The Volvo V60 and Audi Allroad are two examples of an all-but-vanished segment, the European wagon. Each maker offers SUVs of about the same footprint–taller, bulkier, and less fuel-efficient—but these are old-school wagons derived from sedans.
The V60 is a recent addition to Volvo’s line, though the S60 sedan that spawned it has been with us since 2010. The Allroad is now a few years old, effectively a specialized model derived from the A4 Avant wagon it replaced. Its sedan counterpart launched way back in 2009.
Neither wagon feels particularly old or outdated, and both offer enjoyable driving, some cargo space, and all-wheel drive. Which one should you buy?
In our numeric ratings, the Audi scores higher than the Volvo, owing to better individual ratings for both performance and features. If you’re looking for SUV rear-seat space or cargo capacities, though, these should be not your top choices. Instead, Audi and Volvo each has a crossover utility vehicle for that—the Q5 and XC60, respectively.
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2016 Volvo V60 and 2016 Audi Allroad
The Volvo V60 is as far as you could possibly get from the boxy, upright Volvo 240 and 740 wagons of a few decades ago. Its steeply raked rear window makes the V60 look less like a wagon and more like a sleek hatchback variant of the S60. It’s a handsome, racy machine, but it certainly doesn’t say “wagon” on first or even second glance.
The Audi Allroad is an A4 Avant wagon with more ground clearance, some body cladding, and styling flourishes that butch it up, just as the first Subaru Outback did to the pedestrian Legacy wagon 20 years ago. The raised ride height and distinctive lower-body styling give it a stronger stance from the side, and a vertically ribbed chrome grille and aluminum-look exterior trim are distinct from any other Audi.
2016 Audi Allroad 4-door Wagon Premium Steering Wheel
Inside, the V60 doesn’t offer anything like the interior space of a classic wagon. Folding the rear seat gives only 43 cubic feet of cargo room—less than half that in Volvo’s XC60 crossover on the same underpinnings. The V60 benefits from the remarkably comfortable seats in the S60 and XC60. They’re heavily bolstered, and high-end models have power adjustment including a variable lumbar support. Rear seats are also well shaped and comfortable, with room for two adults or three smaller children, but there’s not a lot of legroom by mid-size standards, and riders sit low to the floor.
Seating in the Allroad is excellent, although its back seat too is tight. Up front, even the base seats give great support for longer trips, with good side bolstering. In back, the seating position is low, and better contoured than in most crossovers, but there’s simply no place for knees and feet for taller adults. The Allroad offers 27.6 cubic feet behind the rear bench, and an easy-folding seat arrangement that gives you up to 50 cubic feet.
The Volvo V60 offers two quite different powertrains. In the base T5 model, a new and very efficient 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 is paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and quietly under most conditions. This model only drives the front wheels, though. Buyers who want the added traction of all-wheel drive have to move up to the T5 AWD, with an aging turbocharged inline-5 or a T6 Drive-E R-Design, with a 302-hp twin-charged inline-4 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
2016 Volvo V60 4-door Wagon T6 R-Design AWD Angular Front Exterior View
2016 Volvo V60 4-door Wagon T6 R-Design AWD Dashboard
2016 Volvo V60 4-door Wagon T6 R-Design AWD Angular Rear Exterior View
There’s only one powertrain in the Allroad, and it’s excellent. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 produces 220 hp, and it’s paired with a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s latest quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The Audi is rated at 24 mpg combined; the Volvo V60 T5 gets a laudable 29 mpg combined, but that’s with front-wheel drive only. The better comparison to the Allroad is the V60 T6, at 25 mpg combined. It’s on the road, in tight esses or down any back road that the Allroad excels. Despite a stockier stance than the A4 sedan, it seems to handle a bit better. Big 18-inch wheels and taller-profile tires give it better stability than the standard A4 as well.
The NHTSA hasn’t rated the crashworthiness of the 2016 Volvo V60, but the closely related S60 sedan received across-the-board five-star ratings. The IIHS gives the V60 its Top Safety Pick+ designation, with the highest scores on every crash test and a full suite of available active-safety systems. As for the Allroad, the NHTSA gives it five stars overall, with five-star frontal and side-impact ratings and a four-star rollover score. The IIHS hasn’t rated the Allroad at all, but the A4 sedan from which it’s derived received the lowest rating of “Poor” on the institute’s tough small-overlap frontal crash test.
Either of these Euro wagons will delight drivers and their better halves who want a little more cargo space but still crave the handling of a sedan, not the bulkiness of a fully-functional crossover utility vehicle. Their AWD is for traction and winter weather, not off-roading. They’re not meant for families with children, especially teens; that’s what SUVs are for.
Despite a price several thousand dollars higher than the Volvo, we give the nod to the Audi. The V60 handles well, but the Allroad excels on … well, all roads that aren’t the kind Jeep owners seek out. The Audi also has a nicer interior, a bit more cargo space, and a few tech options that Volvo doesn’t offer.
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