When Volvo made the decision to unveil a new model, they looked for gaps in the market.

The company, based in Sweden with Chinese owners, zeroed in on championing its stalwart safety reputation, luxury features, streamlined design, eco-friendly operation - and more than a dash of innovation.

Volvo took a page from its past while offering futuristic options in rolling out the 2015 V60. The first editions arrived at Volvo of Charleston earlier this spring.

At one time, the car maker designed a host of vehicles that offered plenty of power while setting aside room for groceries and golf clubs accessed from a liftgate.

Known as the sports wagon, the style proved attractive and flexible. But it would get pushed out of the forefront by luxury sedans and SUVs - until now.

"The sports wagon is back," said DaMon Delancey, sales and leasing consultant with Volvo of Charleston.

Earlier this month, he spent time describing the highlights of a well-equipped 2015 V60 T5 edition complete with a sports package and priced around $43,000. The base price of the new model stands at $35,300.

A four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged engine generating 240 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet or torque powers the four-door with lift gate in back. It's linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Even with the beefy engine, the model proves capable of a combined 29 miles per gallon including 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Assisting with the fuel efficiency is a system in which the engine shuts off at 4 miles per hour or less, then automatically revs up when the driver touches the gas pedal; as well as a "coast" feature at 40 mph and above.

On the inside, the luxury model sports two-toned leather seats, a center console for audio and climate control functions and lots on nooks and crannies for drinks and storing items.

"It's the little things that help," Delancey said.

Available as accessories are a dashboard screen that displays views from a rear camera, updated traffic information and Internet searches.

On the safety front, the V60 scored at the highest level in the government's "off frontal" crash test. It's considered one of the more critical tests since it involves cars that hit each other at an angle, which can result in more serious injuries.

The sports wagon showcases notable Volvo safety features suc as its available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and cross traffic alert which can trigger immediate braking when people or other objects dart behind or in front of the car.

Spiffs on the Volvo V60 include light-emitting diode LED lights and a push button system to flip down head rests for greater visibility.

Chinese carmaker Geely Co. acquired Volvo four years ago. Since then, the carmaker's continued to roll out solid well-appointed vehicles but hadn't revealed a new model until the V60. In the fall, Volvo intends to introduce a new generation XC90 SUV, the vehicle's first total overhaul in 12 years.

Delancey said the carmaker's recent activity sends a signal to the public, as does Geely's financial backing.

"They made an $11 billion investment. We are not going anywhere," he said.

Judging from a recent afternoon drive in the V60, Volvo looks to be headed in the right direction in promoting its mix of luxury, performance and safety.

The sports wagon showcases an automated system using a key fob for a push button start and stop. A light touch on a door knob button permits the fob holder to open or lock the driver's side door.

Once engaged, the V60 accelerates smartly with its turbocharged engine, and the eight speeds smooth out any jerking sensation as it picks up speed.

e car's handling proved to be a real eye opener, evoking easy yet precise turns of the wheel. A "yaw" system helps to guard against rear sway.

The sports package comes equipped with fine-looking 19-inch wheels, sport transmission mode and sports features simulating a manual drive with paddle shifters. The sport mode, switched into at a flick of the gearbox, offers exceptional speed that makes it easy to pass slower traffic on the interstate.

Perhaps the most notable example of the vehicle's high tech strengths is its optional, automated parking in which the car can sense an open spot, on the street, notify the driver to shift in reverse, then take over the wheel-pedal to electronically parallel park. It took a couple of tries, mostly due to driver error from a knee-jerk reaction to touch the wheel, but the system when left alone worked flawlessly.

That's not to say the V60 wasn't without its foibles. The rear seating is a bit tight and the cargo space is adequate at best.

But the new model performed well enough - in fact, in superior form - to let people know that Volvo's in the luxury game again.

To learn more, visit your local Volvo dealer.

For additional information and photos, visit www.postandcourier.com/automotive.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.