By on July 8, 2013

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What you’re looking at here is

  1. A big “F U” to CAFE regulations
  2. Very likely the next vehicle my parents buy

When Volvo killed off the V70 wagon in 2010, it marked a turning point for the brand; how could Volvo continue on without its signature product, the station wagon? It seemed as absurd as the idea of a Caterham crossover.

Crossovers, even those like the XC70 which had a slightly higher ride height and some cladding, were much more advantageous to get around CAFE loopholes (and could be sold at a higher profit). In most cases, car makers are better off selling pseudo-crossovers to their customers for these reasons, as wagons tend to linger on showroom floors and then command a premium on the used market (for more on that see the 2005 Subaru Legacy GT).

Not so with Volvo. The much-rumored scuttlebutt was that many longtime Volvo customers were unhappy that the faux-crossover XC lineup was all that was available to replace their wagons. Enter the V60. It’s a compact station wagon with a couple of I6 powerplants (likely for North America) that are likely not terribly efficient. Volvo will pay dearly for this in terms of CAFE, but we should applaud their guile. We may get a diesel or a plug-in hybrid powertrain option, but I’m holding out for a Polestar-tuned T6 and AWD.

One can only imagine that dealers were screaming for this car, and now Volvo has sent out this tweet confirming its stateside launch. Although Volvo sales have been on the up-and-up, they’ve never really recovered from the best years when Volvo had some strong wagon offerings. My cynicism towards the commercial viability of this bodystyle may be well documented, but if any auto maker needs to offer one, it’s Volvo. Wagons are the heart and soul of the Volvo brand.

I suspect this product will have a wide open niche, now that Audi no longer offers an A4 Avant. There are enough buyers out there who will want to buy any premium wagon that is not a BMW 3-Series. My parents are a prime example, though they ended up buying a 2011 Volvo XC60 T6. They’ve had their eye on the European market V40 for some time, but the V60 T6 would be just the ticket to replace the XC.

 

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50 Comments on “Volvo Station Wagon Delights Derek’s Parents, Gives CAFE The Middle Finger...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    Derek’s comments about the commercial viability are correct in the US but the market is big enough for one or two entries and as he says Volvo is certainly a brand that personifies wagons.

    Much as the market for two seater soft top cars is small but Mazda and perhaps Subaru/Scion can make a go of it. Or small mini-vans with the Mazda 5 and the Kia Rondo (when it comes back). Not commercial large enough markets for most brands,m but a few.

    • 0 avatar
      mklrivpwner

      The viability argument for wagons in the US are circular at best. At worst, they are downright irrational.
      “Wagons are a niche market”; Niche in this context, I assume, is a “specialized market”, making the argument “Wagons are a specialized market market.” Redundencies aside, Saying that wagons fill a niche in he US automitive world is the equivalent of saying whoopie pies fill a niche in the cookie consumer world. Essentially, how do you define a niche? Limited sales volume? In that case, what is limiting the sales; available models, production volume, consumer interest, market redirection towards CUVs, review writers envy of a good wagon (“I wish I had a car that was that cool”),…? A narrow consumer market? How narrow is “Every US family with more than one kid and one dog?”
      “Wagons aren’t as safe as SUVs”. Sure they are. In fact, I’d bet they are even more safe as they are certainly less prone to roll over in the event of a catastrophic blow out (Ford Explorer). The only safety flaw I see is that they aren’t as tall as the gigantic SUVs making it more difficult to see from an SUV.
      “No body buys them”. Because there aren’t enough available models.
      “Makers aren’t building them, there must be a reason”. Because nobody can buy them because there aren’t enough available models.
      “Nobody buys them”. Because there aren’t … *sigh* Just buy one already.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I have a 2006 Subaru Legacy wagon (not the GT unfortunately). Subaru stopped making the Legacy wagon with the next redesign, the reason was limited sales compared to the Outback (which is just a higher riding Legacy Wagon and some different bumper parts). My wagin had sat on the dealers lot for over 90 days when I bought in in January 2006. That gives an indication of the lack of popularity of the car.
        VW at that time sold the Passat wagon, but again it was not offered at the next redesign because of limited sales. Mazda also offered the 6 wagon, but this again had limited sales compared to the sedan and was not offered again.
        So manufacturers have tried to sell wagons here in the US, but because of limited sales (in part due to the rise of crossovers) they have not continued.

        • 0 avatar
          Ubermensch

          I purchased my 2006 Legacy SE Wagon under identical circumstances. It sat on the lot for months while the Outbacks couldn’t stay on the lot.

          I have come to the realization that wagons are pretty much gone from these shores for good and it has nothing to do with lack of availability. They didn’t sell when they WERE available. Now we are left with just a few niche wagons some of which are from overpriced luxury brands. Hopefully, the new V60 won’t be priced in the stratosphere.

          • 0 avatar
            357

            This sort of hints at what I think the real problem is.
            Why does one buy a wagon? Because you want maximized utility while simultaneously being unwilling to give up the superior driving dynamics of a car. The people who make the judgement that they’re unwilling to give up the driving dynamics of a car are also likely to be the ones who’d be unwilling to buy the car if it doesn’t get the high-performance powertrain option. And since manufacturers seem to mostly offer the lower-performance powertrain option in the wagon here in the US (BMW is particularly guilty of this, although they came so close with the E39 540iT), it makes absolute sense to me that sales numbers are low.

            Case in point: the F11 3-series wagon. I guarantee sales will be low. People who want only utility and don’t care about what they’re driving will buy the X3 (same space, same price, same driveline). People who care somewhat about utility but who refuse to drive an SUV won’t buy the 3er wagon, because it (so far) doesn’t look like it’ll be offered with anything but the small engine, automatic transmission, and AWD.

            The manufacturers don’t seem to be realizing that it’s their own decisions–not the pure influences of the market–that are artificially suppressing sales.

          • 0 avatar
            See 7 up

            Since I can’t reply to 357 due to web browser issues, I’ll +1 his comment here.

            As stated wagons come with minimal options, lowest spec and “lowest” powertrain. I believe that is why their sales numbers are horrid. They may never be sales leaders, but I think luxury wagon makes like BMW and Audi would be better off bringing full sport wagons as the only trim. Like a 335i Touring.

            Same can be said for manual transmissions. Take the Mazda CX-5. If you want a manual, you are limited to FWD, 3 colors of which are grey, black and silver (normally you get the pick of 7) and no options available. And dealers wonder why they don’t sell.

            But why would they follow my advice. They can sucker/force people that want a more performance oriented car that is still practical into paying the premium for a CUV or lifted allroad/outback type wagon thingy.

          • 0 avatar
            Mark_MB750M

            357/7up

            I don’t agree that the wagons get base specs – certainly not for Volvo’s. When we bought our 2006 V70, the engine choices were the 2.4 NA, 2.5T, and the T5. as I recall those were the same engine choices as in the S60.
            The rest of the car could be optioned up as well – leather, moonroof, climate pack, GPS, hi-level audio, etc. Definitely not a stripper unless you wanted it that way

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            @ 357 & See 7 up – you guys hit the nail on the head for me, I’d love to get a wagon, but I wouldn’t want the tepid version. I remember when Pontiac was thinking about a G8 Wagon in at least GT trim. That would have been my next car purchase provided Pontiac and G8 Wagon had still been around.

            Oh the potential badassery that could have provided since the G8 and current Camaro share many parts… LS7 from the Z/28, shocks and struts from the same car, Brakes from the ZL1… over the top exhaust system along with some nice drop springs.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          I definitely get why the Legacy wagon wouldn’t be available while the Outback wagon was – the same reason we don’t get the Volvo V70. Given that the Outback straddles the line between wagon and crossover now, it might make sense to introduce a Legacy wagon close to where the old Outback sat – reasonable ground clearance, but not as butch, like the Impreza to the Outback’s XV, with fuel economy being prioritised over advertising involving dogs and mud. (Or it might not. The fact that it doesn’t exist, and there are no rumours of it existing in the future, suggests as much, sadly.)

          • 0 avatar
            Ubermensch

            The Legacy Wagon does exist, just not in the U.S. market. Which is a common theme with almost every wagon that has a sedan counterpart sold in the U.S. and makes it all the more frustrating.

        • 0 avatar
          mklrivpwner

          “limited sales compared to the Outback (which is just a higher riding Legacy Wagon and some different bumper parts).”
          Yes, let’s bring up marketshare overlap. Of course the Legacy wagon sold low volumes because Subaru increased competition with itself and had a market preference for the (slightly) larger SUV. There was an aggressive marketing campaign towards SUVs across all makers for the SUV. Dealers led you to their “new kind of car” and automakers lauded the SUVs’ “excitement, versatitility, and comfort” and away from “those bulky kid haulers and grocery getters”. Ironic, I know.
          Toyota Camry Wagon == Toyota Rav-4
          Honda Accord Wagon == Honda CR-V
          Ford Taurus Wagon == Ford Explorer
          VW Passat Wagon == An unfortunate casualty of cross-shopping. When nearly everyone cross-shopped the Ford Explorer, they found the above mentioned SUVs and they said “hmm, I wonder what VW offers as an SUV?” and the wagon gets glossed over. People shopping Volvo did so because they wanted a Volvo (and most likely cross-shopped BMW and MB). People shopping Mercedes probably didn’t do a lot of cross-shopping at all.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        There is nothing irrational about the arguments against selling wagons in the US. CAFE’s impact has been discussed by Derek. Beyond that, wagons aren’t a new invention. They were once an important part of the market. It is true that the large cars that useful wagons were once based on were killed off by the original CAFE and those wagons were replaced by minivans on the family hauling front and SUVs on the towing, camping, and luxury fronts. It is also true that most automakers continued to make wagons of various sizes and prices while this went on. In addition to wagon specialists like Mercedes, Subaru, and Volvo, you could get wagon versions of the Accord, Camry, and Taurus. Between them, they’ve held every best selling car title for about 25 years, but they didn’t sell enough wagons to justify continued production.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          +1

          At one point or another Toyota had a wagon Camry, Honda had a wagon Accord, Scoobie Legacy, Taurus Wagon, Mazda 6 Wagon, Dodge Magnum, etc etc. I had a Focus wagon and would have gotten a Legacy wagon if it was available but it wasn’t any longer so I ended up with an Outback that somehow has escaped the wagon stigma, despite basically being a wagon with Pontiac Aztec style cladding. I don’t know why but they just don’t sell.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I would say a niche is a low volume but highly dependable segment where limited players can make a small profit, but where others won’t enter because there is not enough upside.

        There used to be a big market for wagons when they were BoF, roads were smoother, and there was no CAFE.

        I like your argument though It’s best to stay away from “nobody” when you mean “almost no one.”

    • 0 avatar
      MT

      My 240 defined stout: completely square and upright on every side. When my knee finally wouldn’t work as reliably as my beloved brick got a base V70 that was a bit smaller and less square and upright.

      Everything now looks like the asses have been pinched and pushed over at the top. Stuff haulers need big bootys.

  • avatar
    vb9594

    I was at Volvo HQ on business last week and they have one of these sitting in their lobby. Gorgeous. To the point I took a picture and sent it to my wife and told her I think we found her next rig.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    yeah yeah yeah, i thought so to.

    and then i had a long ride in an xc60 that was packed to the gills and i don’t see a reason for a wagon. one, xc60 is no bigger inside than my tsx wagon. maybe it has a bit more space for luggage in the back but that’s it. otherwise it was a very nice ride and was very cool to climb a steep wet muddy hill in the very end of the trip – as if we never left that pavement.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    The politically correct term for “FU” is Foxtrot Uniform. A close cousin in Foxtrot Oscar.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    It’ll probably end up being a hybrid of some sort. At minimum a 2.0T with about 300hp. I doubt the I6 will have many takers unless it has towing capacity of 3.500+ lbs.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    In my heart, I want the wagon for the handling dynamics. In my brain, I usually end up with the small crossover due to luggage compartment height (dogs, bikes, etc.) and ride height (fair amount of gravel road driving).

    As far as there being room for one or two wagons in this niche, I’m not sure. The last new wagon I bought was a 2004 BMW 325iT. IIRC, BMW barely sold 1,000 of them that year in the USA, and I”m not sure the numbers justify the cost and effort.

    Now, the BMW 3-Wagon is back, but no more I6 engine, no manual trans, and a higher base price than an X3!

  • avatar
    bryanska

    The key in America is to make a BIG wagon, like the Magnum. That’s the sweet stuff. What’s the point of a bigger car with the same small back seat?

    • 0 avatar
      See 7 up

      Perhaps I misunderstood your post, but you do realize that a wagon is no bigger than its sedan counterpoint. It essentially adds tons of usefulness to the sedan with very little, if any drawback. I do like wagons based on big sedan though.

      I, for one, find sedans ugly and pointless. I can’t ever buy a sedan. A life of hatchbacks and small wagons has left me unable to see the “beauty” of a sedan or even the new “hatchy” things like the A7. And I can’t do crossovers. They have the same appeal to me as wagons do for the 40-50 year old generation. And that is it is a “mom-mobile”.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t think that is correct. Compacts sell well as hatches/wagons – see the Focus, Mazda3, Subarus, etc. the larger the car, the less likely Americans are to opt for a wagon variant & instead go for the SUV. I suspect that is because if you only have the money for a compact, you will want the versatility, but if you are spending more, then you will either specialize or go all-out (e.g., if you can’t get a small truck significantly cheaper than a full-size, you’ll just get the big one).

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Yes, the Magnum sold so well, didn’t it. But then it didn’t really have much more cargo space than a V60.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Magnum wagon gas similar cubic feet of cargo as the V70 wagon, previous generation E320, and the Saab 9-5. They don’t make them that big any more unless don’t mind a SUV like the similar cargo rating of the Lincoln MXT or whatever its called.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Actually, the key in America is to jack your wagon up off the ground, like the Magnum, to get light truck status. Mercedes E55 AMG wagon: $$$ gas guzzler tax and $$$ EPA fines. Magnum with biggest engine: stays clear of both while scoring worse on the EPA tests.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Glad to see the Swedes coming to their senses, but what I’m seeing above doesn’t look like much of a wagon but more a cousin of the first or second gen Ford Escape. I applaud their efforts but if they are serious about wagons they’d better take a better look at 240/740 and the early V70 for better inspiration.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      It looks a bit more useful than stuff like the CTS-V or the Magnum, but yea Volvo forgot about their classic formula for wagon design it seems:

      Make the back end a box.

  • avatar
    felix

    Volvo could easily get CAFE credits by bringing in their V60 wagon with the T4 engine that’s available in the rest of the world. That’s basically Ford’s Ecoboost turbo 1.6L 4-cyl with 180ps and a choice of a 6-speed manual or wet-clutch Powershift. But exactly who would be getting “fingered” in that scenario would be an open question…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I thiink Volvo’s a lost cause. Toyota or Honda should have another go with the Camry or Accord wagons. Preferably a Toyota Camry hybrid wagon, with 1500lbs of tow capability.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    Theyve got gall, theyve got guile
    Step to me, im a rap-o-phile!

    A proper Volvo wagon would be intergalactically awesome.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    this would be the equivalent of cadillac or even lincoln going back to their roots and offering at least one RWD V8 barcalounger. which one of them should, because the technology could be used for limos, taxis, cop cars, el caminos…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Perish the thought!

      Cadillac is thrilled to be faux BMW, Volvo content pretending to be wrong wheel drive BMW, and Lincoln is happy as a clam as a Ford trim package. What could go wrong?

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looks good. I’d love a station wagon, but unfortunately, the new ones can’t tow a damn thing like they use to back in the good ol’ days. Build me a nice sturdy wagon that can tow 5,000lbs and you got my money. Even the options of SUV’s that fit into this category are shrinking fast.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looks good. I’d love a station wagon, but unfortunately, the new ones can’t tow a damn thing like they use to back in the good ol’ days. Build me a nice sturdy wagon that can tow 5,000lbs and you got my money. Even the selection of SUV’s that fit into this category are shrinking fast.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    The V70 was never killed off. Only in America. Sedans are niche vehicles here in Europe. Most Chrysler 300 you see are wagons, most of them diesel. We have Accord Wagons, Toyota Avensis (similar size to a V70), BMW 5series Wagon, Mazda 6 wagons and on and on… A V70 can tow 4000lb and so can the rest of them. It has gone so far with the USA that we have better cars and more freedom and individual responsibility here in Europe!

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Bravo Volvo. I’ll have to start saving $ for my downpayment. While the AWD and mandatory auto are not really desirable, given that BMW is forcing me into the same configuration but with a 4 cylinder, I’ll take the Volvo with the 6 any day.


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