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Volvo: Pioneering Family Wagons

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I can only imagine our U.S. forebears who traveled across the country in covered wagons being awe-struck by today’s wagons. Volvo’s newest wagon not only has power to move the wheels, but it also has a premium interior with leather seats, a panoramic moonroof, voice-activated climate and infotainment controls, Sensus navigation, and Bluetooth with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Volvo, a pioneer in the field of safety technology, has been building wagons for six decades and continues to have a zest for these boxy people-movers, when only a few other automakers have stuck by this style. The latest model is the 2018 Volvo V90, and it’s quite possibly the world’s most elegant station wagon.

The five-passenger, people-carrier is available in three trims: the base R-Design, an upscale Inscription, or the rugged Cross Country version that has taller ground clearance and is engineered to have an ease in the backcountry.

Currently the longest and largest wagon for sale, it also has updated styling that moves the needle from the more traditional boxy and boring to bold and eye-appealing — especially at the front and the back end. The grille gets a new version of the Swedish automaker’s ironmark flanked by “Thor’s hammer” headlights with a distinctive LED light design, and a blacked-out hatch at the snipped and raked rear. The side profile is simple and sweeping without being over-styled.

The new 2018 wagon shares many interior design attributes with the award-winning XC90, such as the 12.3-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen, open-pore wood trim, brushed metal detailing, and Nubuck and Nappa leather upholstery. The modernized look blends stark and simple Scandinavian design cues with touches of warmth that come from elements of natural beauty such as the wood inlays. Of note are the diamond-cut-style controls and unique vertical airblades for climate control.

Designed like its SUV crossover competitors to carry goods and gear, it offers 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space in the back; split-folding rear seats increase the stowage to 54 cubic feet. An underfloor compartment hides and ferries small items. Keyless entry and drive and a hands-free tailgate add convenience.

The new five-door luxury V90 can be ordered with a choice of two engines. Volvo’s standard T5 turbocharged Drive-E four-cylinder 2.0-liter engine produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, while the optional T6 turbo-and-supercharged four-cylinder 2.0-liter powertrain boasts 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. According to the EPA, the FWD T5 R-Design is rated at 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 combined; the T6 AWD Cross Country is rated at 22/29/25. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The base T5 comes with front-wheel drive, while the T6 is paired with all-wheel drive.

We drove the 2018 V90 on a ride-and-drive that started in the mile-high city of Denver and ascended to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain region over a driving course of close to 160 miles. We appreciated the turbo-and-supercharged engine that brought ample horsepower and torque to drive in the high elevations and found its handling superb, as it’s based on Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture that also underpins the S90 sedan, with top electronics that manage the shift points, provide great braking, and tweak the available air suspension to keep it planted for a smooth ride with no body roll, even along twisty roads.

Standard equipment includes a rearview camera and rear parking assist, City Safety (which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist, and large animal detection), as well as lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive headlights, and road-sign recognition. The base T5 FWD R-Design V90 is priced starting at $49,950; premium-trimmed Inscription model starts at $51,950.