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Stylish estate is Sweden's answer to the BMW 3-series Touring, with a focus on comfort and refinement over driving dynamics

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The Volvo V60 is far removed from the Volvo estates of yesteryear. They were vast Swedish motherships with all the style of an aircraft hangar but a bit more space inside.

Driven by people with straw in their hair and porridge in their beards, they were the only cars on the road that actually looked better with every panel bashed in and 200,000 miles on the clock than they did when new. Now look at this glinting, curving, handsome slice of automotive sculpture and consider the journey Volvo has been on during these past few years.

The new Volvo V60 is far removed from the Volvo estates of yesteryear

Volvo won’t sell a single example of this new V60 estate to those interested only in an indestructible beast of burden. You’re never going to see one loaded up with trunks to take the little dears back to boarding school, because once they’re on board you’ll do well to get more than their tuck boxes in the load bay.

What you will see is V60s being sold to family fashionistas. Should they really abandon their Mercedes-Benzs, BMWs and Audis for a Volvo? If looks were the only means of measurement, the answer would be a fairly clear “yes” and we’d all be out of a job. As it is, there are some stern tests the new Volvo estate has to pass before we can judge whether it really is as good as it looks.

In 2014, Volvo refined that formula further by giving the mid-sized estate a more graceful stance and refining it engine line-up.

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The V60 gets a simplified range of engines: petrol-wise there is a 2.0-litre T4 is a 188bhp motor and there are four diesel engine - three variants of the 2.0-litre diesel engine and a 2.4-litre powering the range-topping D4 all-wheel drive models. For those more eco-conscious will be pleased to see the addition of two hybrid-diesel versions both using the same 2.4-litre oil burner, while there is a 362bhp powerhouse in the shape of the V60 Polestar heading the range.

There are five trim levels; going from top to bottom they are Business Edition, SE Nav, SE Lux Nav, R-Design Nav and R-Design Lux Nav, while there are two trims for the rugged V60 Cross Country.

 

DESIGN & STYLING

Volvo V60 rear

Volvo may no longer be owned by Ford and the long-term ramifications of that have yet to become apparent, but the Volvo V60 still sits on Henry’s EUCD platform, which underpins everything from the Ford S-Max and Ford Mondeo to the Land Rover Freelander 2.

When it comes to birth parents, that’s known as throwing a double six. Even so, as we have seen with the rather unimpressive Volvo S80, it is entirely within Volvo’s capabilities to make a complete mess even of raw material as promising as this. But the changes they have made – a stiffer front subframe, more rigidly mounted steering rack and rebushed suspension – seem sensible.

The V60’s shape, proportions and detailing are likely to win the estate many fans

In fact, there is much to commend here. In appraisals such as this we tend not to dwell on matters as far from the skill set of our testers as judging beauty contests, but it is only fair to mention that the V60’s shape, proportions and detailing are likely to win the estate many fans, even if, as we shall see, they have been achieved at a price.

The unmistakable grille makes the V60 instantly recognisable as a Volvo. Without it, it might be rather more difficult, so different is the V60 from the marque’s previous estates.

Cool-looking air intakes low down and at the sides of the front valance are actually fake; they’re simply there for visual effect. The headlamps aren’t – they offer excellent lighting, making the lack of a bi-xenon option nothing to be missed.

Volvo reckons the tapering roofline gives the V60 coupé-like styling. Maybe, but it also compromises the size of the boot. However, we love these long, slender and elegant rear lights. They’re a bit of a Volvo hallmark now but have probably never been done better than this.

INTERIOR

Volvo V60 interior

Frankly, the cabin of the Volvo V60 looks the business – a home from home and clearly more stylish and imaginative than the otherwise impressive interior standards of the main German opposition.

Climb aboard, sit in its unusually comfortable seat and survey the scene; this could be the cabin of a car costing £10k or £20k more. The floating centre console looks beautiful, the sweep of the dash is cool and classy and the materials used are uniformly excellent.

The floating centre console looks beautiful

So it looks great. But it doesn’t work as well as some rivals. The driving position is good, thanks to the unusually extensive reach of the steering column, but there’s precious little room for your foot to the left of the clutch.

Moreover, without an iDrive-style central controller there are just too many small buttons to identify and operate while driving. It smacks of a desire to be different for the sake of it rather than sound ergonomic reasons. The controls for the air conditioning remain a model of simplicity, though. Pity the same can’t be said for the audio system – they’re confusing and in this instance less is, well, less.

There’s not much room inside, either. We know that volumes of space is not high on the priority lists of people in the market for such cars, but we still think their children would appreciate a little more rear legroom, even if headroom is surprisingly uncompromised by that tapering roofline.

Where you pay the price is in the boot, which is small even by class standards. All its German rivals offer more carrying capacity, although the Volvo does counter with a 40/20/40 split rear seat instead of the usual 40/60 arrangement and a front passenger seat that will also fold flat. 

As for the trim levels, the entry-level Business Edition models come with cruise control, adaptive dampers, parking sensors, automatic wipers and lights, and 16in alloy wheels. Inside the V60 gets climate control, a raft of Volvo safety systems and a 7.0in Sensus touchscreen infotainment with DAB radio, sat nav and Bluetooth. Upgrade to SE Nav and you get a leather upholstery and 17in alloys, while the SE Lux Nav includes electrically adjustable driver's seat, xenon headlights and keyless entry.

The range-topping R-Design Nav and R-Design Lux Nav come with a lowered chassis, bigger alloys and sports seats. The Cross Country models get numerous rugged details, such as skid plates, underside protection and an increased ride height.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Volvo V60 front quarter

At the top end, the Volvo V60 D5 has no problem staying the pace of the class, and when you consider the cars that make up that class, clearly that’s some achievement.

But more memorable than the bald facts of its performance figures – 0-60mph in 7.4sec – is the way in which the V60 goes about delivering it. The D5 has a lovely thrum to it and a breadth of torque that belies its relatively high specific output. It may not be as smooth as the straight six used by BMW, but it is more characterful and no less effective.

The diesels offer impressive economy and emissions figures

However, the bigger sellers are likely to be the 1.6 DRIVe and the D3 diesels – neither offer anything like the performance, with the DRIVe being especially tardy. None of the diesels is especially refined, either, although the noise from the five pot diesels is pleasant enough. The diesels do offer impressive economy and emissions figures, though, with the DRIVe a company driver-tempter with its low CO2 and high mpg figures.

The range-topping T6 petrol model claims a sub six second 0-62mph time and it certainly feels that fast. However, if you want that kind of performance we'd question if this is teh car to have it in, especially with so many seemingly more suitable rivals in the price range.

The T5 is no slouch, either, being both flexible and refined. In particular the broad torque band makes the V60 T5 feel eager and responsive wherever you are in the rev range, and the solid gearshift completes the overall sensation that this is a car intended to offer performance without drama.

The 1.6s in the T3 and T4 are smooth and reasonably brisk, but most buyers will simply opt for a diesel to keep costs down.

Helping the V60 on its way is an excellent six-speed gearbox with well chosen ratios and a nicely damped, progressive clutch action. It seems well suited to the engine’s characteristics and calls further into question the wisdom of the expensive two-pedal alternative.

 

RIDE & HANDLING

Volvo V60 cornering

Thankfully with the Volvo V60, the company has not, on this occasion, spoiled in the cooking the raw ingredients provided by its Ford-sourced platform. But that is not to say it has not significantly varied the recipe and made a rather different dish as a result.

First impressions are not helped by Volvo’s ongoing insistence that the V60 is somehow sporting. But saying something is so, shouting it from the rooftops even, doesn’t make it so and the V60 is about as sporting as Songs of Praise.

First impressions are not helped by Volvo’s ongoing insistence that the V60 is somehow sporting

But that does not, in itself, make it worse than its now estranged Blue Oval brethren, merely different. And the engineers who decided to soften off the V60 and place a premium on ride quality were probably displaying a 
greater understanding of the actual needs of their customers than marketing men with a naughtiness fixation.

Even so, there’s no doubt the incisive feel and agile responses we know this platform is capable of delivering have been somewhat muted. The V60 handles well enough insofar as it goes where you point it and is not easily tripped up, even on fairly difficult British roads. However, there’s little fun to be had here. You command, it obeys and there the contract closes. There’s not much feel through the commendably precise steering and less still through the chassis itself. 

There are no such quibbles about the car’s ride quality, even in sportier R-Design trim. It’s better at speed than around town, but the Volvo tourer provides genuine and impressive comfort wherever you go, of a kind quite beyond the capabilities of other front-drive rivals (Audi, Alfa Romeo we’re talking to you) and probably as good as anything you’ll find from a Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Volvo V60

Volvo has felt no need to discount the Volvo V60 relative to its more premium rivals. And while this may speak volumes for the confidence the Swedish car maker has in its product, the truth is that Volvos have never enjoyed the residual strength of its German rivals, so it’s likely that Volvo will be asking its customers to pay the same at the beginning of the ownership experience, but take less away with them at the end.

Between the two dates, it should prove reasonably cheap to run. Servicing schedules on cars in this class are now a pretty typical one year/18,000 miles and fuel consumption is, on the whole, par for the class. 

Fuel consumption is, on the whole, par for the class

The 1.6 DRIVe models are the exception – we wouldn’t expect to get close to the official average of 62.8mpg, but you should still manage somewhere in the region of 50mpg. The CO2 emissions will appeal to company car drivers, too.

When we tested the D5 on our own set economy route, we got nowhere near the claimed combined consumption of 52.3mpg (and neither will you), but we had hoped to get rather closer to it than the 32.0mpg that we actually returned over a broad range of driving. If you’re very careful, 50mpg could be had on plodding motorway journeys, but wind the two turbos up at all and you’ll see the economy tail off markedly.

Trim levels start with the well-equipped ES (full climate control and a decent audio system) and moves on from SE to SE Lux and R-Design. The last three trim levels can be had with a Premium pack, which adds leather trim, sat-nav, a digital radio and, most pleasingly, an attractive full-colour display system for all of the above.

 

VERDICT

3.5 star Volvo V60

We liked the Volvo V60, probably more than the number of stars awarded suggests. We like its looks, terrific interior and its engines. Most of all, however, we like the fact that it’s a non-conformist. It makes no attempt to feel sporting yet is never less than pleasant to drive.

At the front, with the exception of a lack of space for your left foot in manual versions, there’s plenty of space and comfort. And the head-turning style you see on the outside is carried over to the inside. With the exception of a few ergonomic foibles, you’ll not find a nicer driving environment for the money.

For the same money it’s up against the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class

It’s not so good in the back, where space is limited for children and the boot is best described as miserly. Volvo is at pains to tell the world this isn’t an estate car, but really…

What we didn’t expect from a Volvo in the UK, is a car to ride so nicely – the V60 glides across our dreadful roads with a fluidity we’d never have expected.

Its overall score, though, is held down by these few flaws — none of them deal breakers, but they collectively hold the V60 back in this class. And for the same money it’s up against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes Mercedes C-Class, both formidable competitors with just a little more charm and capability at their disposal.

But if you’re after a compact executive alternative to such a tediously predictable choice between Stuttgart and Munich, go ahead and put a V60 in your life. Though it sounds like damning with faint praise to say it, it really is the next best thing.

 

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Volvo V60 2010-2018 First drives