New Volvo V60 2018 review
The new Volvo V60 combines great tech and a stylish design to be one of the most desirable estate cars on the market
With such a strong product roll-out so far, Volvo could have dropped the ball with the V60, but in fact it’s one of the most desirable cars in the range. It combines all of the great features of the new wave of Volvos – great tech and stylish design – with a hugely practical interior that’s in perfect step with this part of the market. Rivals may handle and drive more excitingly, but the V60 focuses on being comfortable and safe to drive – and it’s just as desirable as its rivals, perhaps more so.
With smash hits like the XC90, XC60 and the baby XC40, you’d be forgiven for thinking Volvo had become an SUV brand in the last decade or so. But with the new V60, the Swedish brand is keen to stress it’s still the master of that middle-class family favourite: the posh and practical estate car.
For a long time now this part of the market has been the battleground occupied by the Germans: the Audi A4 Avant, Mercedes C-Class Estate and BMW 3 Series Touring. And while it would appear Volvo has taken a leaf out of the Germans’ books by making the V60 look like the larger V90, look closely and it’s a different proposition.
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There are the Thor’s Hammer day-running lights, the large grille proudly wearing the Volvo badge, strong shoulder lines and vertical rear lights. But park the two Volvo wagons side by side and you’ll see that while the V90 is longer and lithe-looking, the V60 is stubbier and arguably better proportioned.
One key difference between the two is that estate car rear end. On the V90 it’s a rakish, almost-shooting-brake take on the large exec estate car formula, but the V60 is boxier. Volvo says the V60 is the modern successor to the V70, 850 and 760 – cars that put practicality to the fore.
The old V60’s curvy but small boot has been replaced with one that is the largest in the class, generally speaking. Lift up the tailgate and there’s 539 litres of space with a good wide floor area, no load lip and handy lift-up divider to stop bags of Waitrose shopping from flying around. Crucially, the V60 trumps the A4 Avant’s 505-litre boot and the 3 Series Touring’s 495 litres. The rear seats fold down by pressing two buttons and once folded, they lie almost flat to increase the space to 1,441 litres – not quite as much as the BMW or the Mercedes, but close enough.
The Volvo is longer than the BMW and Audi too, which means there’s plenty of passenger space; two six-footers should easily being able to sit behind each other with space to spare. Room in the footwells is compromised, though, if the front seats are in their lowest setting, and carrying a third passenger is a tad tight due to the transmission tunnel. These complaints can be levied at the Germans too.
Up front there’s the now-familiar Volvo fare, with exquisite detailing and a relaxed feel. As on the new wave of Volvo SUVs and the S90 and V90 sisters, the dashboard is mostly digital; all versions get a screen that replaces traditional instrument clocks and gauges, plus a 9.7-inch portrait touchscreen. While it’s not as intuitive as a system controlled by a rotary knob, with its glossy screen and new faster operating system (than any other Volvo) the infotainment is simple to use.
There are fewer splashes of real wood or metal trim than in the V90, because the V60 favours soft-touch plastics. It’s a solidly built and comfortable place to sit. It’s just a shame, then, that the side is let down a little by the plastic used on the centre console; it looks and feels a little too cheap for our liking.
On the road the V60 is comfortable. Our car was the D4 with its 187bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel and the engine is at its quietest in the new estate – probably thanks to some better interior packaging. It’s a strong performer – 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds – and pretty frugal; Volvo claims 61.4mpg, which is on par with an A4 Avant, and we saw 53mpg in our real-world test. Until we try the 245bhp T5 and plug-in hybrid editions, the D4 would seem to be the pick of the line-up, offering a better blend of power and economy than the 148bhp D3 version.
The 2.0-litre diesel comes with a six-speed manual gearbox but we had the eight-speed automatic transmission and it’s good for the most part, although some changes are a little cumbersome and there are no paddle-shifters behind the wheel.
However, adding paddle-shifters would give the V60 a sporty touch that it just doesn’t need, because this is not a car that even claims to be sporty. While a 3 Series Touring is a communicative, thrilling kind of estate, the V60 is the polar opposite, and that’s extremely welcome. There’s supple suspension and while the steering does weight up nicely once above 40mph, it’s light and devoid of feel at low speeds. In this case that’s just fine; the V60 is pleasingly different and perfectly attuned to the ordinary, daily duties this car will have to perform.
The only real fly in the ointment is the specification. At launch there are just two trim levels, Momentum and Inscription, (a sportier R-Design and jacked-up Cross Country will follow), each available with a higher-grade Pro version. And while they’re well equipped (standard spec includes sat-nav, LED headlights and the portrait touschscreen), Volvo has cottoned on to the Germans, so much of the desirable equipment, such as Apple CarPlay and Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving aids, are optional. Take care on the configurator, because the price can inflate quite considerably.