What is it?
The new Volvo V60 is an all-new second-generation version of the Swedish brand’s core mid-sized estate car.
Largest boot, premium build quality and performance, well-equipped, very safe.
Volvo has not released a bad new car in the last three years and the Volvo V60 maintains the trend. It looks as good as its premium rivals, comes with a lot of equipment, a quality build and an impressive standard safety package. Fleet motorway trawlers and family motorists alike will find much of appeal in this car.
Ask someone to describe Volvo in one word and they will likely reply “Estates” – the Swedish brand is renowned for its load carriers, which for years were boxy, angular machines, built like tanks.
Not any more, of course. Volvo’s biggest gain was when, eight years ago, owners Ford sold the brand to the Chinese.
Under the stewardship of the giant Geely corporation, Volvo cars are now safer than ever (recently Thatcham dubbed the XC90 the safest car on the market, with no-one killed in a car-to-car accident in one since 2002). But they are also much more stylish and tech-heavy, now seriously challenging the premium market’s German big three.
And that one-word reply is now actually a misnomer. The top three cars Volvo sells today are its XC60 (World Car of the Year), XC40 (European Car of the Year) and XC90 SUVs. Only in fourth spot comes the first ‘normal’ car, the V60 – and now an all-new second-generation version is hitting showrooms.
The V60 estate is to the XC60 what the V90 is to the XC90. It’s the second of Volvo’s new ‘mid-sized’ cars, built on the same SPA platform as all its sisters launched over the past three years. There will be a raised ride-height Cross Country variant soon, and next year the saloon S60, built in a new factory in South Carolina, USA.
The relationship to the V90 is apposite as in many ways the V60 looks just like a V90 that has been shrunk a bit, and some have criticised it for that reason. Not this reviewer. The V90 is an excellent car in very many respects but it is also a very big car – and all its qualities wrapped up in a more compact package is very appealing.
And the V60 is stylish – Volvos of today boast lots of lovely details, from the concave grilles, the clever headlamp signature design – known as a ‘Thor’s Hammer’ and fulfilling both Daytime Running Light and indicator functions, and the sculpted rear lights.
Yes, it has a solid element of V90 little brother about it – but it also has more sculpted panels, emphasising that this is a more compact, lithe package.
Volvo has been saying for years that it wants to target the true upmarket brands, the German giants of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and now it really is. The V60 boasts all the quality build, fine fit and finish that one expects in a premium car. And all of that is every bit as well done as on the German big three – in some areas, better.
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Buying and owning the Volvo V60
One of Volvo’s biggest announcements of recent times was the brand’s intention that every new model launched from 2019 will be electrified in some form. So the new V60 gets in just before that technology direction.
There will be not one but two plug-in hybrid models, sometime next year, but for now the choice is petrol or diesel power, all 2.0-litre four-cylinder units under the brand’s now-familiar ‘Drive-E’ programme.
Volvo is convinced that diesel still has an important role to play for a load-lugging estate, and expects the D3 diesel – one of two diesel engines available from launch – to be the best seller. In contrast, the saloon S60 version will not be offered with a diesel at all.
With 150hp on tap, the D3 diesel promises CO2 emissions from 117g/km and combined mpg up to 64.2mpg (under the new and stricter WLTP/NEDC driving cycle). More power is on offer with the D4, but its extra 40hp does not mean a big compromise on efficiency at all – it returns 117g/km and 64mpg. And the most powerful version is the petrol model, the T5 with 250hp, (CO2 and mpg yet to be revealed).
Volvo appears to be pitching the petrol engines at those wanting performance as there will be an additional one, the T6 with 310hp, and an all-wheel-drive powertrain. No suggestion of an entry-level petrol motor just yet…
Trim choices number four currently, and will extend to six with the arrival of the R-Design grade early in 2019. Currently, the choice is between Momentum and Inscription, both also offered in Pro variants with extra equipment.
Remember the days when buying a premium car meant everything was on the options list? Not any more. Even the entry-level Momentum includes such niceties as the Sensus touchscreen infotainment system (more on this shortly) with voice control and satellite navigation, dual zone climate control, a 10-speaker sound system, LED headlamps and the drive mode that allows the driver to choose between chassis and powertrain settings from eco through comfort up to something more sporty. Every V60 also gets a powered tailgate.
Volvo proudly wears the title of safety standard-bearer these days and the V60 includes a suite of equipment as standard. Crucially these include the City Safety package that encompasses autonomous emergency braking, which can spot pedestrians, cyclists and animals as well as vehicles.
Also standard is a lane-keeping aid and a system to stop the car running off the road, or to protect the occupants if such an incident is inevitable. But you don’t get a rear cross-traffic alert – this is part of the Intellisafe pro pack on the options list which also includes the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous speed and steering aid and blind spot indication, and costs £1,725.
All the trim levels also offer Pro variants, which add a head-up display, active bending headlamps, keyless drive, hands-free operating of the electric tailgate, a heated steering wheel and LED foglamps.
Inside the Volvo V60
It’s an argument as to whether the most visible evidence of Volvo’s transformation is with the exterior styling or the interior. Certainly step inside the car and it immediately feels like a premium machine, with high-quality surfaces expertly fitted – it’s tough to find scratchy plastic here.
Let’s deal with the basics first, however, because they also put the opposition in a solid second place. The V60 is comfortable and spacious to sit in whether in front or back, but really scores on its boot space – 529 litres is more than any rival, almost 90 more than the Mercedes C-Class, and extends to 1,441 litres with the seats down. And it’s a flat space with minimal intrusions and useful items such as bag hooks on its sides.
We’ve spoken about Sensus before – the masterpiece of design that is a portrait-format touchscreen infotainment screen, and that replaced the veritable forest of buttons that used to sit on old Volvo centre consoles.
When you first use Sensus it can be confusing, with its tablet-style swipe operation. But it’s been a part of Volvos for three years now and once you do get used to it – as any driver buying a V60 will do in minutes – it’s second nature to use. Though perhaps just one or two basic functions not controlled by it would be welcome.
Driving the Volvo V60
Volvo expects the D3 diesel to take the most V60 sales, and expects 65% of these to be to fleet drivers. Though the brand is also keen to emphasise the car’s potential appeal to retail customers, tagging it with the line ‘the new family car’.
At the launch The Car Expert drove the more powerful D4 variant – the extra potency, two seconds quicker to 62mpg, comes with no emissions penalty and a fuel economy sacrifice of just a fifth of a mile…
Point one – premium cars, particularly those with such a big fleet market, are expected to chew up motorway miles with barely a murmur. Tick one to the V60 – the car is supremely comfortable, quiet and smooth. And it certainly smothers poor surfaces effectively, passing very little in the way of jolts as far as the cabin.
The D4 diesel is a little clattery on start-up, though this irons out quickly as it settles into its rhythm. Similarly if one chooses the auto version, as many will, this takes a just a minute to wake up into choosing the best ratio for the speed.
The V60 is a very grown-up car, so even if one chooses the Dynamic setting on the drive modes it won’t quite tackle a succession of bends with as much performance satisfaction as will the admittedly rear-wheel drive BMW. But that also translates to effortless cornering.
Is the Volvo V60 a worthy opponent to those premium German heavyweights? It very much is, because it does everything so well. No it won’t quite corner on rails like a BMW, but you will always feel as relaxed through the twisty bits as you will after mile upon mile of motorway driving.
Add into that the quality and practicality of today’s Volvo interiors, the equipment that is supplied even on entry-level models, and of course a standard-fit safety package that rivals cannot match, and for anyone contemplating a premium estate, the Volvo V60 has to be on their test-drive list.
|Make & model||Volvo V60||Audi A4 Avant||BMW 3 Series Touring|
|Specification||D4 Momentum||Sport 2.0 TDI ultra||320d SE Touring|
|Price (on-road)||From £32,810||From £35,115||From £34,180|
|Engine||2.0-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel|
|Power||190 hp||190 hp||190 hp|
|Torque||400 Nm||400 Nm||400 Nm|
|0-62mph||7.9 sec||7.9 sec||8.2 sec|
|Top speed||137 mph||130 mph||143 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||64.2 mpg (manual)||68.9 mpg||56.5 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||117 g/km (manual)||106 g/km||131 g/km|
|Euro NCAP rating||TBA||5 stars (2015)||5 stars (2012)|