Before the spread of SUV’s, people got along just fine hauling all their daily needs in the trunk of a sedan, and their family members in the back seats. For people with big projects, or the hunter-gatherer spirit, a station wagon added more versatile space.

Over the years of renovating our house, we moved lumber, drywall, rocks and plants in the back of a Ford Taurus station wagon. It worked just fine.

Then SUV’s and CUV’s came along and the public became convinced they were essential, even if the most adventurous trip was driving six kilometres to Grandad’s Donuts.

Automotive journalists are usually enthusiasts and like to drive sports cars, and almost any car over a CUV. We disparage them constantly. We are out of touch, because the love affair with boxes on jacked up wheels is growing. I covered the Ford Motor Company new vehicle introductions at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and they pronounced “There is no end in sight to the sales of CUV’s.”

How about a compromise? A station wagon perhaps? They are out there, often expensive, but still offering utility and style in a sensible package.

I always liked the Volvo station wagon from any time period, so was happy to test-drive the V60 Cross Country wagon for a week. It’s not cheap, my tester was $50,400,

though it starts at a base price of $44,100. The Cross Country rides a little higher than the V60 Sportwagon and has scuff and skid plates for cruising cottage roads. All- wheel-drive combined with dynamic stability and traction control adds to the safety profile consumers expect from the Volvo name.

Both inside and out, it’s a lovely car. The exterior has a curvy, sculptural flow that is many miles away from the old boxy wagon. Inside it manages to be both minimalist and luxurious. The contoured seats in the front are as thick as a deep-dish pizza, with black and brown leather surfaces and contrasting stitching. The dashboard is

pretty plain Jane, but the starkness appealed to me. Big buttons are always welcome for radio and climate controls, and the centre gauges have clear graphics, including an oversized readout of the speedometer which tends to keep your speed in check.

There is plenty of room for long legged people in both front and back, however entry to the back seats is a little cramped. Back seats fold completely flat so sliding in cargo is easy. I hauled ferns, palms, bags of mulch and other horticultural cargo and always seemed to have room for more.

Right away when driving its apparent what a solid car the V60 is. Steering has good feel, and acceleration is perky from the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine. It’s rated at 250 horsepower with 266 pound-feet of torque. Nothing rattles or vibrates, visibility is good, and fuel economy is decent. I averaged 12.7 L/100 km in a lot of city driving, and could have done better if the Eco driving mode was used more often. Volvo gives the driver the

choice of Eco, Elegance (normal) and Performance Driving modes.

A $1,500 Technology Package bundles a bunch of safety enhancements including lane departure warning, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot assistance, and driver alert. They work well, aren’t too obtrusive, but I find the more lights and buzzers going off, the more they tend to get ignored.

The Volvo V60 Cross Country wagon moves people, pets and cargo with ease. It’s pleasant to drive, easy to park, and stylish. After a week driving it, I’m on the bandwagon.

Written by: Kathy Renwald

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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