4 July 2018
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Volvo V60

Volvo V60

From generation to generation

Review | Family cars have evolved in a remarkable way. Once families collectively went for the MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle): boxy cars offering maximum cabin space. That was followed by the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle), which combines space with tough looks. Although Volvo certainly followed those trends, the Swedish estate car remained popular. What makes the Volvo V60 so successful?

A lot has to do with image. Some estate cars are all about business and efficiency, which makes them everything but desirable. The Volvo V60 on the other hand looks so good that this estate car will be preferred over the saloon ("S60") for its looks alone.

Those looks are based on the style of the Volvo V90, but for this smaller V60 the car maker interpreted it in a slightly different way. The V90 is long and low and its lines emphasise that. The V60 aims for more dynamic looks. For example, the "fold line" doesn't extend from the front to the very end, but only emphasises the hips to make the car look muscular. The headlights have the form of a horizontal hammer ("Thor's Hammer"), which in the V60 seems to extend beyond the glass to make the car look even wider. The grille and bumper together create a V-shape, which makes it looks as if the car is hugging the road.

Volvo V60

Despite the beautiful lines, the V60 is much more than a lifestyle vehicle. The rear window is mounted at a steeper angle than in the V90 and the underpinning has been crafted in such a way that more space remains in the cabin. The boot measures 529 litres (1,439 litres with the back seat folded down) and, for now, that's the biggest in the segment. Don't forget the many aids that help make optimum use of the space. For example, there's a foldable barrier to split the boot in two, a "secret" space under the loading floor and pockets on the sides. Optionally the boot lid can be operated electronically and the rear seat can be folded up and down electronically also.

Luxury

The space in the front is ample and even in the rear two adults have plenty of space. The atmosphere in the cabin is unmistakably Scandinavian with warm colours and natural materials. This is combined with high-tech elements, of which the vertically mounted display is the most obvious. When using the satnav, the vertical screen comes in handy because it matters less what happens around the car but very much how the route in front of the car develops.

Volvo V60
Volvo V60

The infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and features a built-in Spotify application. Next to that Volvo offers a high-end audio system. The latter has been developed together with Bowers & Wilkins and has the clear, spacious and "clean" sound that audiophiles will appreciate. Alternatively there's an audio system developed by Harman Kardon that has a more commercial sound that appeals more to the average listener.

Not visible, but typical for any Volvo, are the many safety systems. Emphasis is on active safety, which means preventing accidents. For example, the V60 can brake for danger (at speeds up to 60 km/h) and, when braking is no longer a possibility, steer to evade the danger. To make driving safer and easier, "Pilot Assist" is available. This means the computer takes over the throttle, brakes and steering wheel. The driver is always in control, the computer merely nudges the driver in the right direction. This makes driving in the right direction easy, while steering or accelerating towards danger takes more of an effort. During the test drive this all worked well. Even in trickier situations, with cyclists on the road, the electronics handled the situation well. Driving in traffic jams is also less stressful thanks to Pilot Assist.

„Whether driving fast or slow, on good or bad surfaces, the V60 always reacts in the same way: reassuringly“
Volvo V60

Handling

One of the reasons to prefer a V60 over an SUV or MPV, is handling. The centre of gravity of an estate car is much lower and this makes for safer and more dynamic handling. Yet, the V60 isn't meant as a sporty car, but as a comfortable mile muncher that's easy to drive.

The Volvo technicians did everything possible to make the V60 handle in the same way, no matter the circumstances. This is achieved by smart rear suspension which adopts to cargo weight (this only applies to handling, not ride height). Steering is always light and indirect, yet not devoid of feeling. Whether driving fast or slow, on good or bad surfaces, the V60 always reacts in the same way: reassuringly. This may not be exciting, but it is relaxing and safe.

Volvo V60

Engines

The V60 is available with the same engines as the larger V90. So, there's a choice of four petrol engines, optionally with plug-in hybrid technology, and two diesel engines. First the "D4" was tried: a 190 PS / 400 Nm strong diesel engine with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This engine can be heard clearly outside the car and sounds like an old-fashioned diesel. Inside the car the engine is quiet, which makes the noise of the wind more prominent.

The power train and automatic gearbox work together harmoniously and therefore the D4 feels quicker than it actually is. There's always some extra punch available for extra acceleration and seldomly does the diesel engine have to break a sweat to perform. Yet, it was tricky to drive efficiently and that's why the test drive took as much as 6.5 litres per 100 km (factory figure: 4.6 litres per 100 km according to Euro6d-TEMP norm).

To compare, the T6 was tried as well: a 310 PS / 400 Nm strong petrol engine with four-wheel drive and again an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Despite the extra power, the response to the throttle is just as well behaved. The difference is that at full throttle a whining noise of the turbo car be heard clearly, after which the T6 delivers a mighty punch and turns out to be a seriously fast car.

Volvo V60

Conclusion

Why has the Volvo V60 been a success for so many generations? Because estate cars are in the Volvo DNA. On the home market estate cars have always been popular and that's why Volvo gained more experience in this field than any other brand. It's also why Volvo manages to combine beauty and functionality better than others.

When it comes to handling, the new V60 is good, but not remarkable. Volvo aimed for what's called "linear" handling. This means the V60 responds in the same reassuring way in any situation. The engines are strong and when needed the V60 is a quick car, but even then it remains comfortable and well behaved.

plus
  • Focus on safety
  • Modern technology
  • Spacious and functional
min
  • Not as frugal as promised
  • Wind noise clearly audible
  • Turbo clearly audible with T6 engine
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