Cargo culture

The art of boot-packing challenges Father Bulmer

GED BULMER

THINK Volvo wagons and the image that springs to mind, at least for those of us born before Gen Y, is of fridge-swallowing bricks on wheels that were long on practicality but short on style. The Volvo 740 could house a Euro-pallet in its luggage bay, for Pete’s sake!

But the lumbering, underpowered and indestructible tanks of yesteryear have been replaced by modern machines that are more stylish affairs, thanks to Volvo’s determination to shake off its fusty image, with a focus on design that began with the hiring of talented crayon twirler Peter Horbury in 1991. The Brit has long since moved on, but his legacy lives on in a range of vehicles that boast a polished and distinctive design language.

In the case of the V60, which is simply the handsome station wagon version of Volvo’s second-generation S60 sedan, this entails market positioning that’s more ‘sportwagon’ than load lugger.

In industry parlance, the V60 is a compact mid-size wagon and is pitted against fellow European estates such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. In practical terms, this positioning ensures a not overly large 430-litre boot and a fairly compact rear seat, so our first family trip away in the D4 long-termer was always going to be a test of carrying capacity, packing skills and patience.

We Bulmers aren’t known for travelling light – we’ll take the kitchen sink and the blender too, given the chance – so a simple long weekend away can take on the logistical look and feel of a minor military manoeuvre.

Hence why, halfway through jamming the intimidating pile of bags, scooters, skateboards and bazookas into the V60’s modestly proportioned derriere, I began to wonder if it was too late to add a roof pod to the options list. It was, so I unloaded and knuckled to the task of whittling down the load before repacking it.

In the process, I was pleasantly surprised to discover something missed in my haste to pack and go – those clever Swedes have thought of just such an eventuality and built a neatly integrated cargo net into the backs of the rear seats. The net pulls up out of a cartridge that runs the width of the cargo bay, clipping into mounts in the roof lining. It’s a handy feature as it enhances the amount of available space by enabling you to pack higher without fear the kids will cop a Samsonite tattoo under heavy braking. With the help of the magic net, both the bocce set and the budgie cage made the cut.

The Volvo V60 may not boast the pallet-swallowing ability of its box-like predecessors, but it has them well and truly covered in the style stakes, while also adding some neat practical touches.

NET GAIN

Volvo proves the nice folk at Ikea are not the only Swedes capable of smart packaging

A boost for rear seat design

ANOTHER great example of clever design is found in the rear seat, where a pair of integrated child booster seats has consigned my youngest daughter’s grubby portable to the garage. The clever boosters feature two-stage height adjustment to ensure they can be positioned at the optimal seatbelt safety height for kids of various sizes, and they’re far easier to use than the alternative. Cleaner, too, as the leather wipes down comparatively easily.

VOLVO V60 D4 LUXURY

Date acquired: December 2014 Price as tested: $70,015 month: 910km @ 7.6L/100km Overall: 1683km @ 7.4L/100km Pric This Ove