For families looking for an antidote to the SUV, a high-performance wagon like the 2006 Volvo V70 R may be just the ticket.

Fitted with the most powerful engine in Volvo's V range of wagons, the V70 R on paper appears to have just the right combination of get-up-and-go and cargo capacity.

But it's another story when you have to live with it day in and day out, at least one of us thinks.

We tested an amply equipped V70 R with five options, including a $2,120 navigation system and a $1,250 automatic transmission. Bottom line: $47,235.

SHE: I'll try not to start by griping about how I threw out my back stretching for the difficult-to-reach tonneau cover in the rear cargo area. What I think will be of more concern to the men out there is how tame the hot-rod R looks. The grille is too tiny. The headlights are too small and the "face" has no expression. There's a wimpy little roof spoiler that's standard, but I don't think it's really going to impress anyone. If you have a 300-horsepower wagon, you want it to look like it can barely be restrained. Instead, you get the classic Volvo soccer-mom styling that says "henpecked."

HE:Let me defuse your argument. Yes, it's true that some macho dads would prefer the he-man looks of beefier wagons like the Dodge Magnum. Fortunately, my testosterone level doesn't need much topping off, and I'm quite satisfied with both the looks and the performance of the V70 R. In fact, I actually prefer this car's stealth look. And the turbo 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine under the hood is pretty amazing. It makes 300 horsepower and with the new optional six-speed automatic and Pirelli P-Zero tires, it will sprint from zero to 60 in a mere 6.5 seconds, according to Volvo. That's no soccer-mom ride, sweetie.

SHE: I know. And the reason it isn't is the V70 R falls short on being family-friendly. I was disappointed with the cramped rear seat. The readings lights are too dim, there are no vents and the very small map pockets didn't hold much. The Volvo wagon we drove was priced out of the reach of many families.

HE:Amazing how cranky a bad back can make a car reviewer. Look, there were a few things about the V70 R that puzzled me, too. Our optional navigation system popped up out of the top of the dashboard, which seemed pretty stupid and was quite distracting, especially at night. Same for that silly hand-held remote control for the navigation system. I can picture myself doing about 60 mph down some dirt road and fumbling for the remote. And talk about easy to lose.

SHE: I think my absent-minded husband is the safety hazard. However, you really can't criticize Volvo for safety. One of the biggest changes for the 2006 model year with the V70 R is the standard all-wheel drive with instant traction that is designed to improve the wagon's grip on different road surfaces and in different weather conditions. As you might expect from a Volvo, there's a long list of standard safety items, including side curtain air bags that protect everyone outboard, stability control and whiplash protection seats for front passengers.

HE:The handling is also outstanding, and ride comfort has not been terribly compromised. The seats are also pretty sweet for this 50-something -- ample, yet grippy.

SHE: The interior is pretty subdued. It's pretty much a sea of black leather with some blue topstitching here and there and a little bit of matte metal on the doors, shift lever and shift surround. I liked the metallic blue inserts on the dials, which make them look like expensive watches. They look modern and Swedish. Speaking of the Swedes, how can cold-weather folks make heated seats optional? Why aren't they standard? That is the ultimate mystery to me.

He: What is no mystery are the number of high-performance wagons that consumers have to choose from. While the Volvo V70 R is a decent performer, it's got a lot of serious competition. But it runs a pretty close second to the best in class.

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2006 Volvo V70 R

Type: Front engine, all-wheel drive, 5-passenger wagon

Price: Base, $40,240 (inc. $695 destination charge); as tested, $47,235

Engine: 2.5-liter I-5; 300-hp; 295 lb-ft torque

EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway

Where built: Belgium

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,532. (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage, driving record.)

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Likes:Super safety features plus standard all-wheel drive. Metallic blue inserts on dials look cool and Swedish. Easy to operate and handle. Ride is firm, but not harsh with three settings.

Dislikes:Exterior styling is far too bland for car's hot-rod character. Too expensive for most families. Too driver-oriented and family-unfriendly for a wagon. Depressing rear seat with no vents, dim reading lights. Ordinary-looking "electric silver metallic" paint costs $625 extra. Silly roof spoiler. Tonneau cover is hard to reach. Why are heated seats extra on a Swedish wagon?

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Likes:A "stealth" performance car masquerading as a family hauler. Extremely fast. Six-speed gearbox enhances performance and economy. Suspension modifications and tires dramatically improve handling. Seats are ample, yet grippy.

Dislikes: Pop-up navigation system is distracting. Handheld remote for navigation system is distracting and easily lost. No optional V-8 like Dodge offers. Pricey at $40,000-plus.