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Volvo V60

V60_4

Base Price: $35,950
Price as Tested: $48,350

If you are going to clock more than 900 miles across the mountains through snow, ice, 60 mile-per-hour gusting cross winds and sub-zero temperatures, the Volvo V60 wagon is a darn good choice. That the one I did this in was a red, top-of-the-line V60 T6 R-Design AWD certainly didn’t diminish the experience.

Obviously one doesn’t need to be a genius to be an auto journalist. For example, to save a few bucks on this year’s annual V60_3Christmas trip to my sister’s in New Mexico, I arrived at the bright idea to fly into Denver, get a car and drive the 450 miles south to Los Lunas, NM. I’ve made the drive before, but of course, that was a summer fun run. Late December is an entirely different issue. Yep, it sure is.

Answering my request for an AWD vehicle, Volvo cowboyed up and offered to provide my choice of an XC60 crossover or the V60 wagon. I’m sort of a “wagon guy;” besides, the EPA estimates the wagon will deliver 28 mpg on the highway versus the XC60’s 24 mpg. This trip was basically all I-25; so, I opted for the Volvo that would burn five less gallons of gas. Yep, I am that cheap. I refer you to the paragraph above.

I cheated a little, too. I had the V60 T6 a few weeks earlier at home in Greenville and loved it. It’s a terrific-looking car with precise handling and excellent road manners. I really liked the idea of spending the 15 hours the round trip would take in this highly engineered, well-furnished machine.

V60_5Armed with the largest and most aggressive V60 engine, the T6 uses a 325-horsepower 3-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine for its thrust. There is also the more economic 240-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine-tranny combo is only in FWD V60s. The third engine is the 250-horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine. The five- and six-cylinder engines come with a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission with AWD.

Not surprising, the turbocharged four delivers the best fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. The turbocharged five-cylinder comes in at 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. My test T6 was rated at 19/28/22.

All V60s are well equipped with such accouterments as dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with iPod interface.

Perched at the top of the V60 trim-level heap, the T6 R-Design also sports leather seating, rearview camera, folding outboard V60_6mirrors, fold-flat front passenger seat, navigation system, sport-tuned suspension, xenon headlights and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system.

Additionally, my test Volvo had $3,200 in options that included the Climate Package with front/rear heated seats, heated steering wheel and heated windshield-washer nozzles, as well as blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and front/rear park assist.

Interior design reflects Volvo’s Scandinavian heritage. It’s comfortable and easy to find your way around. Dialing an address into the navi system is a bit awkward and time consuming, but that’s a small nit to pick. A couple of my grand nieces who spent some time in the backseat were thrilled that it was heatable.

My only real complaint wasn’t with the V60 itself. Once off the airport access and on I-25, I discovered that speeds over 60 mph caused a whistle that sounded like it originated from the sunroof. This wasn’t a hey-do-you-hear-something whistle, but a OMG-someone-please-make-it-stop whistle. After two hours I was ready to dial 911 and shout into the phone, “Yes, it was me; I kidnapped the Lindbergh baby!”

It turns out the racket was caused by a loose cross member on the luggage rack.

I flirted with mountains most of the way between Colorado Springs and Santa Fe. The trip south wasn’t overly challenging. I did deal with some snow and freezing rain for about an hour and a half right at the Colorado-New Mexico border. I sort of enjoyed it. Some blowing snow seemed a fitting way to usher in my Christmas trip. I was on vacation: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

The trip back to Denver, however, was a different story. An Arctic front was moving across Colorado and New Mexico. The snow and wet were nonstop. I padded my drive time by an extra three hours to allow for any catastrophe I might encounter. The weather was relentless. In places, traffic was moving at 45 miles per hour. Both states were doing an acceptable job of keeping I-25 clear. New Mexico seemed to have a better handle on it. Only once did I feel the V60’s stability control activate to keep me on the straight and narrow as I hit a patch of ice cresting a hill.

I was both relieved and stressed to the max as I pulled into the large, pristine garage that houses the valet area for the off-site lot of Canopy Parking at Denver’s airport. No doubt the affection I felt for the V60 at that point mimicked the love a freshly rescued merchant sailor must have for the raft that kept him afloat for 20 days.

I was just a little sad to leave the V60 behind as I caught the shuttle to the terminal.