Volvo is entering a new phase of its existence in 2014. In spite of some initial skepticism, it's thrilling to see what is coming out of the new stewardship offered by Chinese carmaker Geely.

Volvo is stepping into the future with an all-new, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine family called Drive-E, which will eventually power all of the company's vehicles. At the same time, Volvo is getting back to its roots, emphasizing its Swedish heritage with fresh new designs for the refreshed S60 and XC60 models, and recommitting to one of its core-competencies: the good ol’ station wagon, which Volvo has brought back to the U.S. in the form of the sexy 2015 V60 station wagon.

At this point, the 2015 V60 comes in a two forms: standard, with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and the more powerful, tricked-out R-Design, which comes standard with all-wheel drive. Only the front-wheel-drive V60 model gets the new Drive-E engine, while the all-wheel-drive and R-Design models feature older “legacy” engines.

After spending some time behind the wheel with the new four-cylinder under the hood, I can say that the V60’s slick design and excellent new engine will help make the return of the Volvo wagon a triumphant one. Read on for more:

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Sticker price: $36,225 (including destination)

?Invoice price: NA??

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4??

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

?Performance: 240 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds

??Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway

??Seating: 5 people??

Cargo Space: 43.8 cubic feet

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The 2015 V60 is a refreshed version of the slick V60 wagon sold overseas for the last three years, but it is new to U.S. buyers, and it looks great. The sculpted front end is identical to that of the S60 sedan, which was also touched up this year with new LED running lights and low, wide-set headlamps. The look is determined, but not angry like some of its competitors. These are Swedish cars, after all.

The roof of the V60 slopes gently downward as it stretches all the way to the tailgate. At the same time, the lower body appears to rise, giving it the V60 a sporty, tapered appearance and a meatiness not usually associated with family haulers. The wagon’s strong shoulders are accentuated by linear taillamps that stretch from the bumper up to the roof. Optional 19-inch wheels, trapezoid tailpipes and optional 19-inch 10-spoke diamond-cut wheels add some extra glitz.

Yes, glitz. On a Volvo. No joke.

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Swedes have long been heralded for their ability to blend form with function, and the Volvo V60 has a cabin that should make its designers proud. Like the S60, the V60 features a sleek flat-panel center stack containing a vertical bank of buttons for the climate and audio systems and a clever, open cubby tucked behind it. Lots of beveled metal trim brightens up the space, as do the dash and door panel inlays, which are available with shimmering metal or high-grain wood. The arrangement of buttons and knobs is a bit unusual, but infused with Swedish sensibility. And as always, the materials are excellent. Even the occasional hard plastics have a soft, matte finish to them and perfect fit.

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Once again, Volvo proves that no one can do front seats like the Swedes. Even with their sporty, deep-bucket contouring, the V60’s front seats are splendidly comfortable and designed to keep drivers alert for both short and long trips.

The back seat is somewhat less contoured in order to accommodate a middle passenger for short trips, though it remains a very comfortable space as well. The 40/20/40 split seatback combines with a fold-flat passenger seat for remarkable interior flexibility.

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The big news, as mentioned earlier, is the new Drive-E four-cylinder engine, which produces 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. There are three drive modes: standard, Sport and Eco+. All are just fine for around-town driving, though out on a twisty road, I preferred the Sport mode's higher shift points and more responsive gas pedal. In Eco+ mode, the throttle is slower to respond and the shift points are lower in the rev range; the benefit is that you save some fuel if you're not in a hurry, and it makes for quieter, smoother operation if you’ve got a couple of sleeping kids in the back.

One flattering aspect of the V60: the steering, suspension and brakes are tuned just like the sedan, which is taut and sporty, but never harsh. As with most Volvos, the steering has a nice, solid weight to it.

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One cool new feature of the V60 is its instrument cluster, which replaces normal dials with a primary screen with a digital dial that changes color and content depending on which of three available drive modes the driver has selected. The three themes are Elegance, Sport and Eco+.

The Elegance theme is simple, offering just the basics in a crisp, bluish-white color, and corresponds to standard powertrain settings. When the Sport setting is selected, the dash shifts to a red and white theme with a prominent tachometer. The Eco+ adds fuel economy-related readouts that coach drivers into miserly driving habits, and engages an automatic engine stop/start function to save fuel when idle at a stoplight.

Something I learned the hard way in the Nevada desert is that the Eco+ setting puts the climate control system on a low-consumption mode, limiting its effectiveness. The good news is that a switch to the elegance mode cools the cabin off in a hurry.

Safety, of course, is a given. Though interestingly, not every safety feature available on the V60 is standard. Standard items include a bevy of airbags, a rear camera and a City Safety brake system. On the options list are some of the more advanced safety systems, including blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, integrated child seats and collision warning system with full auto braking.

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While the V60 is more expensive and packaged differently than the S60 sedan on which it's based, it is not dumbed down in any way. Low-slung, sleek and sexy, it makes crossovers seem unnecessarily tall and thirsty by comparison.

The 2015 Volvo V60 is in dealerships now, with prices starting at $36,225 for the standard model and rising to the mid-$40K range for the 325-hp R-Design, with standard all-wheel drive and jazzier styling. That may seem like a lot of money, but with the money you might save choosing the V60 over its most direct competitor, the $42,375 BMW 328xi, you can fill the ample cargo area with a lot of IKEA stuff.

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