by Brad Leach - 03/10/11
We could mount an argument for the Volvo V60 being the pick of the moderately priced European wagons. Sharply priced, nice looks, feature-packed, great to drive - and with the added extra of a luxurious Scandinavian interior which stands out from German rivals - we’re very keen on the Volvo V60.
Bigger picture – the V60’s sporty styling, slick driving dynamics and handy pricing underscore why Volvo is a marque being closely watched by the ever-vigilant German super brands. Now owned by China’s massive Geely corporation and with a star-studded team of designers and engineers in Sweden, headed by super-sharp German Managing Director, Stefan Jacoby, Volvo, like the Germans, is pursuing global growth, wants a bigger slice of the Chinese market…and now has the resources and management- smarts to deliver.
The Volvo V60 joins a seriously impressive squad of cars these days at Volvo.
Car Showroom tested the Volvo V60 T5 - that means power from Volvo’s new, all-alloy 2.0-litre, four-cylinder GTDi (Gasoline Turbocharged Direct injection) engine and a sticker price of $54,950. Our V60 highlighted its Scandinavian design with a beautiful interior in contrasting colours (cream leather seats, dark coloured carpets).
Coincidentally we did a trip to Ikea (another Swedish superstar) during our week with the Volvo and guess what? It was crab season in Sweden so Ikea was serving crabs – yes real, imported crabs – seems two Swedish brands are full of surprises these days…a Volvo wagon with curves and live crabs at Ikea.
Volvo V60 T5 shares its powerplant with its S60 sedan sibling. That engine is the first of a new generation of compact GTDi engines from Sweden – ‘GTDi’ stands for Gasoline Turbocharged Direction injection.
For the V60, the 2.0-litre delivers 177kW of power at 5500rpm and peak torque of 320Nm from 1800rpm to 5000rpm. Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed Powershift automatic transmission and Volvo V60 T5 is Euro5-compliant, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.7l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions of 205g/km.
And Volvo has just announced, at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, this is the direction it is pursuing with internal combustion engines (while simultaneously developing electric cars). Smaller capacity, forced induction and direct injection to deliver ramped-up performance with reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
That’s not just a politician’s throw-away line – Volvo is already showing the technology to back its words. The Volvo V60 runs the world’s smallest turbocharger in relation to engine output and is the first to use a turbocharger housing, manifold and exhaust manifold made of sheet steel rather than cast iron – reduced weight and improved heat control are the paybacks.
Looking at direct rivals, that leaves the Volvo V60 T5 very handily placed. Entry to the Volkswagen Passat wagon lineup is the turbocharged 1.8-litre 118TSI ($40,990) with 118kW/250Nm on-tap but to match the Volvo V60 T5 in petrol-fuelled models, you’ll need to pony-up $57,990 for the 3.2-litre V6 Passat Highline.
The Volvo V60 is a compact European wagon and shares dimensions with the S60 sedan – 4628mm overall length and 2776mm wheelbase. But that doesn’t mean the interior is short-changed.
Sure the Volvo V60 is not in the load-lugging league of the old-style, boxy Volvo wagons, but 430-litres (rear seat in place) or 1241-litres (rear seat folded) meets the needs of most families (the wide 1095mm tailgate makes loading easy).
And shifting goodies is aided by the 40/20/40 split-fold rear seat which folds fully-flat and the front passenger seat which is also flat-folding.
Drivers are well looked after with multiple seat adjustments and a nicely-styled steering wheel which adjusts for rake and reach. Instrumentation is Volvo’s usual high standard and to the left, the Volvo V60 T5 delivers a five-inch colour screen with satellite navigation and other information, including the controls for the eight-speaker, single CD audio system.
Despite them now being redundant for our school-age Car Showroom juniors, we were fascinated by the integrated two-stage child booster seats included in the two outboard rear seats of the Volvo V60. The two heights cater for varying sizes of youngsters and, as well as the better view for them, parents gain the security of their children being secured by a seat designed and manufactured by one of the world’s long-term automotive safety pioneers.
The Volvo V60 is called a ‘sports wagon’ and its sleek looks are very easy on the eye. The swooping, coupe-like roof line, upwards sloping glasshouse and 17-inch alloy wheels give the Volvo V60 a standout on-road presence…with distinctive Scandinavian style.
Of course the Volvo V60 is the wagon sibling of the S60 sedan - so the good-looking front-end, sculptured bonnet and steeply raked windscreen are identical, as are the dimensions (overall length 4628mm, wheelbase 2776mm). But we must commend Volvo’s stylists for their work with the wagon – it’s absolutely ‘un-boxy’ with curves and lines Volvo wagons of old could only dream of.
The rear end is very clever and stylish, with a large hatch, integrated roof spoiler and nice curved tail-lights wrapping onto the rear quarter panels. Dual exhaust tailpipes are another sporty touch.
Times have changed and these days when you think European wagons with European driving dynamics the Volvo V60 is on the same page as the best of them – Volkswagen Passat, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. With new owner Geely and dynamic MD Stefan Jacoby steering the ship, Volvo’s designers and engineers have been given the directive to create world-class vehicles that drivers will enjoy and let the accountants worry about the bucks (or should that be Kroners).
Of course the V60 is based on the excellent Volvo S60 sedan so its chassis and McPherson strut/multi-link suspension were off to a strong start. Same for the 2.0-litre GTDi engine.
Tipping the scales around 1800kgs, the Volvo V60 - with that turbo 2.0-litre and six-speed Powershift auto - is a dynamic package that is very ‘together’. Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop the Volvo V60 was balanced, refined and downright sporty in its responsiveness and feedback – and that’s not a claim Volvos of old could always make.
Around town the handy dimensions, good visibility and just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock for the steering in the Volvo V60 meant this wagon was easy to live with.
On poorer quality secondary roads, like many European vehicles, the ride of the Volvo V60 gets a tad ‘jiggly’ – that’s the flipside of sporty driving dynamics.
The ‘new’ Volvo is on the march with brilliant Scandinavian design inside and out, some of the best modern drivelines in the business and competitive pricing which flags the company’s intention to be a genuine global brand. And the V60 is Volvo at its best.
Quality and driving dynamics match the best of the Germans and of course Volvo remains a world leader in safety technology. So if you’re looking at European wagons, the Volvo V60 must be on your shopping list
In this league, Volkswagen’s Passat wagon scores big points and is handily priced from $40,990, but its 118kW/250 turbocharged 1.8-litre is overshadowed by the Volvo V60’s 177kW/320Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre. A more direct rival is the Passat V6 FSI Highline (220kW/350Nm) but for that you’ll need to slap-down $57,990 – two ‘large’ more than the $54,950 Volvo V60 T5 we tested.
Wagon versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 are all superb Euro Estates but are priced out of the Volvo V60 range.
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