What is it?
The new Volvo V60 D4, featuring Volvo’s new four-cylinder DRIVe turbodiesel, an engine its maker says has a best-in-class combination of power and CO2 emissions.
The new Volvo Engine Architecture family will be offered across Volvo’s 60, 70 and 80 model ranges, and will eventually spawn 2.0-litre diesel variants developing between 120bhp and 230bhp.
Much of the new engine’s efficiency and performance gains come from traditional measures, such as weight saving, as well as clever new advances. The new engine monitors pressure feedback from each fuel injector rather than using a single sensor in the common rail. Each injector monitors its own injection pressure to optimise fuel injection in each of the four cylinders, too.
The development is so significant, says Volvo, that it warrants comparisons with its introduction of the lambda sensor in 1979.
What's it like?
Excellent. Mechanical refinement on the move is superb, and it feels far smoother than most other four-pot diesels. Indeed it feels – and sounds - rather like a six-cylinder BMW or Mercedes engine, free from the rather hollow sound often attributed to fours.
Its responsiveness and in-gear performance impresses and the engine feels happy to rev. Torque peaks at 1750rpm and plateaus until 4250rpm making motorway cruising its speciality. Here, engine noise particularly is muted as it relaxes into a high-speed gait.
But as smooth shifting as the optional eight-speed Geartronic transmission is, it feels as though it is slightly strangling delivery of the D4’s 178bhp and 295lb ft, even if the 7.6sec 0-62mph time for Geartronic and manual models is identical.
You can, naturally, shift gears manually but to do so feels slightly at odds with the V60’s generally laid-back nature, even in the sporty R-Design trim tested here.
Elsewhere, the V60 D4 is business as usual. The steering is direct but fails to offer the level of engagement of, say a BMW 3-series. But the Volvo rides UK blacktop with far more pliancy than many a rival — even in R-Design trim, shod with 18in wheels.
Volvo says that while the S60 R-Design can slip under the 100g/km barrier, the V60 can’t pull off the same trick because it isn’t quite as slippery. Volvo points to the 18in wheels as the main culprit.
Should I buy one?
Yes: it is almost certainly the best V60 yet in the real world. But bear in mind that another £700 will get you into a BMW 320d M Sport Touring.
But the V60 D4’s trump card is its running costs, particularly those CO2 emissions of 112g/km as tested in R-Design trim, or 99g/km in standard D4 spec with a manual ‘box. Either way, they’re numbers that the BMW can’t get close to.
That means a BIK rate of 15 per cent in the 2013-14 tax year for the R-Design, while other D4 models creep down to 14 per cent.
Even away from those appealing running costs, there’s much to like. The V60 continues to cut its own path and this punchy new engine does much to widen the appeal of the class’s non-conformist.
Volvo V60 D4 R-Design Nav Geartronic
Price £32,095; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 64.7mpg (combined); CO2 112g/km; Kerb weight 1662kg; Engine 4 cyl turbodiesel, 1969cc; Power 178bhp at 4250rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1750-2500; Gearbox 8-speed auto