Whatever happened to station wagons, anyway? Used to be, suburban streets were lousy with moms sporting Dorothy Hamill haircuts and driving kid ‘n’ cargo-friendly wagons. Some of those cars had seating for nine, or could accommodate a whole sheet of plywood!
For the most part, the trusty wagon has receded into memory, replaced by the SUV. And nowadays, they’re not even called station wagons. Aficionados call them “long roofs” or “shooting brakes,” because the more archaic, the more cool. Or, if you’re British, “estates.”
But some have never gone away. In fact, there are those that command a die-hard group of devotees, like the Volvo station wagon. Once the boxy domain of university professors and safety zealots, the Volvo wagon has evolved into a comely and spunky set of wheels. And wouldn’t you know, once I started thinking about it, I had to admit – I had a need for a Swede.
It was hard not to be smitten by the V60’s good looks. The noble and patrician prow was all quiet curves and sloping shoulders. That long roof over the generous cabin, gracefully arched back to a neat rectangle of a back window. Dazzling in crystal white metallic under the late winter sun, I sped off in the V60, swaddled in buttery soft leather upholstery. Here, there were enough ergonomic adjustments to make my physio turn handsprings.
And of course, the Swedes understand winter. My Volvo came with Brother Sven, a little metallic man who lived in the centre stack – all I had to do was prod his anatomy to get heat directed at my corresponding body part. In fact, everything came heated – seats (front and back), steering wheel, windshield and washer nozzles – I was safe from the ravages of winter.
My first stop was lunch with a lovely, lanky colleague, who’d been the proud owner of a fully loaded 1999 Volvo V70 wagon. It had taken her family through thick and thin for many years, and she was suitably impressed with the V60. Oh, it was smaller, but offered so many more little comforts. We flipped up the tailgate, and cooed over the many configurations. There were false bottoms galore; a handy latch to hold up the shelf while you stowed your precious cargo underneath; and a set of nets, in case you wanted to drive around with, say, a furry companion or two. Flip down the back seats, and I could have stowed a year’s worth of kitty litter!
Setting about my mundane tasks was an absolute pleasure in the V60. The Drive-E engine offered up 240 horsepower, which was superb on the highway. In fact, I made a point of picking up the week’s groceries at a Loblaws in the east end of the city, just so I could jump on the highway and tear past the kids testing the limits in their hot hatches.
Not only was I faster, I was a lot safer, too. The V60 was brimming with so many safety features that it would have taken weeks to try them all – collision warning, pedestrian and bicycle detection, blind spot monitoring, distance alert, driver alert control, lane change assist.
Of course, the real test came when I was racing to meet my cousin for tea uptown. The St. Patrick’s Day parade meant road closures. Grim-faced motorcycle police stood sentry at every major thoroughfare, but I was hardly going to let the gendarme come between me and tiers of scones! The V60 handily spun U-turns on the narrow uptown streets, and we outsmarted a cavalcade of moto-cops by a hair.
I clicked the remote to lock the doors, and the rear-view mirrors flashed and folded in.
It was as if the V60 was bowing and bidding me a fond farewell.
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