The Truth About Cars » estate The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » estate First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

There was a time when wagons roamed the interstates, ferrying families from one National Lampoon vacation to another. With the rise of the crossover, those looking for the original “looks practical but handles like a sedan” mode of transport have few options, and most of them live in the luxury segment. Let’s count them before we go too far. We have the soon-to-be-cancelled Acura TSX, the last-generation Cadillac CTS , the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 3-Series and the Toyota Prius V. Even if you expand things to include “off-road wagons”the list only grows by three (Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.) Despite the shrinking market, Volvo’s brand has long been associated with practical wagons. It’s almost hard to believe it has been three full years since Volvo sold one in America. That’s about to change with the 2015 V60.


Click here to view the embedded video.


Back in 2010 Volvo was selling two wagons in America. The V50 was based on the compact S40 sedan and the V70 shared its underpinings with Volvo’s 5-series competitor the S80. Although the V70 is still sold in Europe and the V40 (the replacement for the V50) splashed down in 2013, Americans will have to settle for Volvo’s middle child, the V60 wagon. Based on Volvo’s S60 sedan, the V60 competes internationally with wagon variants of the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4 and many others. But this is America and Volvo’s only direct competitor is the BWM 328i xDrive wagon. More on that later.

Despite ditching the boxy form years ago, Volvo’s style remains the automotive Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada. The entire Volvo lineup in America (except for the XC90) received a 2014 face lift with a more aggressive grille and more creases in the hood. Volvo has finally tucked their radar cruise control module behind a plastic panel that blends into the grille rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Out back we get bumper cover integrated exhausts, a large black surround on the rear glass that made me wish it was separately hinged, and a continuation of those oh-so-sexy Swedish hips. Volvo’s engineers kept the V60′s roofline fairly high at the rear, but even the Swedes have given in to modern “coupé” styling cues, most notably in the greenhouse shape. The raked rear glass looks sexier, but takes a toll on cargo space.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003


Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss. (Or so I’m told.) And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 on which the V60 is based is now 5 years old.  Aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive changes to the interior since it was launched is Volvo’s LCD disco dash, a new steering wheel with shift paddles (optional) and a new gear shift knob. Despite its age, the Scandinavian chic cabin has what it takes to complete with BMW, especially now that the 3-Series has gone slightly down-market with more hard plastics in this generation. My only major gripe is the small 7-inch infotainment display that is clearly outclassed by BMW’s ginormous iDrive screen.

Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords, Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Volvo equips all V60 models headed to America with aggressively bolstered front seats and even more bolstering is available in a sport package.  If you’re a larger driver, you will find the sport seats confining and may even have issue with the standard seats as the bolstering seems to be designed for slim to average builds. Rear passengers are in for a mixed bag with less rear leg room than Acura’s TSX and quite a bit less than BMW’s 3-Series. Checking the numbers, the 2015 V60 actually slots in behind my old V70R, which wasn’t exactly spacious in the rear.

Wagons have long been about practicality and cargo capacity. The V60 scores points on the practicality front with a fold-flat front passenger seat and a standard 40/20/40 folding rear seat back. Volvo also tosses in a plethora of shopping bag holders, a built in cargo divider and additional cargo capacity below the load floor. Unfortunately the sexy profile cuts storage behind the rear seats to 43.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The pursuit of fuel economy has meant the loss of a spare tire which may be a tough pill for road trippers to swallow. Volvo says buyers can option up some form of spare tire but details were sketchy.

2015 Drive-E Engine, 2.0L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Volvo


The V60 lands at the same time as Volvo’s new engine family. If you want to know more about Volvo’s four cylinder future, check out our deep dive from a few days ago. Volvo’s engine lineup is getting a bit confusing as they transition to their new engine family resulting in two totally different “T5″ models. Front wheel drive T5 models use a new four-cylinder direct-injection engine good for 240 HP and 258 lb-ft while T5 AWD models get the venerable 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This is the point where most companies would stop. Indeed, BMW is only offering the 3-Series with a 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 180 horsepower diesel I4 in America. The TSX isn’t long for this world but is only available with the familiar 2.4L 4-cylider engine.

In an unexpected twist, Volvo confirmed that there  will be a third engine with two performance levels bound for America. The T6 AWD model will get a 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine cranking out 325 HP and 354 lb-ft. This engine takes the S60 sedan from 0-60 in 5.05 seconds and I expect the V60 to post similar numbers. If that isn’t enough, Volvo will go one step further and bring a 350 HP, 369 lb-ft Polestar tuned variant to America good for sub-5-second runs to Ikea.

The new 2.0L engine is mated exclusively to Aisin’s new 8-speed automatic transaxle, also found in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. The new cog swapper enables standard start/stop on the V60 along with a coasting mode (similar to ZF’s 8-speed) which essentially shifts into neutral when you let off the gas on a level road. Due to packaging constraints, 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines get an Aisin 6-speed automatic and standard Haldex AWD.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012


The only V60 model Volvo had for us to play with was a front-wheel-drive T5 model with the new 2.0L turbo. Lacking the supercharger for low-end response (available in the S60), the T5 model felt very similar to BMW’s 2.0L N20 engine in the 3-Series with a hint of turbo lag to start and a broad power band. The German mill cranks out less torque, but is required to motivate less curb weight, so I suspect 0-60 times will be fairly similar. Because of the limited time I had behind the wheel we don’t have verified 0-60 numbers but Volvo says the V60 will do the sprint in 6.1 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds faster than the TSX.

Despite the healthy torque numbers, the V60 presented relatively little torque steer. Volvo didn’t say what they had done to improve on things vs the last T5 FWD model I drove but they did say no suspension designs were changed. (This is a contrast to the S60 T6 FWD which had plenty of torque steer in first gear.) Volvo’s test fleet consisted of Sport Package models only, which are tuned toward the firmer side of the segment. The tuning is certainly firmer than BMW’s standard 3-Series suspension and on par with the Sport Line wagon.

The V60 handled winding roads with composure thanks to wide 235/45R19 (part of the sport package) tires all the way around but the lighter and better balanced 328 wagon feels more nimble out on the road. Meanwhile the TSX and Audi Allroad feel less connected. Since the BMW is only available in America in AWD trim, a comparison to the T5 AWD and T6 AWD may be more appropriate, so check back when we can get our hands on one.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

No Volvo would be complete without new safety tech and the V60 spearheads several improvements to existing systems. Volvo’s blind spot system has moved from a camera based system to radar. The switch improves accuracy, allows it to operate better in fog and inclement weather and increases the range. There’s also a new self parking system to parallel park the V60, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it. City Safety, Volvo’s autonomous braking system, now operates at up to 31 MPH and can now detect cyclists in addition to cars and pedestrians (optional packages apply). Volvo tells us that they expect the system to provide autonomous braking for large animals like moose in the next 1-2 years.

The V60 has been priced aggressively for 2015 starting at $35,300,  an $800 upsell over then S60 and $6,150 less than a base 3-series wagon. Adjusting for feature content, the base V60 is still $5,000 less. If bargain wagons with premium badges are your thing, the TSX is king at $31,985, but the delta shrinks to less than two grand when you adjust for the V60′s feature set. The $36,800 might be the more appropriate competitor for the AWD-only 3-wagon, but a more interesting match up is the $44,300 V60 T6 AWD. Configuring a 3 or the CTS wagon with the same equipment you find on the Volvo will set you back at least $2,000 more. In addition to the value factor, the Volvo brings 35% more power to the fight. The extra power and AWD go a long way in compensating for the better weight balance in the BMW or the Caddy. Since GM hasn’t refreshed their wagon yet, the 3.0 and 3.6 liter V6 engined are outclassed in every metric by the Swede. Option your V60 with every conceivable option and you end up at $54,480.

As a former Volvo wagon owner, I’m probably biased, but all the reasons I opted for a Swedish cargo hauler in 2006 apply to the V60. Aside from the fact that “value” strikes a fire in my loins, the Volvo is the clear performance option in this segment. Want more shove than the $44,300 Volvo? Pony up $64,900 for the CTS-V wagon or $102,370 for an E63 AMG wagon. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get my hands on one for a more thorough evaluation, but in the mean time the V60 is quite simply the best performance and value option in this phone booth sized segment.


 Volvo provided travel, lodging, meals, the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

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Honda Civic Tourer: More Forbidden Fruit To Torture Ourselves With Mon, 04 Mar 2013 13:00:28 +0000

Although wagons get their fair share of ribbing on TTAC (mostly to poke fun at the absurd declarations of arm chair product planners), the Honda Civic is yet another product that we won’t get here due to the business case not making sense. What makes it worse is that unlike, say, the Mazda6 wagon, the compact segment already has a few hatchback/wagon entrants available in North America.

The Civic Tourer, as it’s known, will go up against the upcoming VW Golf Wagon (sold here as the Jetta SportWagen) and the Ford Focus Estate (not sold here). The European Civic shares a name with the North American version and little else. And yes, it will have a diesel engine and a manual gearbox available.

Why lampoon the Mazda6 wagon and praise the Civic wagon? Surely, we must be biased. After all, that’s the default answer for any unfavorable analysis at TTAC. But it’s important to note that not all wagons, and their business cases, are created equal. The Mazda6 wagon is produced in Japan by Mazda, and an unfavorable exchange rate, capacity constraints and the prohibitive cost of federalization make the business case for the wagon a non-starter.

So what about the Civic? Why can’t Honda do it if Hyundai can import the European i30 as the Elantra GT? For one thing, the Elantra GT is built in the Czech Republic, where labor costs are far lower than Japan and the UK, where the Civic Tourer is likely to be built. The i30 was also designed to be sold globally from the get-go. The Civic, unfortunately, has been thoroughly localized, meaning this car has been designed with the European market in mind, and it’s unlikely to leave any time soon.  Once the most well known compact hatchback, Honda hasn’t fielded a two box Civic in years, ceding the market to Hyundai, Ford, Toyota and just about everyone else. What a shame. This Tourer is so much more attractive than the rest of Honda’s small car lineup.

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Review: 2012 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Mon, 18 Jun 2012 10:00:28 +0000

So, you want a small, practical wagon with a little bit of Euro flair and luxury pretensions. Unless you’re willing to mix with the rabble in a VW, what are your options? Volvo V50? Dead. Audi A3? Not much time left before it’s discontinued in the USA. Try the BMW 3-Series Wagon if you want something German.

Everyone knows that Acura products share Honda DNA, but none are so thinly veiled as the TSX sedan and TSX Sport Wagon. While badge engineering has caused decades of problems for General Motors, Acura’s tactic  actually makes sense. You see, the TSX is the European version of the Honda Accord (which thankfully shares essentially nothing with the overweight American Accord). While it would have been cheaper to have just imported the Euro Accord as a Honda wagon (they wouldn’t have even had to swap badges), the Accord in Europe competes with more lofty brands than in America.

Click here to view the embedded video.


For Acura duty, the only change made to the “Accord Tourer” was grafting the Acura beak onto the existing front bumper molds. Since bumper itself didn’t change, the TSX wears the smallest beak of the family, and honestly, looking at pictures of the enormous logo the Touring wears, the TSX is more attractive. The overall form of the TSX is thoroughly modern, in an angular Cadillac-ish kind of way. The slanted hatchback and rear windows that decrease in size as they head rearward attempt to distract from the fact that the TSX is indeed a station wagon. Acura added a splash of chrome trim around the windows and roof rails so you’ll look trendy and sophisticated on your way to the board meeting with your surfboard on top. While the BMW 3-Series wagon is decidedly handsome, the TSX provides firm competition in the looks department.


While the dashboard is suitably squishy, some interior plastics are less than luxurious. Haptic quibbles aside, the color palate is what gave me pause. Our tester looked as if it was carved out of a single black piece of plastic. Admittedly it is a nice piece of plastic, and the attention to detail is worthy of any luxury marque. However, I found the monochromatic interior oppressive after a while. The only way to avoid this black-on-black-on-black theme is to buy a red or white TSX (they come with a “taupe” interior). Although the dashboard remains black, the lighter leather makes the TSX a far more appealing place to spend your time. Want a red car with a black interior? That’s not on Acura’s menu. The TSX redeems itself with a low starting price of $31,360, undercutting the 328i wagon by over six-grand. For the price, I’m willing to overlook some less-than-swish door trim. Speaking of trim, base model TSXs get fake wood trim while the upscale “Technology Package” add fake metal trim. While neither faux option is “fauxin” anyone, the wood trim makes the interior a touch more upscale by helping break up the vast expanses of black.


Acura has long had a reputation for gadgets and buttons and the TSX is no different. Base models come standard with a bevy of features that are optional on other near-luxury brands. Standard features include: xenon headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone integration and a 360-watt, 7-speaker audio system with USB/iPod integration, MP3 compatible CD player and XM radio. There is only one option available, the “Technology Package” which may seem pricy at $3,650, (bringing the total up to $35,010) but it adds a decent amount of kit. In addition to GPS navigation, a  460-watt, 10-speaker sound system with DVD-audio and iPod voice control is also included. The voice command system is a bit less intuitive than Ford’s SYNC, but just as functional allowing you to select playlists, tracks, artists, etc by voice command. Also included in the package is GPS-linked climate control that tracks the sun, power tailgate, backup camera, and XM data services like weather, traffic, etc. My only quibble with Acura’s infotainment system is that it still has not integrated very fully with the rest of the vehicle like BMW’s iDrive. This means that vehicle settings and trip information are solely in the gauge cluster which means more buttons and more menus to learn and navigate.


Acura has no illusions of run-away TSX Sport Wagon sales. This Acura is destined for a lifetime of good reviews gushing about how exciting wagons are, followed by slow sales. As a result, the 2.4L four-cylinder engine is the only engine on offer. If you need more than the four-pot’s 201HP and 170lb-ft of torque, you’ll need to look at the TSX sedan or to another brand. While sedan buyers can row-their-own, Acura’s 5-speed automatic is the only cog swapper available in the wagon. Acura does include paddle shifters, but the transmission shifts too leisurely to make their use enjoyable and steadfastly refuses to shift to 1st unless you’re traveling at a snail’s pace. Fortunately, the transmission’s software is well suited to the car and leaving it in D or S is more rewarding and lower effort. As with the 2.4L equipped sedan, the wagon is neither slow nor particularly fast, scooting to 60 in 7.5 seconds.


Acura tuned the TSX’s suspension to be a good balance between road holding and highway cruising, but this is no soft wagon. Out on the road the TSX shines with a tight and willing chassis and excellent Michelin Pilot tires. The combo is eager to tackle any mountain road you might pit it against. Unfortunately the lack of power and lazy 5-speed automatic conspire against the chassis making the TSX something of a mixed bag when the going gets twisty, especially uphill. The TSX’s power steering is quick and fairly communicative, a rarity in this age of numb tillers.


During my week with the TSX I ended up taking an impromptu road trip to southern California. The TSX proved an excellent highway cruiser delivering 27-28 MPG on the open highway at 75MPH. The TSX’s combination of good looks, good reliability and simple pricing  make the TSX Sport Wagon a smart choice for those that are practical and frugal. While the BMW wagon has yet to land on our shores for a comparison test, you can bet it will deliver more style, more luxury, and a much larger price tag. The only fly in this cargo hauler’s ointment is the s0-called wagon tax. As you might expect, the base wagon is $1,350 more than the base sedan. What you wouldn’t expect is that by simply checking the only option available on the wagon, this delta increases to $1,900. Yikes.


Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review.

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 83.5MPH

Observed Fuel Economy: 26.8MPG over 1207 miles


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