This all-wheel drive wagon is equally at home navigating busy urban commutes or handling a rough mountain road on a weekend getaway.

Station wagons are largely a nostalgia item for Americans, and domestic manufacturers are instead rolling out SUVs, crossovers and pickups. Not so with Europeans, particularly Volvo, which has always had an impressive lineup of wagons.

The V60, a small luxury wagon, was introduced in 2015 in five styles with three engine choices. We drove the Cross Country, which offers all-wheel drive, high road clearance and a host of optional safety features. While pricey, it is an enticing package offering elegance, comfort and rugged off-road capability.

The V60 Cross Country seems to have several different personalities to match different driving conditions. In heavy traffic, safety features such as blind spot detection warning and forward collision avoidance provide extra eyes to watch rapidly changing conditions and deliver confidence in demanding situations. On the open road, the quiet, well-insulated cabin and the sumptuous leather seats cut the fatigue and bring a sense of ease to any road trip. A twisty country road reveals the wagon’s seamless acceleration and agile handling. In a short off-road test, the Cross Country gobbled up a steep, winding jeep trail outside Death Valley without bottoming out on the high-crested, rocky road. It seemed as capable as many SUVs.

The V60’s steering is pleasingly heavy, giving the driver a nice feel for the road. Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power without grabbing unexpectedly. The suspension is firm — perhaps too firm for some — but it cuts body roll in the corners and the 19-inch wheels provide plenty of grip. Acceleration is brisk and the midrange passing power seems especially responsive.

The V60 Cross Country is powered by a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder, turbo-charged engine that makes 240 horsepower and develops 266 pound-feet of torque. A shiftable 6-speed automatic transmission puts power to all four wheels, propelling the wagon from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, according to Edmunds.com.

Safety features — including blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning — make driving the V60 a pleasure both in traffic and on the open highway. With rather poor rear visibility, the blind spot warning, which displays a light near the wing mirrors when a car is in the blind spot, is a necessity. Volvo’s adaptive cruise control can brake the car to a stop and then accelerate back up to speed without the driver touching the brake or gas. This would be a great feature in stop and go traffic, but it’s also a big improvement over simple cruise control on long trips.

Our test car came with the $3,600 Platinum package, which added a host of features including a Harman Kardon sound system, active dual xenon headlights — which turn as the steering wheel is turned — and multiple warning sensors and cameras that show, among other things, the proximity to the curb when parking.

While there is much to recommend about the Cross Country, there is some fierce competition from BMW and Audi in this car class. Furthermore, lower-priced V60s offer all-wheel drive and get better fuel economy. A shopper in this category is encouraged to do a lot of comparative research and test drives to accurately match the right car to his or her needs.

Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: preed@nerdwallet.com.

Lead photo and gallery photos 3-6 courtesy Volvo Car Corp. Gallery photos 1-2 by Philip Reed. 

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