Volvo is best known for its super-practical estates, which makes the new V60 a radical departure for the Swedish firm. It says the V60 is a sports wagon, not an estate, and that load lugging is not the central tenet of this model. Sounds like marketing bunkum to us as the V60ís key rivals are the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class Estate Ė all of them estates.
Volvo has a reputation for offering powerful engines in its compact cars and the V60 is not different. The range-topping petrol motor is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine packing a turbocharger and 300bhp for 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, with performance only held back from being quicker by a standard six-speed automatic gearbox. A more realistic option for customers is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol used in the T5 model that comes with 236bhp and the choice of six-speed manual or auto gearboxes. This V60 model squares off 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and is the best of the faster petrol pair as it has all of the oomph without crippling economy and emissions. Petrol buyers interested in better economy and emissions will be tempted by Volvoís new 1.6-litre turbo petrol that has 148- or 177bhp depending on whether you choose the T3 or T4 model. They are both refined and offer plenty of punch and, for the first time in the Swedish firmís history, can be ordered with a twin-clutch gearbox as an alternative to the standard manual six-speeder. As for diesels, these will make up the bulk of sales and Volvo expects the DRIVe model and its 113bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel that uses Stop/Start technology to account for around half of all V60 sales due to its appeal to company drivers. However, this engine doesnít come on stream till the spring of 2011, so in the meantime buyers can pick between the 2.0- and 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbodiesels with 161- and 202bhp offers in the D3 and D5 models respectively. They each have bags of punch off the line and pull cleanly through the gears, though neither is as refined as its rivals from the German premium trio.
Comparing the V60 to the best from Germany immediately ups expectations in the driving arena. BMW sets the benchmark for driving dynamics, Audi for its feeling of solidity and Mercedes for comfort. The V60 doesnít better any of the Germans in any of these areas, but the Swede does a very competent job of coming close enough in all key areas to warrant consideration. Volvo has made the ride firm-ish for the V60, so it handles corners, crests and roundabouts with easy aplomb. The front-wheel drive chassis doesnít make a lurch for the scenery at the first sight of a corner, so the V60 has the measure of the Audi A4 on this front. Comfort is good, if not quite in the Mercís league, yet the V60 makes a solid case for itself as a long distance machine thanks to little wind or road noise. Some engine roar can be heard from the diesel engines, but we suspect the DRIVe model will address this. The only real disappointment with the V60 is its steering falls short in feel, though this is more in comparison with the BMWís supreme helm than any notable failing of the Volvo.
Audi might think it has the lead in build quality in this corner of the market, but weíre here to tell you it ainít a patch on the V60ís. Every surface your hand or fingers or feet come into contact with has a resounding sense of excellence that itís impossible not be impressed. The doors close with a definite thunk, while the panel gas are as close and tight as they get. Inside, the cabin is made from fine materials and looks every bit as good as it feels. On the mechanical side, the engines are mostly proven units and the new 1.6-litre turbo petrol should follow in their footsteps without a hiccough. The same can be said for the gearboxes, with the new twin-clutch Powershift gearbox developed by Ford before Volvo was sold to the Chinese, so this should be a reliable unit.
Think Volvo and safety is one of the watchwords of the Swedish firm. The V60 comes with the same City Safety system first seen in the XC60 SUV and which is standard in the S60 saloon. Itís standard for the V60 too and gives the driver and audible and visual warning if the system detects an object in front of the car. If the driver doesnít react, the system will perform an emergency stop, helping to avoid accidents altogether at up to 19mph and reducing their impact from higher speeds. Volvo has also developed Pedestrian Detect, which works in the same way as City Safety but specifically honed to spot people in front of the Volvo. It works at speeds of up to 21mph to completely avoid an accident and again helps lessen injuries and damage from higher speed shunts. Pedestrian Detect is an optional extra for the V60, as it is in the S60, but Volvo reckons most buyers will choose it. Also available as options are a lane departure warning system, blind spot telltale and Driver Alert Control to alert the driver if the system thinks he or she is becoming drowsy or distracted. On top of this, there are twin front, side and curtain airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes, ESP traction and stability control, and active headrests to reduce whiplash injuries. Deadlocks, an alarm and immobiliser keep thieves at bay.
Itís not an estate. Oh no, the V60 is a sports wagon built with people who have lifestyles in mind. Well, as we all have lifestyles whether we or Volvo like it or not, the V60 is an estate and must compete and be compared with rival estates. Admittedly, the direct competition from Germany are not the most spacious estates on the market, with the minor exception of the Mercedes C-Class that is decently proportioned. With 430-litres of space with the rear seats raised, the Volvo loses out to the likes of the Skoda Octavia, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. However, the V60 fights back by using what space it has very considerately. Thereís minimal intrusion from the wheelarches or when the rear seats are folded to create a maximum of 1749-litres of cargo space, although this does include the front seat being folded flat. The rear seat is also split into three parts Ė the outer two pews and the centre seat Ė to give greater versatility when folding seats and fitting in passengers. As for passengers, thereís decent rear seat space for three and the front occupants are well catered for. The driver enjoys superb comfort and adjustment in the driving position, with only over-the-shoulder vision limited by the swoop of the window line. A clean-cut dash style makes the V60ís instruments easy to read and all of the controls are as logically laid out and simple to use as in every other current Volvo model.
Volvo is getting on terms with its German rivals when it comes to image and desirability. However, the Swedish firm has also maintained that essential difference in feel and execution to make it distinct from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. This will no doubt help the V60ís longterm values, which should prove stronger than the S60 saloonís as the V60 is simply the better looking car. The big petrol engines will suffer more depreciation and the DRIVe model will be the pick of the V60 pops when it arrives for running costs and retained value. In the meantime, the D3 turbodiesel engine is the best bet thanks to its 138g/km emissions of carbon dioxide that make it a sensible choice for private and company buyers alike. It also returns a healthy 52.5mpg average economy to be good, if not outstanding, for consumption. Trim levels are the same as for the S60 saloon, covering ES, SE and SE Lux. The ES comes with City Safety, cruise control, air conditioning, CD stereo, electric windows, ESP, 16in alloy wheels and air conditioning. The SE adds rain sensing wipers, rear park assist, Bluetooth connectivity and 17in alloys, while the SE Lux comes includes leather upholstery, active headlights and a driverís seat with electric adjustment and memory.
Submitted: 10/09/2010 08:36:09
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