WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

Yes, the new-to-America Volvo V60 wagon looks good, but why exactly is that? What is it about the design that works so well?

I found this wagon at the New York Auto Show the other week and it made me feel surprisingly positive in the face of its competition: The crossover. I know that the American market is dominated by crossovers, to the point that they're killing off the SUV and the family wagon, too.

So why was I feeling positive about the V60, knowing that it should stand no chance against the onslaught of crossovers from every single manufacturer on the market? I liked the design.

That's it. That's all it really took. Presumably that will be all it takes for may fickle American carbuyers, so I decided to go over the whole car, front to back, and see if I could break down why exactly the car is appealing in a way that rivaling crossovers, sedans, and hatchbacks do not.

To cut things short: Volvo nailed the long, smooth, fast roofline on this wagon, and they didn't screw up the rest of the car. A lot of carmakers get this formula wrong, but Volvo got it right.

The first thing that Volvo did not screw up is the daylight opening, called DLO in designer-speak. There isn't a bunch of black plastic pretending like it's a window, particularly around the door mirrors. You don't notice that plastic the first time you look at the car, but if there's a lot of it, the car starts to look cheap. Take the Lincoln MKZ as an example.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

This good DLO makes the car look expensive, and it doesn't distract you from the key feature of the car, the sloping long roof.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

Looks good right? There's a single line running from the windshield to the very back of the car. Simple, clean, fast.

A sedan these days would either have a big lard-ass fastback, or a bulky bangle butt. With a wagon you get just a nice, uncluttered shape.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

Volvo also did not screw up the front of the car. This is good, because the car is working at a serious disadvantage against that other luxury wagon, the BMW 3 series. What disadvantage? People will buy anything with a BMW badge on it.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

The V60 has a bit of a plain face, but it's still a lot better than the fussy, angry front of a BMW. It also isn't weird and pointy like the Acura TSX. At worst it's a little anonymous.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

Conservative carbuyers might be turned off by the black wheels, but I think they look great, especially with the flat, diamond-cut outlines. Like an old Fuchs wheel or something.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

The sides aren't the strongest part of the V60. There's a wavy character line that bends around the front wheel arches, draws back straight to the rear wheel arches, and then curves upwards again. It's not very "Volvo", but it at least makes the car look a little different from your average Camry/Accord/Whatever. Again, it's both less weird and more interesting than a TSX.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

The real story is at the back. Damn. It looks excellent.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

Look at how neatly all those surfaces intersect in the lights. They show off the strong shoulders of the car, and you can also see the inward-pulling lines take a lot of the bulk out of the whole rear.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

The rear glass combined with a glossy black plastic strip is supposed to evoke the wonderful old Volvo P1800ES shooting brake. I think it just looks good on its own.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

There's also plenty of space back there, as I've previously demonstrated.

I'm not the only person my age who grew up riding in a wagon, or drove one in high school. I'm certainly not the only person to lust after wagons. This means that Volvo had a simple design brief of don't screw things up.

WHY IT LOOKS GOOD: The Volvo V60S

They succeeded by:

  • not making the front look weird
  • not getting too crazy on the sides

Volvo also gave the V60 two very strong points.

  • the taillights look great and expensive
  • the roof is long and fast

That's really all it takes. Tell your friends and berate other car designers to do this good of a job.

Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove/Thomas McIntyre Schultz (the last two)