When the S60 was launched, any doubts about Volvo’s ability to make highly desirable cars were quickly squashed. The new junior executive car has stunning looks, with the interior quality and performance to match. However, the glamour and impact of the S60 are now under threat – with the challenger being none other than the V60, the “versatile” version of the S60.
I’ve always maintained that Volvo makes better station wagons than saloons, and there is no better proof of this assertion than the V60. This newcomer looks stunning – it has a low sweeping form, with a slim coupe-like roof and a “double wave” line from the headlamps to the rear.
Volvo’s development team liken the overall design to a race track. Indeed, the V60’s body does not end abruptly, but flows organically and continually, echoing the shape of a typical race circuit.
The cabin is truly special, with fit, finish and features far ahead of the competition in the 1600cc segment. The exterior’s racy theme is carried through to the way the instruments and centre stack are angled towards the driver, to create a sensation of driver-focused control.
A highlight of the fascia is the familiar “floating” console pioneered by Volvo. Finished in shimmer graphite, the curved console adds a touch of class to the cabin. It’s a practical centrepiece, too, with the main keypad for radio stations, phone and multimedia access situated conveniently on the upper portion of the console, surrounded by rotary knobs for the air-conditioning and other settings. These large controllers are far easier and safer to use than a touch-screen, especially when driving.
Standard for the V60 is a high-performance sound system with a 5-inch colour monitor, four 40W power amplifiers, eight speakers and a multi-format disc player. The dashboard also has MP3 player inputs, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and USB plug-and-play – all enough to keep the technophile happy on the road. The less connected (like me) would just enjoy the excellent sound reproduction from both radio and CD.
The front and rear seats offer superb all-round support, without being overly firm. Rear legroom is decent, although the very tall might find headroom a little wanting because of the sloping roofline.
Though more a swoopy hatchback than a proper estate car, the S60 still offers a decent 430-litre cargo area with all seats in place. The rear bench has a versatile 40:20:40 split-fold to enable many different combinations of cargo and occupants. Flipping down all the seats liberates a van-like capacity of a whopping 1241 litres, which should be enough to haul home plenty of flat-packed furniture from you-know-where.
In the event that you need to leave your V60 with a valet, you can activate Private Locking. This miniature key within the Personal Car Communicator remote control locks both the glovebox and tailgate for added security. The tailgate’s inner shelf also overlaps and seals the hidden compartment under the cargo floor.
Like all modern Volvos, the V60 is packed with safety features, including side and curtain bags, and active whiplash control. City Safety avoidance technology is a Volvo first – at speeds of up to 30km/h, the brakes are pre-charged if the City Safety lasers sense an impending collision; if you’re dreaming and don’t react in time, the system automatically brakes the car and also turns off the throttle, minimising the impact. And if the speed differential between the V60 and the car “coming up”
is less than 15km/h, City Safety will stop the car completely even if you don’t touch the brake pedal at all!
The new V60 is available overseas with a host of petrol and diesel engines. The Volvo dealership wisely launched the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo T4 in Singapore, making it the only European wagon in COE Category A. This interesting engine is new and comes with direct injection, variable valve timing for both inlet and exhaust valves, and a 6-speed Powershift dual-clutch gearbox.
An engine capacity of 1.6 litres might not seem like much for a mid-sized estate, but the V60’s performance is actually quite brisk. Power output is a sizeable 180bhp, with a good torque figure of 240Nm spread between 1600rpm and 5000rpm. An on-demand overboost function lifts torque to 270Nm for overtaking bursts.
The engine is reasonably smooth and refined, revving willingly and effortlessly to its 5700rpm redline. When extended, the engine/exhaust note is best described as non-intrusive rather than inspiring, but this is definitely preferable to the roar and harshness of lesser 4-cylinder units!
Acceleration from standstill to 100km/h is quoted as 9.2 seconds, but the V60 actually feels quicker than that, thanks to its strong low- and mid-range torque. Top speed is a creditable 220km/h.
The ride is firmish but never jolting, with good body control over humps. The steering is nicely weighted, with decently quick response and good feedback. The V60 even features Corner Traction Control, which uses torque vectoring for smoother cornering. This system works by braking the inner driven wheel while transmitting more power to the outer driven wheel. This tightens the cornering line and reduces the tendency to understeer.
There is still a slight trace of stabilising understeer through fast corners, which serves to reassure the novice driver without robbing the keen driver of driving pleasure. To really enjoy the V60 over deserted country roads, select the Sports setting on the DSTC system. This disables the spin system, permitting more oversteer and a bigger rear slip angle.
I suspect that few Volvo owners would ever drive their V60 to such extremes – they’d probably enjoy the performance and overall package in a more leisurely manner. As a family sports wagon, this new Volvo offers an attractive mix of comfort, driveability, practicality and classiness in a reasonably priced package. Its dynamic design will definitely convert more people to owning an estate rather than a conventional saloon. Only thing is, the compelling V60 just might cannibalise sales of the S60!
Volvo V60 T4 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1596cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 180bhp at 5700rpm
MAX TORQUE 240Nm at 1600-5000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 9.2 seconds
TOP SPEED 220km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.2km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $179,000 (as of March 2011)
Check out the Volvo V60