This story by Richard Melick was originally published by FactoryTwoFour.
____________________________________Once upon a time, the average commute to work was less than 10 miles, but that time has long since passed. With more and more stories of hour long commutes, it has become clear that the average gas guzzler is not going to cut it for the drive anymore. With fuel going up and up in price, a short day at work could even cost some people money to even show. In the the past decade though, manufacturers have been pushing out econo-boxes to the American driver, vehicle often lacking of get-up, styling, or soul. These rides worked for some, but for most, the willingness to drive gas guzzlers outweighed the desire to own something so boring. But we think that might had changed thanks to Volkswagen and their 2014 Jetta SE. Priced under $18,000, this might have turned the tide on the econo-box dilemma, bringing styling, comfort, and some solid power to the table. VW, not shy from working outside the box, built this car to be inexpensive, but still feels more solid than many of the more expensive Japanese sedans. Though not as fully featured as previous models, it does not feel as if it is missing anything for the drive. Comfortably sitting 4 adults in it, along with a boot big enough for a few suit cases or golf bags, this car is not the small Jetta from passed years. Coming in a bit around the size of the older Audi A4s, it has a bit of a presence, but not so much to feel disconnected with the road or surroundings. But that brings to question if this is really the next step in economy commuters, and if they really do need to be bigger to fit the American buyers lifestyle. Not necessarily, and any bigger, this Jetta SE wouldn’t fit the category and would be out of style. No, I think the size makes it stand out, shows that you can achieve solid MPG and power to the wheels in a vehicle bigger than a Matchbox. And what about beyond the commute? Well, it is an entry level car, and has entry level features and design, such as unused button spaces, manual seats, and minimal technology comforts (though the Bluetooth is one of the best I have used). Where else does this car fit into the lifestyle? Sadly, at this level, not many places. It would be a killer graduation present for the college bound grad of course, or great car for new parents on a budget, but it does miss that multi-use market a bit. It’s comfortable enough to go out on a date with, but bland enough to not turn heads. It has enough power to climb the Rocky Mountains, but lacks that level of fun some of the smaller cars have when it comes to corners and passionate driving. While you could pack it full of gadgets and features, working your way up to the GLI level package, that would miss the point. And that’s where Volkswagen did right. This was designed with a purpose in mind, a concept of affordability, German engineering, comfort, and power, all on a solid built design and with all the great safety features. It’s nothing more than you need, and everything you do. It fits the bill with a little bit more, and when the time comes, is the perfect transition car into something with a bit more excitement. So is the economy commuter back in fashion? Yes, absolutely, and for less than 18k, it’s a much more affordable option to be hitting the road in than the gas guzzlers we still see on those long drives. Heck, pack it full of fellow car poolers and make a little money on the side.
This story by Richard Melick was originally published by FactoryTwoFour.
____________________________________This is not your dad’s college Volvo. This is not the steal wagon with a little oil burning that we all remember from high school. And this is most definitely not what you expect it to be. Minus a few rides in the past, such as the Volvo V60R, the Swedish auto manufacturer has not necessarily been known for a performance car. Don’t get me wrong; their rides do perform and handle well, but I have never really been overly impressed with the full package. The focus on safety, while important, has seemingly become a roadblock in the balance of the perfect ride, and often the vehicles are left in the category of the mom-car. Having driven the S60 sedan, which did not really impress me with its features, ride, or comfort, I walked into the 2014 Volvo V60 T5 estate with a bit of a hesitation. I have always loved Volvos, especially the older ones that never seem to die, but since their break from Ford, the company was on the rocks in defining the brand. So after adjusting the seats, getting everything perfect for my week in the ride, it was time to see if I would be left wanting a whole lot more. I wasn’t. From the very start, the V60 impressed me. The seats are some of the best I have ever experienced in a smaller car, the ride control was more connect with the ground, and the overall feel of the car was balanced. The engine, a 250-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and the Haldex all-wheel-drive system, had a good amount of power as it went through the corners with grace. All the technology included helped the experience, even if some are a bit gimmicky. The dash colors and layout can be changed among three settings, and the center dash had the standard Volvo flair with too many buttons, but overall it all came together in one nice Polestar blue package. It handled the corners like a pro, the traction control keeping me going exactly where I wanted to go even when I tried to push the limit. It was impressive and fun to say the least. So what makes it so different? Well, to start, it is a solid wagon (estate), and has no real competition in its size class, making is stand out from the rest. The styling from the front to back has elegant lines and smooth curves, with a striking roof line and raked rear end. It’s not necessarily the best for cargo space, but can still handle the average family’s truck-junk for the every day. It is balanced on the road, connected to the asphalt as it flies down. It is definitely not the fastest off the line or getting up to speed, but it hits the curves with gusto and keeps going strong. Not once did I feel like I could lose control as I drove this through the Colorado mountains. For those that know me, the following is pretty hard for me to admit as well. The Volvo V60 estate is the car that the Audi A3 wish it could be. Yes, the Audi is a sedan, a bit faster, and a little cleaner inside, but it feels a bit lost in the passion on the road that all Audi rides used to have. This Volvo on the other hand, hits it right on the mark, presenting in a neat, beautiful package a sense of passion, commitment, style, and sportiness, that can be enjoyed year round. And don’t let the wagon form fool you; this is an every-man car, one you can hit the mountains with for bike rides and skiing, and then the city for a date. It is classy, refined, unique, and beautiful. And I expect to still see these on the road 20 years down the line, becoming the next “old” Volvo that gets passed down generation to generation to generation. This is the first real Volvo I have driven in years, but the furthest from the older cars as it could be.