Volvo’s toy box

I couldn’t bring myself to read all of Volvo’s 11,000+ word press release on its new V60.  I had a choice – either to spend my time trawling through what amounts to little more than a detailed owner’s manual or climb behind the wheel, pulling at the interior trim and eyeing up the rather pleasing styling.  Obviously, after a couple of pages I threw the press release to one side and took the new V60 for a drive.


So where does this model fit in to what is becoming quite a crowded range?   Volvo optimistically describes the V60 as a ‘sportswagen with coupé styling’.  It’s not really.  I can’t see any ‘overtures of C30 and classic P1800E’ either.  It is rather striking though; Volvo’s Design Director, Peter Horbury explains: “Retailers nowadays normally deliver fridges”.  So it’s an estate with a 45 degree angle at the top of the tailgate making fridge transportation difficult. 


In fact, the place of the V60 is to capture the excellent driving dynamics of the S60 saloon with some additional practicality.  Now why didn’t the press release say that?  Maybe it did.  Somewhere.


Despite ‘Inscription Ember Black Metalic’ (very dark brown) paint and ‘Beech Wood’ (orange) leather seats – neither being my first choice – it is very well crafted and a delightful place to be.  It features the clever floating centre panel as seen on the C30, this time angled slightly towards the driver and a clear two-dial binnacle.


Within a couple of minutes it is easy to see where the strengths of this car lie.  The well equipped, comfortable cabin, roomy load area plus flat torque and power profiles all point to a wonderful, unflustered grand tourer, ideal for the long haul.


The V60 is available in the UK with two five-cylinder diesel engines, three four-cylinder and a six pot petrol.  This D3 model has the smaller two litre diesel engine.  While not startlingly quick, it pulls strongly and the five cylinders provide an interesting, purposeful waffle under load.  The six speed auto ‘box is fabulous.


The handling was apparently developed on British B roads (specifically, ‘Roman roads that have only been resurfaced a few times since they were built’) so I chose some of the worst I could find to see whether the people at Volvo really had done their homework.  Now, most of the Roman roads I have encountered are completely straight but despite really poor surfaces, potholes and corners, the V60 retained its composure well, albeit with a fairly firm ride.  It is very well balanced when pushing on through corners.


My main criticism is of the steering which lacks some sensitivity.  It is possible to jog the wheel back and forth mid corner with no discernable, detrimental effect on the direction or handling.  In essence though, this is a great all-rounder.


I have only told half a story so far, however.  The V60 is absolutely packed with electronics capable of saving you from your own mistakes – or in Volvo parlance ‘engineered to be the safest car in its sector’.  Some items are standard but there is a huge list of optional equipment (much present on this demonstrator).


The V60 can see people, brake in case you don’t, look over your shoulder, look round corners with cameras on the nose, sense you’re a little tired, deviating from the lane and so on.  So just how good are these features with their numerous acronyms? 


Crawling along a two lane carriageway in heavy traffic, the blind spot indicators flashed repeatedly as the traffic speeds varied and different vehicles drew alongside.  The sensors were accurate but intrusive.  On the open road, the distance indicator glowed orange if I didn’t leave more than a two second gap with the car in front – all very sensible.  In stop start traffic though, each time the vehicle in front came to a halt and I started to pull up to it, the distance sensor briefly told me I was too close (before extinguishing below 20mph).


Unfortunately, the red light on the dashboard flashed and a loud alarm went off as I passed a couple of parked cars – which the sensors had assumed to be stationary vehicles in my path.  I did fear it was about to perform an emergency stop!


I have been left with mixed reactions here.  Certainly, the basic car is another fine Volvo and there is undoubtedly some comfort in the belief that the car could and would stop should a child run out in front of it (while the driver is having a nap).  With all these ‘false positives’ though, it could undermine the credibility of some of the safety messages.


These extras don’t come cheap, either.  The base price for a V60 D3 is a reasonable £25k.  A quick sum of all the options on the demo car: Geartronic six speed auto ‘box, leather trim, various detection systems, sat nav, heated seats, etc. will add something like a further £10k.  I’d be tempted to plump for a very competent, well-equipped SE model and forego some of the toys in favour of looking out of the window.


Vital statistics:


Power: 163PS, emissions: 154g/km (manual: 139g/km), torque: 400Nm, 0-62 mph: 8.7s


Rating: ●●●●○

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