- densely populated, with narrow roads, loads of traffic, and constricted parking spaces -- I’ll never forget moving back to America and the agoraphobic-like feeling I had as I drove through the vast openness of rural Michigan. I had a similar experience when I turned in AUTOMOBILE’s Four Seasons 2014 Ford Fiesta ST and swapped into the long-term 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E.
The two cars couldn’t be more dissimilar. The calm, polished nature of the 2015 Volvo V60 is the polar opposite of the manic, focused character of the Fiesta ST. Whereas you drive the Ford like a sex-deprived, pimple-faced teenager, the Swedish wagon brings out the relaxed, pipe-smoking college professor hidden inside you. The 2015 Volvo V60 is just so relaxing and coddling. I soon found myself running the Volvo’s Drive-E powertrain in Eco-plus mode, letting the eager stop/start system and early-shifting eight-speed automatic help save the Earth. Really, what’s the hurry? It’s like I’m on sabbatical.
The V60’s seats are a big part of the experience. Volvo still fits the best benches for your bottom in the business. The optional sport seats in our test car are supportive and comfortable, so much so that fine adjustments are rarely needed on long journeys. The only problem is that we skipped the heating option. But that’s our fault; for only $500 you can add the essential butt warmers. Actually, if you’re particularly switched on you’ll instead pony up $1,550 for the Climate Package. This adds heated seats front and rear, a heated steering wheel, heated windshield washer nozzles, a heated windshield, and an interior air-quality sensor. Leave it to the Scandinavians to offer such a thorough and cosseting package for winter driving.
Speaking of cold-weather driving, the snow gods blessed Michigan with their gifts of frozen precipitation early this year. Luckily, we were ahead of the game and had already mounted a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 winter tires ($889.16 including shipping and installation) on the 18-inch wheels (part of the Sport Package). The aggressive rubber adds immense grip to the front-wheel-drive Volvo in the ice and snow, driving home the fact that winter tires are far more important than all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, the blizzard-ready tire setup compromises the driving experience when the weather improves. The soft compound of the Blizzak tires means straight-line stability and ultimate grip in the dry and the rain take a big hit compared with the OEM Continental all-season setup. Unless you live where the roads are regularly covered in snow and ice or the noted compromises are worth the over-the-top security during a wicked storm, I’d seriously consider a less aggressive winter tire.
Less than aggressive is actually a good way to describe the 2015 Volvo V60 overall. It doesn’t overly impress in any one specific way. The Scandinavian station wagon doesn’t handle particularly well when pushed and suffers from annoying torque steer under medium to heavy throttle. The electric power steering offers little feel, and the broken Michigan roads can upset the Sport Package-equipped chassis. But slow down your pace and you quickly appreciate the honesty and depth of the V60. Volvo still builds a comfortable, straightforward, and practical automobile, just as the Swedish automaker has done for years. The V60 is classy and understated. It’s a car you can’t help but appreciate and respect. In a world full of overpromising and underdelivering, the 2015 Volvo V60 is extremely refreshing. Or, as the Brits say, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
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